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Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
I’m often asked what it is about racing that I love so much. Other than the obvious thrill of the speed and sensory bliss that comes with ripping, one of the best feelings racing brings is the ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. When faced with a situation where most would pack it in and go home, racers seem to have an infinite (sometimes foolish) determination to take whatever means necessary to get the job done. We will pillage parts from a stranger’s car, put together shoddy fabrications from home supply stores, work without sleep and bleed in the dark trying to get the job done. The funny thing is, this job is not necessary. We do it for fun!

I suppose the feeling of accomplishment is partly what drives us to do it. Knowing that you didn’t give up when all odds were against you and then defeating such odds is not a feeling most of us get to experience during our everyday lives. The fact that we get to share these feats with great friends while working on machines we love makes it all that much better.
Here’s an old story.

In 2007, the season was just about through and we were leading the Canadian Touring Car’s GT championship by a narrow margin. I was young, inexperienced and certainly foolish – and my only crew member (nicknamed Fizzer) was younger still, equally foolish and remains the hardest working guy I’ve ever met. It was the last weekend of the year, and we needed to run two clean races to win the championship.

I wasn’t in the greatest spirits after having run my first ever pro race in Speed World Challenge where we were off the pace, and wrecked in practice AND the race. My self-esteem was at an all-time low. Perhaps in an attempt to regain that self-esteem Fizzer and I had fabricated a flat-bottom and diffuser for the car and were set on doing a 1:26 lap at Mosport. My previous best was a 1:27.4. Unfortunately at this point the car was badly beaten after a season of racing: the steering rack had developed a really bad notch, the engine was down on power and the differential was making all the wrong noises. And the brakes were essentially non-existent. This was the definition of a budget spread too thin.

Regardless, I decided to try a new technique approaching corner two at Mosport – rather than braking before the corner and then floating speed over the top crest, I would brake later, decelerate over the crest and then come right back onto the throttle. I was sure I would find a few tenths that way. Well, that technique works for us in our current aero-understeery Genesis coupes, but when I attempted it with the 240 the car stepped sideways. I snapped the wheel to catch the car but was not able to get the steering back to center fast enough, and I headed straight for the outside tire wall of corner two.

Badly damaged is an understatement. The entire driver side of the car was more or less destroyed, with both front and rear suspension damage. Regardless, I would not give a tow truck the pleasure of bringing her back into the pits. Fenders rubbing on tires and driving crooked all the way around the track, I pulled it into the paddock and we got to work. Fizzer and I had 45 minutes before qualifying. In a multi-class field of 55 cars, we couldn’t miss qualifying.

This was the lowest point of the season for me. Fizzer and I put the car back together in those 45 minutes, missing a front bumper, headlights and with a ridiculous amount of rear toe we went out for qualifying. A smooth, precise driving racecar she was not. But I laid down a 1:31 fast lap and that was enough to put us in front of most of the multi-class field.
The race was in the afternoon, so we really only had another two hours to get the car into a state where we believed it would finish the race. Starting from eighth overall, I was up to third before corner four when I heard what sounded like a loose wheel or body work that had come undone from the car. We didn’t have any radios, so there was no asking Fizzer if he could see anything as I came along the front straight. Erring on the safe side I came into the pits, frustrated that I was giving up a great race start. It turns out the splitter had broken from its mounts and was dragging. With no ability to remove it, I went back out. By the end of the race I had made it back up to eighth spot despite pitting, and the car was still driving! It seemed at this point as though we had enough points to win the championship, and for a moment we felt relief.

Until we got called into impound. Now normally only the top three cars are impounded, but today the ugly eighth-place battered and bruised 240SX was going to be inspected. Of course, the car was under the mandated three inch ride height which led to a disqualification.

At this point Fizzer and I were torn. This was the new lowest point of the season. I was incredibly angry at the series. It was unlikely the 240 would last another 40 minutes and we had to start from 53rd and make it up to seventh in order to claim the championship. Considering the state of the car, this was nearly impossible task.
We got to work removing every possible component from the car that could fall below the mandated ride height. We went over every nut and bolt more carefully than ever before, not willing to lose a championship over a dragging splitter.

This story could have a sad ending, but thankfully it ended in our favour. We were rewarded for our hard work. A number of yellow flags occurred during the race bunching the pack a number of times, giving the tired girl a rest and allowing me to carefully make pass after pass to move ahead of the required seventh place. The car finished the race. We won the championship.

Looking back on it now, despite the roller coaster of emotion at the time, I can’t remember any of the negative feelings. I believe even if we didn’t come out on top, I would still have the same positive outlook towards it because the hard work and determination we had is certainly something to be proud of. After all, Fizzer and I had a good time facing such a challenge.

Now that the season is nearly upon us, keep those old racing memories in mind – they just might provide you with a little more patience and fun in 2013. Remember, without racing all we have are desk jobs.

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