ChumpCar World Series at CTMP


Racing the second time started quickly and it was also time for me to get my gear set and prepared for my stint at the wheel. With each driver out for 1 hour and 45 minutes (counting the pit stop) we wanted to make sure that we were all set. ChumpCar rules mandate that every fuel stop must be a minimum of five minutes. This is a great safety factor and prevents accidents from happening on pit row. Fire rated underwear, socks, suit, gloves, balaclava, shoes complimented my SA helmet and DefNder neck restraint. My shiny, bright red gear passed technical inspection with flying colours – because the majority of it was being worn for the first time.

As his stint came to a close, Pat brought the car in and ChumpCar volunteers placed the magnetic timer on the car to measure the five minutes and everyone jumped into action. Fueling was happening, safety regulations required an attendant be on duty with a fire extinguisher, that all support crew on pit row must be wearing fire rated gear and that the helmet visor was down. My job was to get Pat out of the car, find out what the course was like and obtain any tips Pat had to offer about the course, tires, and car all while also getting myself into the car and buckled in tight. That part was easy as I am larger than Pat! Everything went smoothly and I actually had to be held for a minute as we had taken less than the required five minutes. Then I was out on the track.

Pit out occurs between turn 1 and turn 2. If you know anything about CTMP (Mosport) then you know that turn 2 is either loved or feared – and probably both – by racers around the globe. This blind corner is off camber and has a huge elevation drop tossed in. This year CTMP paved the run-off area – in the past going off onto the grass usually meant a long, downhill trip straight into the tire wall. Timing was perfect for me as I entered the track with no traffic – for my first wheel-to-wheel outing I simply was not ready for traffic the instant the blend line ended. Instead, traffic arrived between turn 2 and 3. One of my favourite track marshals (and I have many, but this was Robb Dobbie) refers to the blue flag as a sign that a race is coming at you and a rapidly waved blue flag is that a race is coming at you and you are not in it! Fortunately, while the race was coming at me already, I was in it. I had three cars pass me in turn 3 but by turn 4 – in the Miata that is a flat our left hand turn that drops nicely and allows a momentum car to top 165 kph (105 mph) – I had caught up to the pack. Through the 80 kph (50 mph) hairpin turn and through turn six which is a light kink I had passed one of the three. Turn seven is barely noticeable in a momentum car (in the rain or in a high powered car it becomes a noticeable corner) and then the uphill Andretti straight ends with a crest and downhill into turn 8. This is a beautiful sweeping turn that most ChumpCars were entering at 170 to 180 kph. Yes, that is over 100 mph. I was able to pass a couple of more cars here, as they were not ready for that speed in the corner. The advantage of driving on your home track is huge in the early stages of an endurance race! 9 is known as the Esses, a fast twist that has pit in on the right hand side and takes you right into turn 10. If you have been at CTMP you will remember the giant culvert that ran under the track between 9 and 10. That is long gone and there is a beautiful underpass that can handle two tractor-trailers at a time. After 10 is the front straight. Here the Miata could consistently pass cars while at the same time consistently be passed by the more powerful BMWs and a few Hondas that just had more power than our 1.8 litre Miata. That included our team’s first car, the number 881 Honda Civic that was consistently running three or more seconds a lap faster than I was driving the Miata. That takes us to turn 1. This is where I lose time consistently. It is a relatively fast corner and some consider it an easy corner. As an instructor I get nervous when my students approach this corner too aggressively; as a driver I give it too much consideration and it costs me time. Driving someone else’s car I absolutely lost time here – as several cars passed me here throughout my driving stint.

Then we are back to corner two. Many drivers are faster than I am here but this corner was just incredible. Pulling up to the crest, right behind a slower car, pull off to the right and make the move to go by. What a rush! A little too fast and the two right wheels drop onto the paved run-off but all is well and I make the pass and on to turn three. Then the same thing in four – except later in the race I found out what wheel to wheel racing was all about.

About an hour into my session I realized why cars needed venting to cool the driver. I was getting very hot. Almost nauseous. I was thinking about the value of cold suits, built in water supply, or at least venting. The Miata had none of the above. Unfortunately one of my competitors hit the wall hard and brought out a full course yellow. They had to withdraw but I am sure they will be back for a future event – but their misfortune was a blessing for me as it allowed me to cool down. There is no question that being out in my first potential contact event, driving two and three wide, was draining me more than I anticipated. There were at least 5 laps on full course yellow – over ten minutes – and that was just the break that I required and when the green dropped I was refreshed and ready to race again.

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