O Opinions & Commentary

Wheel To Wheel For The First Time

Sasha Anis Photo courtesy Sasha AnisWhen I sat down to write my first column for PRN, I thought, ‘what better way to introduce myself than with an embarrassing story?’

So here’s my story.

If you’ve done lapping days or time trial events, you’ll know the feeling that you get when strapping into the car and rolling onto the track for the first time. Well, when it’s your first time wheel- to-wheel racing you can take that feeling and multiply it by ten!

It was the 2006 Ontario Touring Car GT Championship. The car was my Nissan 240SX that I had built and previously drifted and lapped at various open events, but wheel-to-wheel? The thought of rubbing fenders and risking the car was as scary as it was exciting. My inspiration to try real racing came from Malcolm Strachan, who is well known in Ontario for racing a very fast Corvette. He convinced me to try road racing and to forget the drifting for a second (it’s what all us kids were into, and still are!) So it was a deal. The first event of the year was at the dreaded Mosport International Raceway (you all know how people make Mosport sound to the newbies!) The fear of this new racetrack only added to my nerves, and the first practice session was more of a recon run than anything else.

Come race time I remember my scariest moment came while being gridded for the rolling start – so many cars, all so angry. Moments before the green flag dropped I remember questioning my desire to want to race a car. Surely no one would find this enjoyable. In fact, I was stupid for wanting to do this.

Somehow I made it through corner one okay. The problems had yet to come, however. The engine began to overheat, and I had to coast on the straights unless I wanted a melted motor. While driving “cautiously” to allow the car to cool down, I turned in to one of Mosport’s many high speed corners thinking everything was just dandy (why check mirrors?). Then I felt a huge THUD as I had come into the very same space my now good friend Andrew Wojteczko was trying to occupy. He, of course, was not limping around the track and was actually driving at 11/10ths to try and make up positions. Regardless, I went spinning off the track and into the gravel, as did Andrew. My first thought confirmed my previous fears. I concluded that I was an idiot for racing. Clearly unprepared, totally overwhelmed and now feeling bad for ruining this other guy’s race, it was one of the lowest feelings I’ve had since I started my racing career. But it is the reason for this story!

It turned out that my car was just fine and I was able to finish the race without a scratch (when you’re cornering at the limit it doesn’t take a lot of force to throw you off the racetrack, and Volk Racing 3-piece wheels are TOUGH!), and I would later become best friends with the very guy I smashed into (Andrew if you’re reading this, technically you smashed into me!)

In 2006, I would go on to more than triple my knowledge about cars, racing and Motorsport, and was inspired to open a business tuning and building cars of all types. I went on to meet a ton of genuine, smart caring fun people, and – perhaps most importantly – I would test what I was made of.

You see, racing is so much more than just strapping into a car and driving. Especially at the regional level; it’s about being prepared, about bringing spares, about organizing your day, about managing your money, your time, maintaining a car, and if you’re lucky – tuning it to go faster, all while not forgetting to have fun. So if you’re wondering whether or not wheel to wheel racing is for you, I hope my story is evidence that it is the most enjoyable really hard work you’ll ever do. Yes, it is hard work. You could take a vacation to Punta Cana for the same money as a race weekend, but you wouldn’t get a tenth of the satisfaction that comes from a good race weekend. When everything comes together and you find yourself on the top step making everyone sticky with cheap champagne, you won’t be wishing you spent your efforts, money or time any other way!

I look forward to writing about both technical and practical subjects about the way we go racing, either professionally or at the grassroots level, in the pages of PRN. For now I need to remind myself (and all of you) to keep it fun – we can’t ever lose the fun.

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