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Ontario 1500 - Day 2

Day 2 of the Ontario 1500 was the official kick-off for the week-long adventure with a full day of on-track activity at CTMP (Mosport) before a long drive to Calabogie, just outside of Ottawa. Whether it was the anticipation for the week long adventure to get underway, the uncertainty of competing in an unproven car, or a lot of apprehension over returning to the big track and a certain tire wall that we got to know a little too well, neither my father nor I got much sleep on Sunday night.

We were on the road shortly after 6:30am to ensure we got to the track in plenty of time to set up our pit and make final preparations prior to breakfast and the 8:15 Driver’s meeting. The plan was to alternate track time between 1500 competitors and lappers, with an auto-cross at the end of the day before departing for Ottawa.

The first session of the day was held at reduced speeds with no passing to give everyone time to reacquaint themselves with the track and marshal stations. An open ½ HR practice followed, prior to the Time Attack stages where competitors would be lined up according to their practice times.

In the past few years, I have significantly more track time at CTMP than my father, so he handled driving duty for the caution laps and would log as many laps as possible during open practice session prior to the competition beginning. But that’s when the risk of competing in a brand new car made itself known.

Our problems actually started on the drive to Bowmanville the previous day when the starter became noticeably louder. With a spare in the trailer, we opted to push forward, as replacing the starter was a quick and easy task.

After getting strapped in for open practice, pushing the start button was met by the horrendous sound of the grinding metal. After replacing the starter, the car fired immediately and the starter and flywheel appeared to be at peace, but we missed the entire practice session. Our next time on the track would be in the first Time Attack stage without any time to really sort out the car. Similar to the opening laps under yellow, my father drove at a cautious pace to ensure that we would post a time on the board.

Without any practice, and only 10 minutes of driving time behind the wheel, I slid behind the wheel for the next practice session. A red flag on course retired everyone to the pits for an early lunch while the track crew reset a tire barrier. A Skyline GTR experienced a failure and the car lost a wheel entering turn 5B in Moss corner.

After lunch, I strapped in again for my first timed run. Instead of the engine rumbling to life, a push of the start button was met with a click, and then silence. In disbelief I tried the button again, only to be greeted with another click and more silence.

My father was quick to spring into action, to inspect the starter, solenoid and accompanying wires. He found a loose connection and after a few quick turns of the wrench, the Studebaker fired right up. Taking a cautious approach to the first two sessions worked in our favour, as we gridded near the end of the pack and took our place in line without further delays.

My first laps behind the wheel were overly cautious, but I still managed a respectable 1:46 circuit. For comparison, I have turned similar times in my own car, but with similar weight and 200 less horsepower, it required some serious hustle. The Studebaker has enormous potential!

My father returned to the pilot’s seat for the next on-track session, but this is where our adventure decided to plot its own course. Again, the starter complained about the push of the start button. When the drive gear came to a damaged section of the flywheel, that horrendous grinding noise returned. Could our Ontario 1500 Adventure be over after only 2 timed sessions?

Dejected, we weren’t quite sure what to do next. Yes, we could bump start the car prior to each session, but that is difficult to do after a gas station in the middle of nowhere with a trailer in tow.

Our intent for the week was always just to have fun. Posted top time of the day was not even a consideration, nor was accumulating the most points to be declared the inaugural winner. With that spirit in mind, several more options became available. We could return home to swap cars, or spend time repairing the Studebaker before rejoining the tour later in the week. Regardless of the outcome, the solution was not at the track so we began to pack while waiting for Toronto’s rush hour traffic to pass.

It was obvious that we would require a new flywheel, but that also represented a tremendous amount of work and with some custom machining on the current setup, it was not an off-the-shelf solution. Before leaving the track, a replacement flywheel was on order, but still two days away. A competing team had a 2nd flywheel available, not far from home. However, it was only a loaner and would require twice the effort to replace the flywheel, then taking everything apart again after the event.

With everything loaded and a full tank of gas, the car was bump started before attaching the trailer for the long drive home where a plan started to take shape. Rather than work through the night to repair the car, we would get a good night sleep before putting in a long effort in the shop the next day.

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