Race #1: 1st overall, 1st in class.
Race #2: 3rd overall, 1st in class
What was first and foremost on my mind as Rick and I drove through the gates to our personal favorite track, was that it’s been two long years since we’d been here with our Bio race car and how that outing had ended in heartbreak for us when our engine gave out, barely 4 laps into the race. We obviously want to do well and win wherever we race, but Mosport is hallowed ground to us. I've personally been coming here since I was a kid, for F1, Can-Am, etc.
It’s a truly special, ‘epic’ track, and was finally back on the Chump calendar!
Troy and Kevin had already towed in with our ‘Bio’ car, looking absolutely menacing in its gorgeous new green livery. As usual, our pit setup was rather ‘minimalist’ compared to most of the teams these days.
A quick glance around the paddock had me musing how the level of competition was far more serious than during our first visit here and that there were some seriously fast teams competing now.
We would have to be spot-on with our reliability, driving, pit stops and strategy. As always, Troy makes sure the Bio car is painstakingly prepared so there really wasn't anything to do, except chat a bit with other teams and then go for dinner.
Race 1, Saturday, 9AM-4PM: Beautiful sunny weather!
As usual, Kevin took the green and wasted no time at all in learning the track.
He promptly moved into 1st place and set FTD for the day. Not unusual for the lad, but remarkable nonetheless, considering he’d never driven Mosport before!
A great call by Troy had us pitting under a late FCY so this gave us over 1-1/2laps on the rest of the field who had all pitted under green, including our arch-rivals, who would be chasing us all day.
Kevin strapped me in, and I was just trying to maintain our lead, but our nemesis was doing everything he could to try and get a lap back, and I observed him trying to make some rather brave moves. At first I was a bit reluctant and didn't let him go by, but then decided it was kinda silly with the race only half over anyway.
Moreover, that it was smarter to just drive a safe pace as well as to potentially extend my fuel window as long as possible and hope for another caution instead. So, I let him by and then followed him instead and let him lead the way, albeit still a lap down.
Well, this strategy worked out perfectly, because I was still 1 lap ahead when they pitted and I had conserved enough fuel to have been able to wait for a caution just moments before my stint would have exceeded the 2hr limit!
Fortunately, two cars had just come together going down the hill from T4 into Moss corner (T5) and were parked in the grass before T5a.
I radioed Troy and told him I was staying out a bit longer because I wasn't sure the two cars could get going again and perhaps it would cause another FCY.
As chance will have it, when I did come around the following lap, the two cars had already driven off, however just as my hopes were about to be dashed for that elusive FCY, I noticed that they had scooped up a lot of dirt into the brake zone of T5a and knew the corner workers would have to clean it up, this being the heaviest brake zone.
Sure enough, my wish was answered and I pitted under a FCY the very next lap, with just minutes left before the mandatory 2hr driver change. Perfect! Thus, the fortuitous timing of my stop had given us two full laps on the field when Rick got belted in for his stint.
During the driver-change/fuel stop however, the entire race was red flagged for the cleanup. Consequently, Rick got held for 10 or so minutes before being able to leave the pits, albeit still in 1st with a 2 lap lead.
Meanwhile, our nemesis had the bit between their teeth however, and their driver was doing their utmost to try and run us down. They were turning stellar laps, but once again, their ‘sprint’ race type strategy forced them to pit under green.
Rick had driven a very clean, fast stint and pretty much maintained the gap we had when he pitted and handed over to Troy for the final hour or so.
And this is the point where the real drama started!
Like Kevin, these were Troy’s first ever laps on this challenging circuit, and with barely over an hour to go and almost 2 laps lead, our hopes were high.
He was learning fast, but our arch-rival was about 6sec/lap faster and very soon they were only about 45sec back and closing. We did our math and decided that we would still be ahead at the end.
However, despite Troy learning very fast and picking up his pace even more, it wasn't long before they were just 30sec back – and then there was another FCY.
We were praying that the pace truck wouldn't pick up the leader (us!) and fortunately they didn't.
Actually, the way it had played out, our nemesis ended up about 8 cars ahead of us, on the same lap! So, we were reassured that whatever inroads they had made, were lost and with just 35 or so minutes to go, they were now almost a full lap back again!
Unfortunately, our relief was very short lived, as with 20 minutes remaining Troy radioed frantically that he lost drive and thinks an axle had broken. But he then determined that the loud noises he’d heard, and loss of drive, was actually 4th gear having broken!
Remarkably, despite being crippled with only 3rd and 5th gears available, we were only about 5 sec/lap slower than before…a testament to how well Troy was doing and learning the track.
Our newly expanded lead was now eroding even more rapidly than before.
We were glued to Race Monitor, watching lap times, gap and the clock, calculating that with time remaining and a 1 minute lead, we would still prevail…
Then, just as it occurred to me, how broken pieces circulating in the gearbox could be harmful – as if on cue, with barely 5 min to the checker, Troy radioed frantically that he had lost 3rd gear too! Yikes!
At this point, we were circulating about 10 sec/lap slower and Troy was having great difficulty maintaining his momentum - especially lugging slowly out of T5 and accelerating up the back straight, and out of T10 onto the front straight.
Meanwhile, our nemesis had now closed up enough that Troy actually saw their car coming down the hill from T4 into Moss Corner while he was slowly plodding up the Mario Andretti back-straight, building speed at what must surely have seemed like a snail’s pace to him.
They surely tasted blood and were driving the wheels off their car, while we were overcome with emotion, coaxing Troy to keep it up - until finally, on the next lap, the white flag was finally thrown.
At this point, everything possible had already been done and we honestly didn’t know which car would come around the final corner, T10, to take the checker. This was truly a “let the chips fall where they may” scenario at this point and that final lap seemed to take an eternity, but somehow Troy had prevailed and trundled across the line in 5th gear, barely 2 sec ahead of our nemesis!
While Troy had been busy driving his heart out, the rest of us had been riding an emotional roller coaster, helpless, with our hearts pounding for 30 minutes. We had experienced the whole gamut of emotion - everything from elation, to desperation, to disbelief, to despair and back to elation again! After 7 hours of hard racing, in the face of such adversity, we won!
I cannot describe the exhilaration of this win, at this particular track, under such circumstances, with such good friends! We were ‘First Overall’, as well as ‘First in Class’!
The day was not over yet, however. Immediately after the festive BBQ and beers graciously served up by our hosts Wendy and Sal who run ChumpCar Canada, our gearbox needed to be replaced if we wanted to live to race again.
Needless to say, after such a day, working into the cold night and doing a “field” swap like this with the car on jack stands, which in turn were perched precariously on wooden blocks, is a story unto itself. Along with fixing a fuel leak we had discovered, one of the axles which were already out, was also changed because it appeared that the thread was damaged under the nut.
Hats off to Kevin and Troy for their superhuman effort until 11pm, with only 2 small LED flashlights and the headlights of my Cayenne (which was left idling for almost 2hrs).
Race 2, Sunday, 9AM-4PM:
After about 5hrs of restless sleep, with the laps going by in my head, we found ourselves back at the track, gathering up sockets and tools which we had left scattered about.
However we still weren't ready to fire ‘Bio’ up.
The gearbox was filled, but then we realized that the bolts holding the left front knuckle to the strut were loose, as well as the right rear wheel bearing was loose!
Consequently, the knuckle had to be changed, but we had lost our 27mm axle nut socket (more likely it had rolled away overnight as there was a slope).
So, I scurried around the paddock in a panic to borrow one.
Meanwhile the clock was ticking and the minutes were winding down to the start.
The suspension issues were surely the cause of some twitchy handling the day before, but our quickie alignment also revealed that our left rear had zero toe-in, which was surely also a culprit.
I found our Bio car was certainly more predictable and enjoyable to drive, later this day.
So, with all this hectic drama having just unfolded moments before the start, we found ourselves ‘just’ able to make the parade laps in time.
Kevin quickly got up to his usual blistering pace, and made up for the one-lap penalty we had earned from our win the day before. He was again faster than everyone, including his own FTD from the day before, except a particular, controversial Toyota V8 powered blue Nissan 240 which was now off in the lead. Fortunately, he managed to pit under a FCY, however so did our arch-rivals and he handed the Bio car off to Troy in 2nd place, about a lap ahead of them!
Troy was finally able to enjoy the track, with the car functioning perfectly now.
After putting in some very decent laps, we were thrilled that he was able to pit under another FCY, but he got held up at pit-in for passing under yellow somewhere. He never did find out where that had occurred, but when he handed over to me, I was still held at pit-out for the remainder of our 5 minute mandatory fuel/driver stop.
Those two stationary minutes were maddening to me, because I didn't know why I wasn't being released, and other cars were being pointed out around me, but knew better than to argue with the official.
I also knew that we had lost our 2nd place position and frankly, was alternating between anger and discouragement when I was finally released.
I didn't let emotions get the best of me however, and did my best to try and settle down and prolong my stint to the maximum allowable 2hr limit, knowing that this strategy would be our best hope. Initially, I had been overtaken by a couple of cars, but re-passed them soon afterwards, and then just focused on clicking off consistent laps and passing lapped cars in a low-risk manner, especially while they had their own dices going on amongst themselves.
In hindsight, my actual stint was rather uneventful and I was reveling in how well the car was handling today on our Falken tires, and how the Frozen Rotor brakes with Carbotech pads were just phenomenal braking into T5. Nobody went deeper!
About 1-1/2hrs in however, and with no cautions during which to recover a little, and unable to snag the drink tube, I was tiring out and feeling the physical effort. I actually started hoping for a caution to come so I could hand over to Rick.
Those last thirty minutes weren't easy and a FCY never did materialize.
I finished off in fuel conservation mode, trying to eke out the last drop of fuel to maximize my window and ultimately, Troy told me that I couldn't have gone a 1/4 lap further!
We refueled for the last time and I belted Rick in for the final hour. We were running a solid 3rd place, with that controversial Nissan 240 in 1st and our nemesis about a lap ahead of us in 2nd.
There was nothing more any of us could do at this point and it was all in Rick’s hands.
So, we just left him to do his best and bring Bio home, while we all started packing up our scattered equipment and tools.
As expected, Rick completed his stint with fast, consistent laps and brought the car home in 3rd place overall and 1st in class! Initially he was a bit miffed that he was left to his own and nobody answered him on the radio (we were packing up), but this was soon forgotten because of some drama that unfolded while we were in Parc Fermé (post race impound).
The driver of the contentious Nissan 240 which had finished 1st, decided he would do some donuts of joy in T1, then drive in reverse direction up the track back to Parc Fermé in the hot pits. This really pissed off ChumpCar and they actually considered a DQ, but, I must admit the car sounded awesome…just like NASCAR!
This exuberance then precipitated about an hour impound for everyone as there were also rumors of protesting their win due to rules technicalities as well.
Regardless, our race weekend was simply EPIC!
We fortuitously enjoyed two splendid, sunny days during an unseasonably cold, wet, spring season and I am still unraveling from the euphoria.
We have won before, at legendary tracks, against steep competition, and I cherish all of those wins, but this one will always remain one that will mean just a wee bit more. Mosport! Wow! Congratulations and thanks again to my friends and teammates for this outstanding result!
Thanks as well to our key sponsors!
Mckibbin's Irish Pub
Falken Tires - Azenis RT615K DOT-Approved Track Tire
Zipline Welding Booms - Fusion Pit Lighting Systems
Frozen Rotors - Cryogenically enhanced brake discs