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Ontario 1500 - Days 7 & 8

Rather than test our fate by driving through the rain to Grand Bend with no heater, marginal wipers and a ring and pinion that could fail at any moment, we had a much shorter drive back to Grimsby on Friday night. After a great rest in our own beds, the morning was spent bleeding the brakes and re-organizing the trailer. By 1pm, the Studebaker was loaded into the trailer, along with a much smaller list of spare parts and tools for the drive to Bowmanville. Without the intrusive gear whine, loud exhaust and clattering lifters, driving the truck to the last day of competition was much more relaxing ride. After a short pause for dinner and to fill up the gas tanks, we arrived safely at the same hotel where our adventure began, nearly one week ago.CTMP’s Driver Development Track (DDT) was the host for the final day of the Ontario 1500 competition with a Time Attack in the morning followed by a slalom in the afternoon. After the last competition, the group would celebrate its accomplishments over dinner and the awards presentations.The DDT is a fantastic track that was completely renovated the year prior to our visit. The oval track ceased operations halfway through the 2013 season to make room for an expanded development track. Although I was sad to see yet another speedway shutdown, the improvements to the DDT are quite remarkable. It features all of the blind corners, elevation changes and long straights of the neighbouring grand prix circuit; just on a smaller scale.

My father slid behind the wheel for the opening laps of practice, as I had never turned a lap at the facility before. In fact, he was one of the first groups to experience the new track during a school day last Spring. At the time, the concrete curbs had not been poured yet. He had to stay away from the apex because instead of curbing, all you would find is a big giant hole!

There are several layout options available for the course. The front straight was cut short with the sweeping turn one replaced by a tight chicane and speeds on the back straight were kept down by driving the kink. My first few laps in the passenger seat were a little uneasy, as I wasn’t quite sure exactly where the road went. After a few more laps of my father showing me the way, I became more comfortable and began to enjoy the track.

Gearing in the Studebaker proved to be optimal, as we could drive the entire lap in third gear. There were a few spots where dropping to second would help to accelerate out of the corner more quickly. However, staying in third gear allowed me to left foot brake for the entire lap without having to worry about changing gears. Still trying to learn the track, this allowed me to concentrate on the correct line, braking and acceleration points.

My father strapped into the car for the first time attack session and was able to post a respectable time. I took over driving duties for the second session. In the opening laps, I was still braking far too early for entry into turn # 1, as well as for turn # 11 at the back of the track. Similar to the large track, the back straight really isn’t a straight at all. There is a gentle right-hand bend that rises up and over a hill. On a fast lap with your foot to the floor, the back end would get light cresting the hill, which demanded your full attention.

Similar to my experience at Cayuga, I used the first two timed laps to gain confidence with aspirations to accelerate harder and brake deeper on the third lap in hopes for a much better time. Those plans were thrown out when I discovered that the Studebaker brakes needed more than 2 light taps down the front strait to be ready for duty in turn one. After driving deeper into turn one than I had on any previous laps and jumping hard on the brakes, my foot went straight to the floor. Carrying too much speed into turn 1, I turned in too early and bounced off the inside curb, which unsettled the car. Rather than risk over-correcting and introducing myself to the concrete wall, my grip on the wheel relaxed as the car drove off the track, missing the second half of the turn one chicane. With that, my time attack was over as four wheels off meant a disqualification for the entire session. I want that lap back! Perhaps I should have paid more attention from the driver’s seat during the morning practice.

My father handled driving chores for the last time attack opportunity and hustled the car for all four laps. After lunch, the event’s focus shifted to the final auto slalom of the Adventure. For our out team, it would be the first.

On the first day at CTMP, we missed the autocross while we were installing, removing, then re-installing our spare starter. We missed the trip to Calabogie while repairing the car and opted not to travel to a wet and soggy Grand Bend. Having never competed in an auto slalom, my father was on call again to finish out the 1500 Adventure.

The layout was very tight, and he completed the entire course in low gear. Unfortunately, he missed the same gate on each run. I was on call to marshall the back of the course, so I didn’t have an opportunity to debrief with him between runs. After three timed runs, our Ontario 1500 Motorsport adventure had come to an end. After startering out with only 340 miles on the odometer in the week prior to the event, The Studebaker had racked up nearly 1500 miles by the end of the week!

Congratulations to Garry Wood and the entire team of 1500 volunteers for an exceptionally well-run event. A pair of Scion FR-S found themselves at the top of the standings, followed by a new Camaro SS on the last step of the podium. Despite our mechanical setbacks, we had a fantastic week. We had the most votes for the concourse d’elegance, despite not making the trip to Calabogie and our 218 km/h run was 7th quickest in the top speed challenge. For the rest of the events, the Studebaker proved that it was competitive against the modern machines that dominated the event. A few more miles to develop the car and sort out our mechanical issues, as well as additional seat time behind the wheel would have put the Studebaker in the running at most of the events.

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