The Canadian winter is a time I’ve come to dread. Months without being in a driver’s seat of a kart or race car have been pure torture. In my nine off-seasons, I’ve never found anything that could satisfy my need to race; for once I didn’t have to. Welcome to the world of ice racing! My new partnership with BGR Team Grote has opened up a myriad of opportunities. My first real race in cars was certainly a far cry from what I’d envisioned, but I think it was a very uniquely northern way to do it – in a ‘91 Honda Civic with -24° C temperatures in the CASC Ice Racing series, held in Minden, Ontario.
When I arrived at the track for my first weekend, I had absolutely no clue as to what I should expect. I figured I would have to channel my inner Kimi Raikkonen and adapt to the track and changing conditions quickly. After heading out to registration and attending my first drivers meeting (to my dismay it was outdoors), I got in the car with Brian Graham as my passenger for practice. Now that’s a low stress way to start the weekend having never had a passenger giving me instructions, let alone a team owner!
Before I knew it, the green flag dropped and I was out for my first race. Lack of visibility was the first shock. Plumes of exhaust from the other cars and blowing snow killed any chance I had of seeing where I was going and the windshield wiper switch was barely within reach. I was struck by the realization that I had a substantial lack of grip as I wasn’t running on studded tires. In hindsight, I probably should have thought about that in advance. Trying to keep one tyre on the snow to have some semblance of control over where the car was going when it was so sensitive was a challenge in and of itself, and then figuring out what the line was from lap to lap was another matter entirely.
Learning all of this on the fly led to a parallel relationship between time on the track and time in the snow banks that outlined the track. Having had my G1 for only a few months, the skill of reversing is still a little foreign. Long story short, getting out of the bank was a little more of an adventure than I was hoping for. Despite this, spirits were high in the paddock and getting to have a quick mentor session with Craig Willis was definitely a useful experience. I continued to improve in my other races throughout the weekend and the next weekend’s races proved I was more competitive. I even managed to catch up to, but not quite pass, one of my former driver coaches who was racing as well!
I know I still have lots to learn, and next year I’m hoping that I’ll do a full season in the series to work on my skills and try to get a win or two. Hopefully I won’t accidentally be sent out with the group of cars on studded tires again - talk about being a fish out of water.
I thoroughly enjoyed my debut in a car and can’t wait to get back in a cockpit of some sort soon. Thanks again to Brian Graham and Frank Neilsen (who provided my #48 for the weekends) for making these past few weekends possible – and awesome! Arai Americas deserve a shout-out for always having my back (…or is it my head?) by making sure I was equipped with the right helmet for this transition to cars.
This experience has also led me to a conclusion that you know you’re meant to be a driver when you are willing to tolerate -24 °C for a drivers meeting!