'99 Western Canadian Ice-Race Championship

Day #1  -  Saturday, Feb. 13, 1999

Saturday Page 5 of 5 - Chevette Race #2

Saturday's Chevette Race #2 was at first frustrating, then very exhilarating, and finally a little embarrassing for me.

First, the frustrating part.  My camcorder died during the warmup lap, so I have no pictures from this race.  But Jim Graham's camera should have recorded some interesting shots...

I had the video camera paused in record mode.  Once securely harnessed into my seat, I could just barely reach the pause/record trigger button.  I had discovered earlier that the camera will automatically turn itself off, if left in pause mode for too long.  After that it's nearly impossible to reach the button to turn the camera on again, without first loosening my seat belts.

I thought I had triggered the camera to begin recording as we left the pits at the start of the warmup lap for Chevette Race #2.  But as we formed up on our grid positions for the start of the race, I glanced in the mirror to check that the camera's little red light was still blinking to indicate it was recording.  But the light was OFF!
Green Flag When the green flag dropped, I nearly missed the start because I was still fumbling with the camera's buttons!  Later I found out the battery had died.  No amount of fumbling would have restarted the camera.

Once I refocused my attention on the race, things improved dramatically.  This was my best race of the entire weekend!

Chevette Race #2 started with a fully inverted grid.  I started from 11th position, with slower cars at the front of the grid and all the faster cars behind me.

Three or four laps later, and I was IN THE LEAD!!!

In my mirrors I could see that the three nearest cars behind me were battling amongst themselves and posed no threat to my lead.  I had a comfortable cushion.  All I had to do was bring it home with no mistakes.  Just keep cool.  Don't screw up.  Whatever you do, don't spin out now!  Only one lap to go.  Now just two more corners and it's celebration time.  Breath deeply.  RELAX, Relax, relax...

Remember how I said that the Green #79 Chevette really shouldn't be allowed to get too far sideways, and how hard it is to recover once it does get sideways?  And remember how I was suffering from lack of sleep?  Um, er, well, ah, ...

Only two (that's 2) corners from certain victory, I was concentrating really hard on staying relaxed, and was enjoying a pleasantly deluded dream of spraying champagne from the podium as the Lac La Biche Formula One scouts again jostled for position to offer me a high paying job driving in F1.

Jackie Stewart said that Jeff Gordon has the potential to drive in Formula One.  But Jeff Gordon could never hope for any success in F1 with a name like that.  Just look at Alex Zanardi.  "Alex" is an adequate name for racing in America.  But for Formula One, Zanardi's name reverted to "Alessandro"!  To drive in F1, Jeff Gordon would first have to change his name to something like "Geoff Gordini".

Then Jackie Stewart noticed the name of the driver of the #79 Green Chevette, who had started from 11th on the grid, clawed his way into the lead, and who was now only two (that's 2) corners from victory.  Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff!  Yes, now there's a name that's got Formula One written all over it.  And with Stewart's F1 engines supplied by Ford, just think of the cool things we could do with that name... (See Ferd Logo.)

And look, there's Uncle Ken Tyrrell waving and calling my name.  He's shouting, "Ferdinand, wake up and pay attention or you'll screw up for sure!"

I didn't actually fall asleep.

But I did suddenly wake up to the fact that, only two corners from victory, I was in the process of spinning out!!!  NOOOOOooooooooooooo!

The car went fully sideways, just sliding along, the steering all the way to the lock, with the car not quite making its mind up as to whether it would recover or turn completely backwards.

For you sailors out there, it's the equivalent of tacking too close into the wind and allowing the sailboat to be caught "in irons".  The boat loses all forward speed and just stops.  You can do nothing but wait, either for the bow to swing far enough away from the wind to refill the sails, or for the boat to actually start backing up.

I would almost have preferred to force the car into a full spin, but I hesitated because I thought I could still save it.  Then it was too late to do anything but ride it out, and it looked as though the car would end up nosed softly against the snowbank.  If that happened, I'd be well and truly screwed because I'd have to wait for the entire field to stream past before anyone left me enough room to reverse out of the snowbank.

Thankfully (thank you, thank you, thank you), the car stopped just short of the snowbank leaving me barely enough room to drive out of it and continue on my way -- still in the lead!

But my comfortable cushion over second place had vanished, and my delusions of grandeur were " shattered, like a glass hit by a stone".

The second place car had a much better run off this corner and beat me to the inside of the final corner.  I crowded him as much as I could without blatantly blocking, hoping he'd slide wide on the exit, which he did.  But not quite enough.
In the drag race from the last corner to the finish line, he beat me to the flag by half a car length. Chequered Flag

The other competitors later remarked that the finish looked suspiciously orchestrated, perhaps even a case of "team orders".  It appeared as though I had deliberately made room for the other guy to win because, as it turns out, the winner was my host and team mate, Jim Graham!
Jim Graham #78 Red The Red #78 and Green #79 cars of Team Graham had just pulled off a 1st and 2nd place finish!!!


Ferd #79 Green

Of course with the full inversion gridding system, that meant we'd both have to start Sunday's first Chevette race from the very back of the starting grid.  Sheeesh...

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