|Busy map, eh? "Where's Waldo?"|
|Getting ready to start Rubber Race #1, we're making our way onto
the start/finish straight, in our two-by-two rolling start positions.
I'm in the 11th grid slot, with Landon Goudreau starting 10th in the yellow #31 Chevette, the green #60 Dodge Colt ahead of me is 9th, the silver #66 Ford Festiva of Hiroki Currie 8th, and Kevin Sakaluk 7th in the #88 Chevette.
Visibility is still okay here.
|The green flagged is waved, and we're off.
Immediately the snow starts flying.
|Within just the short distance to the start line, we're already blind!
The flying snow is worse on my side of the track. Over to the right, I can still barely see Landon's yellow Chevette. I'm taking my cue from him. I should be okay as long as I can hold him in sight and keep my position fixed relative to his car.
I HATE driving blind like this!
If I slow up any more I'll lose sight of Landon, and sure as heck I'm gonna get run over by the rest of the cars still charging up behind me.
|Because I'm focused intently on trying to keep sight of Landon's
car, I don't see the slow green Dodge Colt until a millisecond before
My first thought was, CRIPES he's going slow! Then I notice he's not even going in the same direction as I am. He's angling from left to right across the track directly into my path!
I almost T-bone him square in the passenger door, which would have seen me come to an abrupt stop and surely thereafter I would be rear-ended by the next ten cars behind me!
As it is, I barely manage to swing my car sideways far enough so that it slaps up against the side of the Colt with a clang, slides down the length of his car, and ricochets across the track to the right.
|Okay. Now I really am lost. Mayday! Mayday!
Need some help here.
I was pretty much certain that I was heading in the right direction initially. But then the green Colt suddenly appeared in front of me, heading from the left to the right. So either I was going in the wrong direction, or he was. Whatever, there's no time to try and figure that out now...
After clanging upside the other car, then skipping off to the right, I now no longer have a clue in which direction I'm headed.
The #54 Chevette of Terry Bressmer flashes past me on the right.
Note that Terry is aiming more to the left than I am. So my original course must have been correct. It was the green Colt that was headed in the wrong direction, aiming too far right. As a result of zinging off the side of the Colt, I'm now also heading off course to the right.
|Okay, now this is truly getting spooky. Terry flashed past me
on the right, then simply vanished into that cloud of blowing
snow. One moment he's there, the next he's just -- gone.
I'm still wandering around blindly when I suddenly hear my wheels plowing through deep snow. Oh-oh. That can't be good. I must be getting perilously close to the edge of the track. It would help a lot if I at least knew whether it's the left or the right edge of the track!
In the video you'll hear me say, "I have no idea where I'm going."
Just then I burst through the edge of the cloud to discover right beside me on the right (just out of camera view) a lineup of four or five cars stuffed into the outside snowbank!! I only catch a brief glimpse of Landon's yellow car, several others, and Terry's #54 Chevette nosed into the snowbank at the end of the line.
[Craig Assenheimer has a truly frightening in-car video clip as his red #77 Chevette pops out of the cloud and he suddenly finds himself within inches of hitting Terry's car. Craig swerves to the right to avoid a collision and goes OVER the snowbank! I'm hoping to get a copy of that clip to post here.]
|Eureka! I know where I am now!
I'm wallowing in the deep snow, right on the edge of the track at the start of the long straight.
The wind is carrying the cloud of snow away to the left, so I stay well over to the right edge of the track where the air is clear.
The car doesn't seem to have suffered any major damage in the impact. But when I check the view in the outside mirror I notice that I can only see my own face. The mirror housing is twisted around so it's pointing back at me. Coupled with the absence of an inside rearview mirror, the loss of the side mirror means I can no longer see anything behind me at all...
|... which is why I was so surprised when the green Dodge Colt
suddenly appeared beside me out of nowhere (again).
I was glad to see the Colt was still mobile and that I hadn't inflicted any terminal damage on it. Actually, the driver complained to me later that I'd bent his front suspension strut and he was very unhappy about that. He said if I can't see where I'm going I should slow down.
That's easy to say in hindsight, but you'll see from the video clip that things happened pretty quickly. I wasn't going all that fast and I'm not so sure whether slowing down would be any safer than maintaining pace with everyone else. In any case, it's not like I hit the guy deliberately.
|Turning left at the end of the straight, I cross behind the Colt and
cut through his slipstream.
I know that there is a green car hidden somewhere within this white cloud, as well as the white edges of the white snowbanks that line the white edges of the white snow-covered track. That's all quite white, right?
It's just another white-knuckle moment. Ice racing sure is fun, ain't it?
It makes me shudder when I think back to the 1998 Western Canadian Ice Race Championship event, when I was driving a -WHITE- Chevette!
It's always a relief to discover the snowbank hasn't moved from where I last remembered it to be.
|For a brief moment while exiting the hairpin, we get a clear view up the track and I count at least six cars ahead of me.|
|Turning left into the Kink I make sure to keep tight over to the
left this time. On the opening lap of the Chevette race I made the
dumb mistake of drifting wide here to the right and as a result I lost a
position to Kevin Sakaluk.
Except, the green Colt scares the bejeesus outta me when he suddenly slews completely broadside on the entry to this relatively mild corner! I'm convinced he's going to spin out right in my path, and this time I won't be able to avoid T-boning him!
I have to swing wide to the right to avoid hitting him.
The moment I make the decision to take evasive action to the right, wouldn't you know it he straightens out his car and carries on like nothing happened. Damn those FWD cars! What the hell kind of a wonky driving was that???
And I'm screwed again. I'm off in the deep snow, way off on the slippery ice, far away from the tractionised racing groove, AND I can't see where I'm going again.
That's just great.
|It sure is a good thing we get to practice this stuff before the actual
I'm driving blind again, navigating by memory. Somewhere around here I need to turn to the right. Somewhere just about here feels good to me.
And there's the red apex marker, planted right where it should be on the inside snowbank. Bless you, whoever it was that invented these markers!
|Well, ain't that a neat trick?
The green Colt has vanished again and now I find myself instead chasing the silver Festiva of Hiroki Currie.
|Aha, there he is.
As we turn into the double-left corner at the top end of the track, I can see that the green Colt is now ahead of the Festiva.
|As we're coming back around to complete the first lap, the flagging
station before the finish line is displaying a steady yellow and
a steady white flag.
That's a warning to expect a waved yellow and waved white flag at the next station, signifying someone has spun out and there's a tow truck on the track.
We are supposed to slow down, with no passing allowed, from this point on until after the location of the incident.
|Slowing down seems like a good idea in any case, considering I still can't see anything.|
|Here's the start/finish line, and the flagger is waving both a yellow and a white flag. The yellow means slow down, keep your eyes open, and be prepared to stop if need be. The white means there's a tow truck on the track somewhere after this corner, and you better not hit it.|
|It's Kevin Sakaluk!
Oh man, that's a bad spot to be sitting backwards, facing traffic!
It was Kevin that hooked the snowbank and spun backwards at the start. Kevin was just ahead of the green Dodge Colt. The Colt managed to slow enough to avoid hitting Kevin's Chevette, then swerved to the right to get around him. That's when I appeared on the scene and clouted the Colt as it pulled out into my path.
|And over here on the right is (I believe) Terry Bressmer's #54
Chevette still nosed into the snowbank, and Craig Assenheimer's red
#77 Chevette parked tail-high over the snowbank!
Sheesh. What a wild start.
|Once everyone has had a chance to spread out, the blowing snow is
not quite so bad anymore.
Exiting the hairpin, I set off in pursuit of Hiroki's silver Festiva.