Ted Powell Memorial Race Weekend – July 24-25, 2010

The 2010 Motorsport Club of Ottawa Ted Powell Memorial Race Weekend went off without a hitch, in beautiful weather. However, it didn’t come together easily. During the planning stages through the winter and spring, it became evident that we might not receive the number of volunteer corner marshals necessary to use the whole track at Calabogie  and perhaps not even the east half of the track. Newly clarified regulations from CASC-OR dictated that we must have at least one senior corner marshal for each marshalling station, qualified to act as Corner Captain. That would require thirteen senior marshals in order to run the half track, and twenty for the full track. In addition, we would need at least one other certified marshal for each station, if not two. Since these are all volunteer positions, it went right down to the wire before MCO could make a decision regarding the track configuration that would be used. We wound up using the East Track instead of the full track because we didn’t get enough Corner Captains.

I’m not sure that the racers minded this too much, since the East Track contains the most challenging turns and it’s still 2.81 km long. In particular, Turn 1 is a very fast, sweeping right-hander that requires precise driving and excellent grip to maximize one’s speed through there and all the way to Turn 10. Personally, I find it an excellent challenge and a nice change from the slower corners of the full track configuration. Sometimes the racers go through Turn 1 two abreast, which can get pretty dicey at high speed. But this year there were no major incidents there, although a few cars did put two wheels in the grass.

My weekend began Friday morning, when I set out for Capital City Speedway where the MCO trailer is stored, to pick up my brooms for Track Services, as well as two coolers for water bottles, plus a generator and a can of gasoline for the PA system. I had to rearrange the contents of the trailer somewhat in order to find five of my brooms, which were at the bottom of the pile, which was kind of annoying. The Autocross guys use them to sweep up the course when they’ve finished, but I guess they just throw them into the trailer and then stack all their cones and boxes of stuff on top. When I left the speedway I decided to take some back roads as my route to the highway, in order to avoid backtracking towards Ottawa. That added a bit of time to my trip, since one of the roads was being graded with fresh gravel. It was wet and dirty, so my truck was a little grubby by the time I reached Calabogie.

Upon arrival, I put a couple of MCO magnetic logos on my doors, parked in my designated prime spot near pit-out and picked up a radio and headset from the tower. Then I visited Jane in the track office and got a mug of her excellent French vanilla coffee. I hadn’t arranged for any of my crew to be there on Friday, so I simply had to register, get my tee shirt and hang around chatting with people while the racers were practising. Things were going pretty well until I heard on the radio that there was some oil down on the front straight. Almost immediately, calls began coming in to Race Control that there was oil in Turns 9, 10, 11, 12 and all the way around to Turn 17! The Rescue vehicles were all dispatched in a hurry and Jane called over to me “Peter – get your crew!” Well I didn’t have a “crew”, so I hollered for anyone nearby to volunteer to help. One racer stepped forward, saying “The sooner we get this cleaned up, the sooner we’re back on track.” We went out on track and worked hard for 20-25 minutes sweeping Absorbal all the way from Turn 20 around to Turn 17 – about 90% of the track – on the racing line. The oil had come out of a Formula car – either 1200 or 1600 – which I didn’t think could hold that much oil! All the Rescue people and many corner marshals were involved in sweeping and we had all the trucks out there spreading Absorbal and driving through the resulting powdered line. Finally it was cleaned up, but for the rest of the weekend we had a reminder on track of exactly where the preferred line was located.

Friday afternoon I hooked up with my friends Jeff and Andrew (and his son Dave), who were planning to race their Triumph Spitfire GT6 in the Vintage class. I had been following the construction of this car regularly, since Jeff owns the NAPA store where I live and I shop there often. I had also been following Jeff’s progress as a driver, since he had very little track time when he got his racing licence. They were having trouble with the engine overheating and with inadequate power. But they persevered and found a better timing setting to reduce the heat and they borrowed a set of smaller Weber carburetor jets to increase the power output. We fixed an oil leak around the fittings for the oil filter and breather hose, as well. Over the weekend the car ran pretty well, although Andrew felt that it needed bigger venturis to get the most power possible. While helping them with the car, I began to make suggestions to Jeff as to how he could carry more speed in certain corners, by braking and downshifting less. Before long, two or three of his paddock neighbours had joined the discussion, since they also had Vintage cars that would have to rely heavily on momentum. By the time we stopped, they were all grateful for my suggestions and made positive comments over the weekend about the results they were getting. This was very gratifying for me and I was glad to help. Friday night we all had a great dinner at the Staye House restaurant in Arnprior and retired reasonably early to our rooms at the Quality Inn.

Saturday morning I arrived at the track around 7:30 and had a brief conversation with the chief rescue official about our day’s activities and responsibilities. My Track Services crew started to arrive and we gathered around the pit-out area to give them their team assignments and corner positions. One of my volunteers didn’t show up and I found out later he’d had an emergency at work that held him back. I juggled the team assignments a bit to ensure we’d have three workers at both corners 10 and 17 at all times, since they tend to be busier spots. At 8:45 we went onto the track for a couple of reconnaissance laps and to drop the Turns 10 and 17 teams at their stations. The previous evening I had promised Dave a ride around the track since he’d never been on it, so I took him along and described the racing line as we went. He had a great time and was very grateful for the experience.

The morning’s agenda included practice and qualifying for the Vintage, G70, GT, Formula Classic/1200/Libre/1600 and the Enduro racers. There were no incidents and we spent a very quiet time in the paddock just watching the action and chatting with various people that I know from prior events and lapping days. Over the lunch hour we all got sandwiches and fruit and I ran into the BARC crew from Toronto, who were managing the mock grid at the other end of the paddock. I had a few pleasant words with Angelina, who is one of the BARC volunteers and a very nice, attractive lady I’d met before. I also met with Betty, whose husband Carl has a NASCAR Nationwide-style Taurus stock car that he brings to lapping days. He would be running in the GT-1 class and the Enduro race. Betty asked me where she could buy one of our volunteer T-shirts, so I told her they weren’t for sale. Then I went up and got one for her from the registration room! She’s a very nice lady too.

In the afternoon we had a bit of work to do. There was an oil spill between turns 12 and 14 that required my crew (now stationed at Turn 10) to get out our brooms and sweep up the Absorbal. Once we’d finished, the Race Controller released cars from the pit lane for the next race, behind the pace car. I was told to hustle around to my Turn 10 station, but by the time I got to Turn 9, the pace car had pitted and the track was green! So I really had to move it to stay in front of the field and get off the track by the time they reached Turn 10. That was an exciting lap, but we made it without incident! The afternoon’s activities included races for all classes, ending with a one-hour Enduro. Carl was running his Taurus in the Enduro and looked like a sure thing to win it. But he neglected to make a mandatory one-minute pit stop during the allotted time and had to forfeit the win. I spoke to him afterwards and he admitted that he didn’t know about the pit stop, although it had been covered at the drivers’ meeting. I don’t know whether he had skipped the meeting, but he won’t do it again – he was very disappointed and down on himself when we spoke.

At the end of the day there was free beer for all the volunteers, plus a barbeque in the tent near the administration building. But before the food was served, there was a wedding on the front straight! That’s right – a wedding! Mike and Mary have been together for 23 years and have a lovely daughter, so they finally decided to get married. They are responsible for scrutineering for CASC-OR and everyone knows them. So after the simple – and Quaker – ceremony, they walked down a makeshift aisle formed by friends and workers holding marshalling flags like an archway. It was very cute and everyone had a great time. Then the line formed for the barbeque and Dale and I decided to go into Arnprior rather than wait for a half hour just to get a free hamburger. We ate in East Side Mario’s, which is attached to the Quality Inn, at a table right next to Jeff, Andrew and Dave (plus the two wives).  Once the women had left for Ottawa, we joined the guys and had a few more beers, while telling jokes and stories from the track. It was a good evening and once again, we didn’t stay up too late. Dale and I shared a room, but thankfully neither of us woke the other with our snoring or bathroom breaks.

Sunday morning was another perfect day, but cooler than Saturday had been. I had one new crew member and one who didn’t return from Saturday, which was expected. By now everyone knew the drill, so we did our recce laps and got ready to settle in. But race control asked me to check each marshal’s station to ensure they had at least one fire bottle. So we did one more lap, stopping at each station to see how many bottles they had. While several stations wanted a second bottle – which we couldn’t provide – they all had at least one. So we returned to our station at Turn 17 and got ready for the action. After a couple of practice sessions, the racing began with Formula 1600, followed by Formula 1200. During that race, two of the F1200 cars came together at Turn 17, right in front of us. They both went into the grass, but only one was able to continue. I asked for, and received, permission from Race Control to push the disabled car out of harm’s way. Then after the race I towed him into the paddock. We were told to stay in the paddock until the end of the next race, at which time I did another hot lap to get back to Turn 17 ahead of the field. In the afternoon we were stationed back in the paddock and there were no on-track incidents requiring our involvement for the rest of the day.

But there was some really good racing – especially a Formula Libre race near the end. I don’t know how the qualifying order was established, but one of the fastest drivers – Nick in a black Radical – started from the second last grid position. The pole belonged to a red Radical owned by a friend of mine named Bill. There were three other Radicals, a Diasio and several open-wheeled racers separating the two. After four laps Nick had moved up to fourth place and was challenging for third. In a couple more laps he was in second and the battle began in earnest. No matter how hard he pressed, he could not get the better of Bill’s car and that’s how they ran until the chequered flag. I couldn’t believe that Bill had held him off, although Bill is a skilled driver. But when the helmets came off, it was clear what had happened. The driver of Bill’s car was another fast guy named Clive, whom Bill had put in the car. Both of them were overjoyed and everyone in the pit lane was delighted with the result and the quality of the racing.

The racing all weekend had been exciting and clean. I really enjoy watching the Vintage and G70 classes, especially with two old Porsche 911’s running. I didn’t hear anyone complaining about the short track configuration. And everyone was complimentary about the quality of the event and precision of its running. Now that everyone has had time to catch their breath and rest up, I’m sure they’re looking forward to next year. I know I am!

Video is at…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aQndxMvrs0

Pictures are at… http://s229.photobucket.com/albums/ee234/kilrwail/Calabogie%20Ted%20Powell%20Race%2024-25%20July%202010/

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