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Ontario 1500 - Day 5

After a good night’s sleep at the Pictor Harbour Hotel, we provided the wakeup call for the rest of the patrons when the Studebaker roared to life shortly after 6am. After a short drive through the fog, we were the first team to arrive at Shannonville. Eventually, the other competitors joined us on-site, each making a point to welcome us back to the competition.

Shannonville would host two time attack stages, utilizing the Nelson track in the morning and the Pro Track in the afternoon. It had been several years since we last visited Shannonville, but it only took a few laps to re-acquaint ourselves with the tight layout of the Nelson track. As we gained more speed, two problems arose.

The track is a lot tighter and tougher on brakes than CTMP and the Studebaker starting to experience a soft brake pedal, requiring several pumps down the straights to have a firm pedal for the next corner. Not having confidence in the brakes made it difficult to brake late into turn # 2, so we left a lot of time on the table. After each on-track session, the car was put up on stands and the wheels removed to bleed the brakes. We weren’t the only team with brake problems, as the Agile team’s Camaro SS and Can Am Alignment’s Trans Am also raced to address their brakes issues between each session.

A big puff of smoke brought a premature end to the morning practice session. As the speed picked up, so did the rpm through turn one, which pushed oil out the left side valve cover breather, spraying onto the hot exhaust header. With mostly right-hand corners, the quick fix was to swap the breather from the left to the right side of the engine and to keep engine speed below 5,500 RPM. In the future, an oil catch can will be added to eliminate the problem.

The morning ended with the Studebaker near the bottom of the speed charts but after our thrash to repair the car and return to competition, we were happy just to register a time on the board. Bleeding the brakes did not resolve the low pedal, which did not provide the confidence to drive deep into a corner. Instead, we rolled out of the gas early as we cautiously felt out the car’s capabilities.

Personally, I enjoy the Pro Track’s layout much more than the tight Nelson circuit because It is easier to find a rhythm by stringing the corners together. But without confidence in the brakes and a self-imposed redline, out timed laps did not reveal the Studebaker’s true potential. Since registering for the 1500, our focus had never been about setting a blistering lap. Our only goals were to enjoy each moment on the track as well as the camaraderie of our new friends.

After our last on-track session, we quickly loaded our belongings for the long trip home. The following day’s events would be contested at Toronto Motorsports Park (Cayuga). With just a short drive in the morning from home, I was looking forward to sleeping in my own bed. However, we decided to return to my father’s shop in Grimsby instead so that we could bleed the brakes again and perform some additional maintenance without waking the entire neighbourhood.

Shortly after leaving the track, a significant gear whine from rear differential was heard while cruising with minimal load. It made the long drive from Belleville seem even longer, as the constant whine rang throughout the cabin, making conversation near impossible. It was the Studebaker’s way of letting us know that it was sick. The Ford 9” should have been bulletproof and as a result, we did not have any spare gears, bearings or carriers to correct the problem. This meant that the rear axle was on borrowed time and it would be a race between completing the 1500 and the gear set completely failing.

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