2000 Western Canadian Ice-Race Championship

Pass Attempt #1

Saturday, March 4, 2000

I really regret that I wasn't more assertive right away in my passing attempts against the #98 Chevette.

This incident happened in the first Chevette Race on Saturday while I was still trying to familiarise myself with the handling of my car.  Other than for the occasional session at an indoor-karting track, I hadn't done any competitive driving since last year's Western Canadian Ice-Race Championship weekend.  I was still painfully aware from last year's experience of how easy it is to make a mistake and end up stuffed into a snowbank with the car rolled over.  I was in no hurry to repeat that mistake!

With this in mind during the first race, I was trying really hard to avoid any contact with other cars.  Consequently, I was far too timid in my first passing attempts on the Red #98 Chevette.

I started the first race from all the way back in 17th on the grid, but made steady progress forward until catching up to #98.  Then I lost a bit of ground because of the Yellow Flag incident described earlier, but caught up again within half a lap.  I then spent two more laps stuck behind #98 before trying to pass, as shown in the sequence below.

The fast left/right chicane on the back straight is the scariest portion of the Lac la Biche track.  The left turn into the chicane is taken accelerating hard in third gear.  And, if you're really brave on the first lap, the exit to the right can also be taken flat out.
Track Layout On the first lap only, the track still has lots of traction because the Studded cars chewed up the ice in the previous session.  But on each subsequent lap the ice surface is buffed smoother and smoother by the Rubber cars.  Several laps later into the Rubber races this fast left/right combination must be negotiated very carefully on tip-toes!

I think it has something to do with the fact that Lac la Biche is located way up in Northern Alberta, relatively near the North Pole.  The snowbank to the left, on the exit of this left/right chicane, exerts a powerful magnetic force that can easily pull a Chevette right off the track.

Below is a series of images illustrating my first pass attempt on #98.  The green numbers on the circuit diagram indicate the locations of the following 5 images.  A video clip is at the bottom of this page.
#1 The leaders are not even in sight anymore and I'm starting to get antsy at being stuck here for two laps, unable to pass #98.  He's not doing anything illegal, but he's certainly not making it easy for me to get past and I'm not yet confident enough to risk forcing the issue.

"Jeff Gordon" has recovered from his earlier spin and is now swarming all over my butt.  He would normally be well ahead of me at this point in the race and is now impatiently applying pressure on me to either pass #98 or get the hell outta the way and let him have a go.

Then I had a much better exit speed than #98 out of the chicane...

#2 In the video you can see that on exiting the chicane #98 leaves about a car width of safety margin between himself and the evil magnetic snowbank, whereas I got on the gas a bit earlier at the apex and then let the car drift closer to the snowbank on the exit.

It's mostly just dumb luck that I didn't go right over the snowbank, but in any case the significant difference in our exit speeds quickly ate up the gap between us.

I momentarily considered squeezing on up between #98 and the snowbank, but that would have been suicidal.  Sure enough, #98 senses what I'm thinking and smoothly eases left to shut the door.

#3 I still have a speed advantage, so I head to the right and pull up even with 98.

That should give me the inside line going into the right turn hairpin at the end of this long straight.

#4 But here's where I chickened out.

The ideal line (shown dashed) is much further to the left.  I still have to get around that point at the end of the snowbank (marked with an arrow) without locking up the brakes, without spearing straight across the track, and without hitting #98 who at this moment is holding station on the proper line immediately beside me on the left.

If I get pushed any further to the right I'll be in really BIG trouble, because under that light dusting of snow is the black ice surface where the Studded cars haven't run yet.  It's smooth as glass and so slippery that you can hardly stand up on it, let alone safely decelerate a speeding car on rubber tires.

#5 So I bailed out and braked early.

I didn't want to risk a collision in only the first race of the weekend.  I'd look like a moron if I lost control and t-boned this guy in a half-baked passing attempt so early in the weekend.

I saved that particular move for later in the day and really looked like a moron when I hit Jim Graham instead!  See Rubber Race #3 for that embarrassing incident.

#6 Since I was the one trying to force the pass, it was entirely my responsibility to ensure it could be done safely.  In this case, it could only have worked had #98 yielded the corner to me.

But he had a much better line into the corner and was under no obligation to let me through. So I had to back out of it.
Pass Attempt #1 This is an ASF file video clip (0.4 MB) of the incident as recorded from my in-car camera.

  It really was no big deal at all.  I did manage to pass him half a lap later, as did "Jeff Gordon" behind me.

But I should never have made such a feeble passing attempt before first being certain I could complete it decisively.  I suspect this set the tone for much of what happened later.

Because he so easily deflected my first passing attempt, I think #98 was all the more confident that he could hold me back thereafter.  And he had ample opportunity to prove it.

I finished this race in 5th position.  #98 was 7th.  Since the top ten positions on the Chevette starting grid are inverted, that meant #98 got to start the next Chevette race gridded directly ahead of me again.  And that's the way it went all weekend.  I'd struggle for half the race to find a way past #98, only to find myself gridded behind him again for the following race.

I'll post a few more video clips from subsequent races showing similar attempts to pass #98.  Two of those attempts ended in contact between our cars.  See Pass Attempt #2...


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