|It is vitally important to make good use of Saturday morning's
practice session, our first opportunity to drive on the track.
The session is only ten minutes long. Within this short period we need to search out the best lines through each corner, as well as experiment with a variety of different lines in case we are ever forced off our preferred line to avoid other traffic. And we have to thoroughly memorise the track layout because in the blowing snow whiteout conditions of the opening lap of any race we sometimes end up driving completely blind.
This was also my first opportunity to refamiliarise myself with the handling of this car, which I haven't driven since last year's event. And I noticed right away that the handling was decidely different. The car received a completely new front subframe to correct it's wonky front alignment problems. It certainly looks much straighter now but it pulls strongly left whenever I take my hands off the steering wheel.
Note to self:
At all times, be sure to keep at least one hand on the steering wheel!
Of course, it would be a really BIG mistake to miss this all-important learning experience by spending the first practice session stuck in a snowbank...
|I'm chasing after a Front-Wheel-Drive (FWD) Neon. It turns out
that wasn't such a good idea because FWD cars take radically different
lines through the corners. In fact, when you're used to driving a
Rear-Wheel-Drive (RWD) Chevette, it is baffling [and distracting] to
observe some of the bizzare lines chosen by the drivers of FWD cars.
The Neon and I were lapping on pretty much the same pace when the Neon caught and passed Konrad Komuniecki's blue and white Chevette, now just ahead of me, as we pass the flagging station marking the start/finish line.
|This right-left sequence is quite tricky and is much tighter than
it was last year.
It's important to exit the right hander positioned well over to the right edge of the track, as that gives a better approach into the critical left hander leading onto the fast front straight.
|The clean dark ice is the traditional racing line, as marked out by
the faster Studded cars in their practice session prior to our Rubber
For the first few laps of our session, the best traction was found here because the Studded cars chew up the ice along this line. However, after only a couple laps of buffing down the ice with Rubber tires, there is no longer any traction to be found here.
There's not a whole lot of traction anywhere else either.
I'm still tracking the FWD Neon, and I'm hoping to pass this Chevette on the right as we accelerate onto the straight.
|At this point the alarm bells should have started ringing loudly,
except I can't hear them when I've got my helmet on, eh.
I'm quickly catching up to the "slow" Chevette, while up ahead the Neon carves a big chunk out of the far snowbank.
|There are a couple of disconcerting things happening here.
For one, I can't see where I'm going because of all the snow still hanging in the air after it was kicked up by the Neon. This could be a problem.
Another thing, that "slow" Chevette is now rapidly pulling away from me in a perfect illustration of how the Slow-in-Fast-out approach is always a better [and safer] technique to use in a corner.
|As I emerge from the other side of the snow screen, I can suddenly
And what I suddenly see is that I'm in the process of driving right up the snowbank!
| Aw, nuts.
That was really stupid.
|Fortunately I didn't end up on the wrong side of the
snowbank, or worse upside-down.
I didn't even get stuck.
The car came back down on its wheels, off the bank, pointing in the proper direction, and I was very lucky to be able to carry on with the rest of the practice session.