Arguably our biggest event of the year, and our first time racing at a formula one track, you can imagine the tension and pressure of the weekend. Not only pressure on us the drivers, but the teams and even the series itself. It’s the only stop north of the boarder for Nascar (Nationwide, not cup), which brings up a lot of the famous drivers – Alex Tagliani was there (finished 2nd), Carl Edwards, Ron Fellows, Jacques Villeneuve and most of the Nationwide regulars. It was wild to see their pits and the setup these Nascar guys have. And to be racing at the same event as them.
Let’s talk about the racetrack. The cool thing about Montreal is that the racetrack is on it’s own island, BY ITSELF. It’s basically just an island with a racetrack.
Everyone is pitted on the outside of the track, with the majority of the teams being at the far end of the track by the hairpin. The Nascar (or F1) teams get to pit in the white building in the above picture, inside the buildings in line with the pit lane. Awesome!
The best part about this track, being an F1 track of course, is how smooth it is. I always seem to do well on smooth tracks, and obviously it’s much easier to get the car to feel “perfect” when you’re racing on a nearly perfect surface. The curbing was pretty low in most spots, so you could use a fair bit of curb as well. We walked the track when we arrived on the Wednesday and were pleasantly surpirsed at how fun the track looked.
Skip to practice Thursday morning – both cars ran great and Bob and I were able to run nearly the entire session to get to know the track. Having done a lot of simulation practice I was literally up to pace in almost all of the corners by the 3rd lap, and then spent the next 3 laps going through back traffic. Once I had some more clean laps I was able to work on my braking points and get as late as I could. We were the fastest in practice except for Camirand (and he doesn’t count, since not only has he raced here before, but he’s in a car with an easy 50whp more than everyone – you may remember he also came to spoil GP3R last year, attempted again this year but blew up as usual).
Car looked great post practice check, as did Bob’s. I put down a 1:54.364 in practice, and it turns out that was on a lap where I had lifted well before the start finish line to start my cool down lap! That put us well ahead of most of the pack for practice times, but we all knew everyone would find a lot of time for qualifying. I figured considering the fact that I had lifted for the start/finish so early that we would easily be in the low 1:53’s for qualifying.
We got to grid rear of mid-pack for qualifying, so my strategy was to wait at pit exit for the front of the pack to approach. I waited in the pits for what felt like an eternity, and then slowly rolled out of the pits waiting for Craig to tell me on the radio that the bright Yellow Lombardi Honda was buzzing it’s way up the straight. I rolled out of the pits and cruised around the track warming the brakes and the tires setting up for my first lap.
The last corner of the track is a chicane so it’s very important to get a good run out of the chicane, especially when setting up for a fast lap. I blasted out of that thing and had the car rocking as I crossed the line. Braking for the first corner I thought I threw the lap away because I was sure I was sliding off the track I braked so late. A little wide of the first apex but it wasn’t too bad considering how late I braked, and consequently a tiny bit wide on entry to corner 2, but a really strong run up the hill and into the first series of esses. Really really late braking again for the esses, flying exit out of them and flat through corner 5. Then late braking for 8, smashing curbs as we normally do and a quick top of 4th run to the hairpin. It’s a very slow corner that requires patience, you need to let the car roll through the hairpin and pickup the throttle only when you can mat it. Up to top of 5th before the last chicane, smash curbs hard and BAM, 1:52.280. Way faster than practice, and on my first lap. I even beat Camirand on the first lap, but he did get me on the second lap by only 17 one-thousandths of a second. I felt pretty good and parked it.
Bob comes into the pits with a misfire and the crew find it to be a broken wire at the coil. Bob is currently in 10th place and we need to fix this so that he can get out there and do some more laps. I jumped out of the car, helmet on and everything, grabbed some side cutters, a razor and electrical tape and quickly spliced the wire, closed the hood and he was back out – it was worth it too because he put down a flying lap and qualified 3rd!
I couldn’t have been happier with how the day went. Fastest in practice and qualifying (Camirand doesn’t count), and Bob was ripping also! We learnt the track quickly, and that was really the key.
Next day, race time. 10 min before the race start we’re gridded and I decide to get in the car a few min early and relax (usually we strap in with 6-7 min to go, 1-2 min before the 5 minute board comes out). The AIM dash has a clock that is calibrated to the event clock, and we have a minute-by-minute report of when we’ll need to roll out. As I’m taking my time getting in the car all of a sudden the event pit dudes start telling us to go on track!?!?! There were still people that weren’t even in their cars! No 5 minute board, no nothing. I have honestly no clue what the fuck happened, and who’s fault it was, but we were rushing to get on track, and I was more prepared than most!
After that cluster fuck was dealt with I had to deal with Camirand. On the first pace lap we both start accelerating and semi-jumping the start and our start gets waved off. Which basically NEVER happens on a time sensitive event. But I wasn’t going to let that guy jump it, and he’s known for those kinds of antics. Next lap, he decides to HIT ME while we’re still on the pace lap!?!?!?????? WTF? Now I’m pissed. I jump the start even harder than last time, infact I stated AHEAD of him even though I was in 2nd place. We made a hard run for the first corner, I let him have it, but he had a shit exit out of corner 2 and I was able to get right up beside him, drag race into the first esses section and dive in, making the pass stick. It felt awesome. I don’t think anyone has any picture, or video of the pass either, I know our Go-Pro’s never got started because of the rush. It would have been awesome footage too with Bob behind me. Fuck.
We get to the main straight away and sure enough, BRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Camirand drives right by me. Way to go buddy, you have horsepower. It didn’t matter anyways, because his shit blew up as it always does after a few laps, and I was now the leader!
I keep pushing but lower the intensity a little bit, feeling the brakes starting to fade again as they have been doing all year. All of a sudden on the main straight I start to notice a very faint vibration. I think nothing of it, maybe a wheel weight came off. I keep ripping, and a full course yellow came out that lasted an eternity. When it was time to go again, I think there were only 5 or 6 laps left in the race. The vibration started to get pretty severe, and on the 10th lap, approaching corner 5 there was a huge BANG!!! And smoke in the rear view mirror. I was like SHIT! FUCK! GOD DAMMIT! Anothing race win out the window. I pulled over and off the track as quickly as possible and found a place to park the car that wouldn’t cause another full course yellow. Once stopped I put the thing in first and see if it will move under it’s own power. The engine is still running fine. Nope. Just revving and strange noises.
I get out and watch as Nick Wittmer flies by, now in the lead. Bob goes by as well in 2nd, so there is some happiness that at least my team mate is still doing well. A few minutes go by and Nick pulls in in front of me. I figured the race was over and he was pitting to say hi. Haha. But no! His engine blew up! Yes, the top 3 cars in the race blew up. How sad!!
Bob would go on to win the race, and as all of 2011 has been, the bitter sweet victory for Bob leaves me happy and sad at the same time. He legitimately beat a lot of fast guys out there, including Borgeat, Fantin, Nicol, and Distaulo.
And so it was time to leave. I had a flight to catch to France (where I’m currently writing this from – it’s awesome here), and Bob had to get back to his kids. Now at the Montreal track, we’re pitted on the outside of the track. There is a public road that leads to our pits (the garbage dump road, since the organizers decided to pit us in the garbage dump), yet we were told we weren’t allowed to leave until 8pm. We were told this by the workers at the racetrack, even though the Clerk Of the Course said he didn’t see a problem with us leaving. Interesting. Well we left anyways, and this one power tripping donkey started chasing us on a moped and recorded our licence plate number. Let’s take a step back and look at why again.
This donkey loving retard felt we were doing something wrong by driving our licenced vehicles, on public roads, that huge garbage loaders were driving up and down all day, to leave an event we volunteered and PAID to be in, and felt he had to record our licence plates and report us to the higher powers for why exactly?
And that was our weekend in Montreal. A perfect precursor to a relaxing vacation. Racing is too silly sometimes.