|Here's a schematic of the track layout. We run the track in a
counter-clockwise direction. The numbered red circles correspond
with the images shown below, as captured from my in-car video
camera. That'll give you some idea of where we are on the
track. Click on any of the numbered red circles to jump to the
image below, or click on the red circle beside any of the images below
to jump back up to the map.
The full video clip in low-resolution ASF format, or high-res MPEG format, can be found at the bottom of this page.
|After my big success in last year's event, and after replaying and studying my in-car video tapes for the thousandth time, I was all stoked up for this year's races. But the moment we headed out onto the track for our first practice laps I came to the realisation that this was NOT going to be easy!|
|We come out of the pits and complete one slow lap under full course
yellow. Everyone is anxious to find out where the track turns left
or right, and to figure out where the best lines might be. But it's
very important to also take the time to note where the various
Marshall stands are located around the track. If you should ever,
God forbid, find yourself in urgent need of a fire extinguisher, it
helps if you can remember where the nearest Marshall stand is located.
Take the time to find all the stations now, while we're still going slow, because after we get up to speed it's often difficult to even see the flagging stations because of all the blowing snow.
As we come around to cross the start/finish line, we get the green flag and away we go on our first fast lap...
|Right away, all my confidence disappears.
Holy crap, this ice is slippery!
The Studded cars ran their practice session before us, but because the visibility was so bad due to blowing snow, they ran most of their session limited to only one car on the track at a time. That means very few cars, if any, ran outside the fastest racing line, so now the ice has been tractionized only along a very narrow strip. It is incredibly slippery everywhere else.
I'm getting wheel spin in third gear going down the front straight!
Compared to my nice old quiet civilized '86 BMW that I drive the rest of the time back home, this stripped down Chevette is REALLY noisy. The engine roars loudly, and the ice chips chewed by the Studded cars out of the track surface rattle against the floorpan of the Chevette like gravel.
Even though the car has been warming up at idle in the paddock for a while before our practice session began, the oil in the rear axle is still all frozen up, and the shock absorbers are so stiff that the car skips across the bumps in the ice. I'm not used to the tail-heaviness of this car either, caused by all the extra ballast in the trunk.
Note the red marker planted on top of the snowbank at the inside of the hairpin. Markers like this of different colours are planted all around the track to help us navigate when the visibility gets bad.
|On the left/right kink on the back straight, here is one of the flagging crews braving the bitter cold. This station is well placed in a position that is very visible to the drivers.|
|Same here, turning into the new right/left kink. The flagging
station is located at the inside of the turn, right where the nose of my
car is always pointing as I drift around the corner.
This is a very tricky corner because it has a fast wide entry, but is extremely slippery right here. You'll see me drift way off to the left, following the tracks laid down by the cars ahead of me, and nearly kissing the snowbank on the far left.
From there, it gives me a bad line into the following left turn.
|Because I came at the left turn positioned too far over to the left, as a consequence I now get a fright as I drift too far off to the right on the exit and almost hook this snowbank.|
|Watching the video clip you can see how desperately uncomfortable I
am with this car. I'm not at all smooth with either the throttle
or the steering.
I very nearly spin the car while sliding into this turn. I actually do spin it on the very next lap...
While racing on ice, especially when the surface is not consistent, sudden huge steering corrections are often required to keep the car heading where you want it to go. But still, you can recognise a smooth driver when (despite the frantic steering inputs) the car itself carves a smooth path, as evidenced by where the nose is pointing as the car drifts through the corner.
Ideally I'd like to be able to turn the wheel and squeeze the throttle only as far as needed, then hold both there smoothly through each corner. But this first lap is an utterly demoralising disaster. The entire lap is an embarrassing mess.
|Completing the first lap, you can see that I haven't gained any
ground whatsoever on Colin's yellow #36 Chevette ahead of me.
When you watch this video clip, look at the way I'm sawing at the steering wheel, going hand over hand in order to turn the wheel far enough, while constantly stabbing on and off the throttle, and especially watch the way the nose of the car jerks from side to side as I'm continually over-correcting.
Yeuch. Blech. It's awful.