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Ontario 1500 - Day 6

After returning to Grimsby to bleed the brakes and top up the fluids, we left early for the short drive to Cayuga. The drive across country roads was a welcome departure from the 400 series highways that we had traversed all week. Once underway, the noisy rear gears were a constant reminder that the Studebaker might not last through the end of our journey. In fact, it seemed even louder than our return trip from Shannonville the night before.

Cayuga was the location of the Studebaker’s first on-track test earlier in the summer and we hoped that the return trip would bring better results. During the first visit, an electrical problem was identified that resulted in the car turning itself off. This was remedied by bypassing the start button and replacing with separate toggle switches for power, ignition and the starter circuits.

Three separate events were scheduled for the day with time attack stages on both the short and long courses and a top speed challenge on the drag strip at the end of the day. The schedule followed the same routine as other tracks with 15 minutes under caution followed by a ½ hr of open practice before the time attack runs.

Despite repeated attempts to bleed the brakes, the Studebaker still suffered from a low pedal requiring several pumps to achieve full brakes prior to the next corner. However, we realized that the cause was likely due to pad knock-back at the calipers. As long as the pedal was pumped down the straights, we were confident that there would be plenty of stopping power for the next corner.

Similar to Shannonville, the morning stage was limited to the tight circuit, which features a long front stretch, followed by a tight, 180 degree turn. With such a long straight before the tight turn, your brain tells you to brake much earlier than you actually need to. We were still trying to get comfortable with the brakes and left a lot of time on the table entering turn one.

The rest of the lap was fairly straight forward, with a short straight and a chicane, followed by a 90 degree left turn and several more tight corners to complete the lap. The only place to really get into trouble is the last corner entering the front straight due to the concrete barrier. Using the outside curbing prior to the last corner allows for a better launch onto the front straight but we had to be careful not to carry too much speed or get on the gas too suddenly. The concrete can come up quick!

The best to worst 1500 Competitors were only separated by 5 seconds on the small track, which is amazing given the difference in cars. We were near the bottom of the time chart but with a bit more courage into turn one and a few more laps to find a better line and braking point through the chicane and 90 degree left turn, I’m confident our time could have been much closer to the top.

We preferred the full track that the afternoon time attack stages were contested on. Rather than the tight 180 degree turn after the front straight, corner # 1 becomes a sweeper that opens up to another long straight. The rest of the full course has several “esses”, followed by a short straight prior to rejoining the short track following the first turn. Driving deep into turns 1 and 2 and hitting your marks through the technical esses are critical for a good lap time on the full course. Carrying too much speed or getting offline through the esses will penalize you through the rest of this technical section.

By the end of the last session on the full course, we had more confidence in the Studebaker’s brakes and were able to post a respectable time. However, with only 4 timed laps and such little time on the track, little mistakes are common. With the first lap used to warm up the car and the driver and a somewhat conservative lap # 2 to post a time on the board, the third time around should be the best, and in the likely event of a less than perfect lap, there was still one more opportunity to correct any mistakes.

I ignored the signals from my brain to brake early for turn 1 and was hard on the gas exiting the corner. After a few pumps on the brake pedal down the straight, I was ready to sail deep into the next corner. Upon releasing the clutch after the 4-3 downshift it was evident I had screwed up and was in low gear. Instinctively, the clutch went back in, as I continued to brake, then coast around the corner. Unfortunately, when I finally found the correct gear, the engine had lost its fire and popping the clutch failed to bring everything back to order. The engine roared back to action after a bump of the start button but all hopes of a fast lap had disappeared a few moments before. I spent the rest of the lap trying to regroup for one last flying lap, but my focus was gone, much like the glory I had envisioned in the staging lanes, a few moments before. - Scott's account of his Time Atack laps

The day ended on the drag strip with a ½ mile top speed challenge. With dark clouds and rain closing in on the track, each team only had two runs down the track. Each driver would approach the Christmas tree rolling and 30 km/h, then accelerate for a full ½ mile then brake hard to get the car slowed down before running out of track. Radar guns at the ½ mile would record everyone’s top speed through the traps.

Having never been down the drag strip before, my father handled driving duty for both timed runs. His first pass was the best, hitting 218 km/h and placing him mid-pack in the standings. He had no problem slowing down in time, but this wasn’t the cast for the two fastest cars. The radar captured the first place Nissan GTR and 264 km/h and a Trans-Am was 2nd at 234 km/h. However, both cars locked up their brakes and slid off the end of the track. Unfortunately, this caused enough damage to the Trans Am that their Ontario 1500 Adventure was over.

With the top speed challenge completed and rain starting to fall, everyone was quick to pack up for the transit stage to Grand Bend. Earlier in the day, we made the decision to return home, rather than risk the rear axle failing during the long drive, or at the track in Grand Bend. The sick rear axle contributed to, but was not the only reason for skipping the event. The forecast was for 90% chance of rain and without heat or defrost and marginal wipers, the decision was not a hard one to make. If the rain did clear up, the drag races scheduled for the morning certainly would not have made the ring and pinion last any longer.

Instead, we had a short but noisy drive back to Grimsby where we would take a day off before rejoining the group for the last day of the 1500 at the DDT in Mosport. Not knowing whether the rear axle would survive the trip back to Bowmanville, and not particularly looking forward to the loud drive due to the gear noise, we decided to trailer the Studebaker to the track instead.

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