2000 Western Canadian Ice-Race Championship

Pass Attempt #2

Saturday, March 4, 2000

Upon completion of the first Chevette race the Studded cars take to the track for their next race.  We have only a few minutes before we're called out to the staging area to be gridded in order for the first Rubber Class race.

During those precious few minutes between races, we changed the alternator on my car because the voltage warning light has been lit on my dash all morning.  That frantic activity results in a few skinned knuckles, and then we discover the new alternator makes no difference at all.  Well that's not exactly true.  There is one small difference.  Now the seat belt warning light also comes on.

You observant types out there in web land may have noticed from the images and video clips that the tachometer mounted on the dash isn't working either.  That really doesn't bother me much as I hardly ever look at the thing anyway.  I think it's only there because it looks cool in the video, when it works.

But red warning lights lit up on the dash make me nervous.  Even if it didn't fix the warning lights, changing the alternator was a reassuring exercise.  The headlights are nice and bright, the engine starts every time, so the battery seems to be charging okay.  The various warning lights can be safely ignored from now on.

Track Layout This next incident, Pass Attempt #2, occurred on the last lap of the first Rubber Class race.  I started from 22nd on the grid and chased Jim Graham for most of the race until we both caught the Red #98 Chevette.  Jim managed to get by him, but my attempt to pass was foiled again.  We eventually finished this race with Jim 12th, #98 13th, and me 14th.

I tried to pass the Red #98 Chevette on this same section of track, exiting the fast left/right chicane and running down the straight to the tight hairpin.

I wish I had a more accurate scale map of the track layout.  The entrance to the chicane is very fast, but the exit is much tighter than shown here.  It's the crucial tricky part.

#1 There are lots of interesting things to point out in this photo as we negotiate the right turn out of the chicane.

01 The Blue Dodge Omni on the right has just passed Red #98 and is now setting his sights on Jim Graham's Red #78 Chevette.  The Omni is following the typically bizarre line of a front-wheel-drive car through this corner.  I don't even think it's possible, at racing speed, to get a Chevette (rear-wheel-drive) positioned that far to the right in this corner.

The Studded cars rip a deep furrow into the ice along the normal racing line.  Down here, where we three Chevettes are running, the ice is relatively level.  But, as shown by the (slightly exaggerated) angle of the green lines, there is a distinct incline from here up to the inside snowbank on the right.  By the end of the weekend every corner will be severely off-camber like this, i.e. banked the wrong way!  That's a real bitch when you're already scrabbling for grip on this smoothly buffed ice.

A couple of other things to note.  Jim Graham (the middle car of the three ahead) has this corner nailed perfectly.  Jim's car is tracking squarely on line, and smoothly with no unnecessary drama.  Red #98 though (on the left), as a result of having just been passed by the Blue Omni, is a bit off line, and the generously sideways stance of his car suggests that he's already worried about the magnetic snowbank that's lurking downstream on the left.

I did mention this was the last lap, right?  I anticipate the Omni will clash with Jim in the following hairpin, so I'm anxious not to lose touch with him as there might be a last lap passing opportunity for me there.  I really need to get past #98 right now, and I see another chance to try passing him on the right into the hairpin.  I execute Plan-A, aiming for where the Omni is now, hoping I can exit this turn in the middle of the track.

#2 I actually managed to apex the turn right up against the inside snowbank before Plan-A went out the window.

The Plan failed due to a combination of factors, such as the steep off-camber surface of the turn, the polished slippery ice so late in the race, the fierce pull of the nearby Magnetic North Pole, and possibly just a bit of over exuberance on my part generating a wee bit too much wheelspin.

At the apex of the turn, the rear of my car slipped down the hill and I immediately abandoned any hope of exiting this corner positioned near the middle of the track.  Instead I'm forced to let the car drift all the way out to the left edge of the track, preferably without eating the magnetic snowbank.

But then #98 does something very strange, ...

#3 ... he suddenly takes a giant step to the right!

03 Perhaps he fears the magnetic snowbank will grab him.  Maybe he's just out of control.  Or maybe he thinks I'm still planning to go up the right side of him, and he's deliberately blocking me.  Or (can it actually be?) perhaps he's making room for me to pass him on the left.  Whatever the reason, this sudden jink to the right doesn't inspire me to trust him.

I was trying to keep up my momentum as best I could without sliding the car into the snowbank.  I doubt I could have pulled it back to the right to go around #98 anyway.

Now the invitation is there - the door is open.  So I stick my nose right in.  But this makes me really nervous.  If he changes his mind and comes back left now, this will surely end in grief with my car launched to the North Pole.

But I'm in there with authority this time.  There's nothing indecisive about it.  #98 seems to acknowledge that because he gets on the brakes much earlier than I and drops out of sight.

#4 I'm braking as hard as I can without locking up.  In the video you can see how the gap decreases between the horizon and the bottom edge of the rearview mirror as the car's nose settles under braking.

Watch what's happening ahead between the Omni and Jim Graham.

On the left, Jim is staying on his line, whereas the charging Blue Omni has pulled all the way to the extreme right side of the track.  That's scary.  There's not a lot of traction available over there for braking.

Jim realises the Omni is destined to slide straight through this corner so he brakes hard, almost to a full stop, then cuts in neatly behind the Omni as it slides past his nose.

#5 This is just too good!

The Omni is going to slide wide on the exit, and Jim has been forced nearly to a stand still.  I might yet be able to pass BOTH of them on the run to the chequered flag!

If I could turn in earlier to the right, nearer the proper apex of this turn, I might be able to split between Jim and the Omni on the exit.  I've got it under control, but I have arrived here a little too hot, right at the very limit of braking traction, and it's all I can do to stay on this line.

Besides, although I can't see him, I know #98 is still behind me to the right somewhere and I have to leave room for him.  Then...

... Aw, nuts.

He hit me!
#7 Luckily it was only a mild tap.  Still, I damn near fell off the lake!

The impact pushed me off line, but I caught the slide.  Then (Holy @#$% Batman!) I discover that the ice is treacherously slick out here and I nearly spin out!!!

I almost buried it in the snowbank.  Then I couldn't find any traction to accelerate.  And I got bogged down in the deep snow.  Sheeesh.

Not only do Jim and the Omni disappear into the distance, but #98 also beats me to the next corner and the chequered flag.
Pass Attempt #2 This is an ASF file video clip (0.4 MB) of the incident as recorded from my in-car camera.

  Again, it was no big deal.  I would have been really pissed off had I been knocked into the snowbank and got stuck there.  But this incident only cost me one position.  Other than a red scuff mark added to the yellow paint on my right rear fender, there was no damage whatsoever done to the car.

It's always risky trying to pass anyone on the outside of a corner like this.  I don't believe it was my fault that we touched.  But I wasn't all that upset about it.  It was just a racing incident.  No harm done.

Later that day, things started to get out of hand.  But first, see how I hit Jim Graham.


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