Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tremblant Spring Classic Race Report


Pascal and I decided to sign up for the Spring Classic race weekend at Tremblant. We knew that even if there were not many cars in our class, at least we would be able to race
against each other.

The weekend was made up of a practice session, a qualifying session, three sprint races and a 45-minute “enduro”, so there was a good amount of track time available. By the time we were both registered, we realized that we were the only two cars in the GTE class, for cars that lap between 1:55 and 2:00. The weekend was turning into another Vince vs. Pascal type event!

Last year, my best lap was a 2:02, but that was with my old motor. The new motor made quite a few more horsepower and I was curious to see how this would affect lap times.

Pascal was 2 seconds per lap faster than me in the practice and qualifying, down in the 1:58 range. Of course, we qualified before last and last. It’s hard to keep up with GT3’s, Vipers, Radicals and M3’s!

We lined up for the first race and I managed to get the jump on Pascal in turn 2 and make the pass. I kept him behind me for the first lap, but he draft-passed me at the end of the straight on the second lap and then gradually pulled away. I was unable to keep up. I though I caught a lucky break when a full-course yellow came out, as I would be able to catch right up to Pascal, but Pascal would have none of it, and we kept racing for a while until we finally caught up to the group being led around by the pace car. The race ended under yellow, and that was that. Pascal 1, Vince 0.

It looked like the next race would be a bit more fun for us, as the G70-class semi-vintage cars would be running with us. This weekend, the G60 class was made up entirely of E30 M3’s and Porsche 944’s. This meant that there would be more cars running at around our pace. Sure enough, when I arrived at the grid, I wasn’t in last place… there were several cars behind me, some because they were slower, some because they had not put in a qualifying lap. There were also two cars between Pascal and me, so it would be harder to get ahead of him. Harder does not mean impossible: I had another great start (my video camera battery had died at this point, but Pascal has some video) and managed to pass several cars in the turn 1-2-3 combo, including Pascal, and I even managed to put one of the 944’s between us. I was quite excited about this, and Pascal was busy fighting with a 944, which meant he was too busy to catch up to me. Eventually, the 944 tried an insane pass on Pascal in corners 1-2 on the outside, in the marbles, and wiped out. Luckily, the car did not crash. Pascal then slowly began to reel me in. After a few laps, he was quite close behind me, but it’s not that easy to pass a car with almost exactly the same horsepower. What made matters worse for Pascal was that there was a standing yellow flag covering the second half of the straight, thereby removing Pascal’s best chance at passing me. I wanted the race to be over, as I was narrowly hanging onto my lead. I saw the “one lap to go” signal, and just focused on running a very clean lap. The yellow was still there on the straight, so I did not worry about him passing me at the end of the straight. I managed to hold on and take the checker, less than a second in front of Pascal. That last lap was my best of the weekend, a 1:58.6. After all the DNF’s, we ended up 12th and 13th out of 21 cars. Pascal 1, Vince 1.

We drove home to Montreal together and I watched Pascal’s video in the car as we chatted about the day. We headed back to the track Sunday for the final two races. 

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Alex and me with the two Civics

For race 3, I decided to try some Toyo RA1’s instead of my Nitto’s. This turned out to be a mistake, as the tires had less grip and one of them was not properly balances, leading to an annoying vibration. Also, one of my power steering hoses had come unbolted on Saturday and I had no power steering fluid. I thought Carl or Kevin would arrive with some more fluid, but after an evening at Pascal’s, neither of them made it to the track in time. Running without power steering actually made me smoother with my inputs in corners 1 and 2, and I think I actually improved my line there in race 3. It was cooler in the morning and I felt the car was making more power. Unfortunately, I was no match for Pascal, and he just pulled away and left me for dead. My poor tire choice and average driving meant that I had wasted a chance to dip down into the 1:57 range. Pascal was well ahead of me by the end of the race and had managed a lap in the 1:56’s. Pascal 2, Vince 1.

For race 4, I had added power steering fluid (thanks Kevin) and put the Nitto’s back on. It would not be enough. I did not have a great start, as I got caught up with faster cars that were somehow starting behind me. Pascal was again slowly pulling away and I again found myself alone. I experimented with different gears in different corners, and was driving like I was at a lapping day. A few laps before the end, I was somehow catching up to Pascal. It turned out he had a wheel bearing that was starting to go. I unfortunately ran out of laps before I could get close enough to attempt a pass. Pascal 3, Vince 1.

All in all, it was a fun and not too stressful weekend. If Pascal had not been there, it would have been quite boring for me.

When the race was over, I didn’t even change my tires or anything… I just loaded up the car, softened the shock settings, and drove home. I am still amazed with the Civic: I can thrash it on the track in wheel to wheel racing, then just drive it home. It’s a pretty amazing car, and I look forward to seeing what else it can do this summer.

Here are some pictures from Flagworld.com:

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Keeping Pascal behind me

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Pascal and I getting lapped by some sports racers

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