2000 Western Canadian Ice-Race Championship

The Big Wreck (Part 2)

Sunday, March 5, 2000

This regrettable incident occurred during Sunday morning's first Rubber Class race.  It is especially embarassing since it is an almost exact repeat of the Dog's Breakfast (Part 2) from the previous Chevette race, during which I very nearly twice hit Lionel.

At the start of the race, when everyone is bunched closely together, visibility is reduced to zero because of all the blowing snow.  This time I was definitely NOT going to follow Lionel!

Instead, on the opening lap I hooked up behind Johnny Wiersma.  Johnny drives a Chevette with an automatic transmission!  Yeuch!  Despite this disadvantage, he is extremely fast.  Johnny eventually finished the weekend highest in the Chevette point standings, earning himself the well-deserved title of 2000 Western Canadian Ice-Race Champion (Chevette Class).

I was pleased to find myself on his tail during the start of this Rubber Class race.  I just had to stick behind him as he carved his way forward through the crowded pack.  I could see nothing beyond his tail lights, but I figured he knew where he was going and together we passed several cars within only half a lap.

Sadly, the weekend's adventures came to an abrupt halt in the very same snowbank that had swallowed me in the Dog's Breakfast (Part 2).  Only this time, I managed to have a head-on collision with Johnny Wiersma.
Track Layout This following series of images, from Jim Graham's onboard video camera, illustrates the entire sorry event.

#1 This is the view from Jim Graham's car as he turns left into the chicane on the back straight.

The event organisers decided this corner was too dangerous so they re-profiled it to tighten it up.  The speeds are now much lower at this point and there is less snow flying in the air.

Six cars are visible ahead of Jim in this shot.  Just beyond them the track bends to the right, the speeds pick up on the following straight, and the snow starts flying again.

#2 Where did everyone go?

The track is very wide along this straight.  You could easily fit fifteen cars side-by-side here.  If you run down the middle of the track with this blowing snow you can completely lose sight of the snowbanks on either side, after which you're left with no reference points whatsoever.  You are then entirely dependent on the car ahead to guide you down the straight.  You must trust that he, in turn, is doing a good job of following the car ahead of him.  And you pray the guy at the head of the train won't do anything stupid.

#3 Jim wisely steps out of line to the left, from where he can actually see the rapidly approaching corner.  But this shallow approach means he will need to slow more for the tight corner.

Following Johnny Wiersma, I ran down this straight along the extreme right edge of the track from where I could keep one eye on the outside snowbank.  The wider entry from there into the upcoming left turn should have given me a better line through the corner.

That's me in the yellow car shown enlarged in the inset.

#4 I was still following directly behind Johnny, blinded by the snow thrown up from his car and concentrating on following his tail lights.

I didn't see what started it, but something caused Johnny to widen his line a bit to the right.

Suddenly, I could no longer see the tail lights of Johnny's car.

I saw his HEADLIGHTS instead!!!

The inset image shows Johnny's headlights pointing back at me.

#5 Johnny had moved to the right to avoid some incident happening in front of him.  Unfortunately he moved far enough to fall off the tractionised groove carved into the ice by the Studded cars and strayed onto the smooth slick ice surface hidden under the loose snow, and promptly spun off backwards.

And me?  I'm thinking, "I've seen this movie!"

I'm totally screwed.  Two races in a row now I've blindly followed someone straight into the snowbank.

Johnny spins off backward up the snowbank, and I go right in with him.  I'm so stupid, stupid, stupid.

#6 There were all kinds of things I could have done, and should have done earlier, to prevent this.  But once we were both offline onto that damn slick ice, it was too late.

I knew I was going to hit him.  I could see it coming from miles away.

I screamed in frustration all the way up to the impact.

#7 It wouldn't have been that bad if I'd hit him squarely head-on.  But Johnny's car was sitting so high on top of the snowbank that my car went right under his. (See Red Arrow)

My bumper drove under his.  His bumper went straight into the softest portions of my car -- radiator, head lights, hood, fender -- all without touching any of the structural components that might have withstood the crash.

I suspected, but didn't know for sure until watching this tape from Jim Graham's camera, that there actually had been another car involved in this incident.  It was Mark Stevens (a.k.a. Jeff Gordon) who had spun out in front of Johnny.  (Green Arrow)

Mark later joked about hearing someone scream.

#8 The engine was still running on my car, so I reversed out of there as soon as I could and limped back to the pits to retire.

The tow truck later pulled Johnny's car off the snowbank.  Johnny then had to make frantic repairs to pull the fender out of his right front wheel well.  I was very relieved that he made it back onto the grid for the next Chevette race and finished 3rd, thereby capturing the Champion title.

The Big Wreck This is an ASF file video clip (0.3 MB) of the mess as recorded from Jim Graham's camera.

Note:  For inspiration while racing, Jim plays the "Mission Impossible" theme on his CD-player.

Jim Graham After the race Jim asks,

     "Ferdinand, WHAT have you done to my car?"

Ferdinand (trying to cover the damage with his jacket) innocently replies,

     "Er..., um..., nothing."

Damaged Car
Cleaning up. Jim later posted this photo of me on his official Chevettes on Ice website.  The caption said I'd flown all the way from Ottawa with the intention of "cleaning up" at the races.
For pennance, I was forced to study this depressing view for several hours as Jim drove closely following the trailer on the long trip back from Lac la Biche to Edmonton. Car on Trailer


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