|Going into the fourth and final Chevette Race after a 1st, 3rd, and
4th place finish in the previous three races, I'm still in the lead with
54 points but only by a very narrow margin!
Jim Graham (2nd, 4th, 2nd) is just one point behind me at 53, followed another point behind at 52 by Kevin Sakaluk (3rd, 2nd, 3rd), and one more point behind at 51 by Landon Goudreau (5th, 1st, 5th). Then there's a bit of a gap to Trent Hamp with 44 points (4th, 5th, 6th) and Chris Brandt at 41 points (14th, 6th, 1st).
The final race is run under slightly different conditions. First off, this race is worth double points. Also, the starting order is no longer determined by the finishing order in the previous race. Now it's determined by the weekend's overall points standings.
With the top six places inverted, I'm starting down in sixth.
|Waiting for the starting flagman to get safely out of the way and
onto the snowbank, I'm thinking it is going to be really tough to catch
Landon from way back here.
I'm not likely to ever catch Chris Brandt, starting on pole, as he's very quick and will have the advantage of an unobstructed view during the first couple of laps. The only reason he's down as far as 6th in the points now is because he spun in the first race. See Chevette Race#1.
The outcome of this race will depend on how (or even whether) any of us manage to get around Trent Hamp who is starting 2nd. Trent is not easy to pass.
Then there's Landon, Kevin, Jim, me, and another ten cars behind us.
I'm counting on Trent to keep Landon bottled up long enough for me to get up there and catch Landon.
|Too much plotting and planning, and I'm asleep at the switch when
the flag drops. I could have used a few more engine revs at
Landon has already moved up alongside Trent, but Trent is covering the inside line into the upcoming hairpin.
As usual, Kevin Sakaluk makes the best start and he's come up alongside Landon, making it three abreast down the straight. Unfortunately for him, he's on the far outside for the upcoming left turn and will be at the mercy of whatever mistakes the inside cars might make.
|Landon stays tight on the outside of Trent around the hairpin,
exactly as he did to me on the start of Chevette
Race#3, and he succesfully passes Trent in the very first
corner. Damn he's good.
Kevin, using his very wide approach from the right side into the hairpin, should have had a much better run exiting the hairpin than either Trent or Landon. But he's hosed because Jim has already squeezed his nose in there and spoiled his line.
At the same time, Jim cannot profit from getting inside Kevin's car in the corner because he has to back off and tighten his own line to avoid a collision. Watch in the video how close they come to touching before they both are forced to alter their lines.
|Even though I lost some ground on the starting run up to the
hairpin, I still should have been able to profit from that.
In comparison to the way the guys ahead of me were tripping over each other and jostling for position, I had a relatively clear run into the hairpin. I should have been able to use that more constructively to achieve a better exit speed OUT of the hairpin.
However, I closed up too tight under braking, then had to back off some more when Jim was forced to slow up as Kevin crowded him.
It's not a big deal. No harm done. At least I didn't lose a position. But, that's how opportunities are squandered. It's the little mistakes that add up to hurt you. Note how Landon hasn't made any mistakes yet and has already moved up one position.
|Through the kink on the back straight, Chris and Landon have already
pulled out a significant gap over 3rd place Trent.
Desperate not to lose touch with Landon, Kevin is applying all sorts of pressure on Trent hoping to force him into a mistake before Trent has a chance to settle down into any sort of rythm.
|The first lap of a Chevette race is always a challenge because we
get no warm up lap before the start. They just line us up and drop
the flag. When we last were on the track the ice was polished
extremely slick. Since then the Studded cars have run their race
and chewed up the ice, significantly improving the traction. So we
know to expect better grip through this tricky fast 3rd gear kink, but
we don't know yet exactly how much better it will be.
Exiting the kink Jim discovers that there is not as much traction as he had hoped. Giving it just a bit too much throttle, the rear wheels break loose for a moment, and the tail swings out in a power slide.
My wheels stayed hooked up a little better and you can see clearly in the video clip how that gives me an advantage over Jim as we accelerate onto the straight.
|I might have tried to force my way around the outside of Jim on this
turn. But I couldn't be certain that such a move wouldn't end with
me stuffed into a snowbank.
When in doubt, don't try it.
Finish the race placed as high as possible, but first finish the race. Stuffing it on the opening lap would be a very stupid mistake.
|We're coming around to complete the first lap. Crossing the
line, Chris and Landon (already out of view around the corner) are
steadily increasing their lead over third place Trent.
This first turn to the right is ultra important because you need to exit it cleanly in order to set up for the following left turn leading onto the long front straight.
|In this photo you can see how steeply the ice slopes up to meet the
snowbank at the apex of the turn. This is a result of the studded
tires chewing away the ice as the studded cars slide through the corners
under full power. The corner apexes become more and more dramatically
off-camber as the weekend progresses.
Remember we haven't rounded this corner at speed yet, after the Studded Class race which was run just before this Chevette Race.
Now watch how Jim is caught off guard by the sudden slope change...
|Jim guides his car nicely into the turn under braking, inducing just
enough oversteer to drift the car up to the apex, from where he plans to
straighten the car out, hook up those rear tires for maximum traction,
then accelerate smoothly away from the apex.
Watch the steering angle on Jim's right front tire.
He's approaching the apex perfectly with the steering set slightly off to the left to hold that tail-out stance. Then the front tires suddenly lose grip as they fall away down the steep off-camber slope.
With the front-end grip lost, the nose of the car washes out of the turn and starts swinging away to the left. Jim instincively turns the steering to the right in an attempt to bring the nose back, but that actually creates even more understeer on the overloaded and already sliding front tires.
|With his many years of ice-racing experience, Jim has no problem
instantly catching and correcting the slide. But, when the front
tires regain their grip, the tail of the car swings out to the left again
thereby scrubbing off some more speed.
Jim was never in any danger of losing control. However, when we're all driving equal cars and have similar driving abilities, it's all the little small mistakes like this that make the difference. Note how this mistake has allowed a gap to open between Jim and Kevin ahead of him.
You might well ask, if I'm such a hot-shot driver, why didn't I jump on Jim's mistake and pass him right here? Um, well...
I made exactly the same mistake. Watch my hands on the steering wheel. I had to crank in a sudden course correction to catch the slide as my car also fell off the slope.
|Heading onto the long straight, there's the evidence of the
cummulative effect of all those little mistakes.
Chris and Landon at the front have made no mistakes at all and they're tearing away, continuing to increase their lead over the rest of the field.
Kevin successfully kept Trent under enough pressure that Trent was unable to concentrate on running clean fast lines. While this prevented Trent from getting away from Kevin, it has also permitted the leaders to draw away from the four of us.
And I, rather than being up front dicing for the Championship with Landon, am still stuck in 6th place with 7th place Colin Lolacher in the black #3 'Dale Earnhardt' Chevette swarming all over my butt.