Today was the first MCO Ice Race in about 20 years. Jay and I bought a car (1992 Honda Civic) in January with the express purpose to use it for this Ice Race; we were also part of organization team for the event. The rules of the event dictated that there must be at least three drivers for each car, so Jay and I asked a Quebec racer, Nicolas, to join us as he had been doing well in the MCO Slush-n-Slide series.
To prep the car, Jay had the bolt-in rollcage re-installed, along with a four-point harness for the driver. We debated changing the inside rear wheel from a 13″ to a 14″ tire. The thought was that it would put more weight on the outside front, improving turn-in. But during the event, we didn’t use the tire, but we did adjust the tire pressures to be asymmetrical for similar reasons.
Nicolas and I took some of the practice sessions in the morning. I felt bad because I stuffed the car into the snow banks twice, requiring a tow. There was also some bumper damage we had to repair. I felt I had good speed though.
In the afternoon, there were three heats. Nicolas took the car out for the first heat. The starting position was based on the registration order, not on a qualifying lap. I was very pleased to have the honor of being the official starter for the first heat – again the first Ice Race in our club since about 1991 or 1992. Nicolas did well keeping a good position through the race.
I took the car out for the second heat. I was a little nervous because the track was getting very muddy, making the visibility difficult. I lined up third or fourth in class. At the drop of the flag (for which I was not fully prepared for – I couldn’t see the flag very well from where I was on the grid), I managed to more or less keep my position into the first corner. Once the cars bunched up in the corner, the visibility was effectively zero (i.e. I could not see out of my windshield) from the muddy slush being thrown up by the other cars. I tried very hard to not hit anything, but by the exit of the corner, I was squeezed between two cars and received a small dent. The rest of the first lap I stayed in position while giving some space to the cars around me to prevent more contact. At the end of the back straight there was a big hit between the two lead cars, which then caused more pile-ups and completely blocked the track. I was able to avoid going into the back of the car in front of me by just a few inches – it’s tricky to stop in a hurry on the slushy-icy surface.
Because of the blockage with less than 1 lap completed, they restarted the heat about 10 minutes later with the original starting positions. I did better avoiding contact on the restart, as I stayed to the outside of the track. There was a little contact in the third corner where I pushed through to take a position. During the rest of the 15-20 minute heat, I dropped a position or two, but made up the positions again later with some skill.
The heats were being shortened due to the track conditions. They were originally to be 30 minutes each, but the track was deteriorating too quickly in the above-zero temperatures. By the end of the last heat (and therefore the end of the racing), there was basically no ice or snow left on the racing surface. The track was just a muddy, rutted mess.
Jay had a good heat and secured third place for our car. It was a thrill to be part of this event, when MCO has such a long previous history in ice racing, and to take some a podium spot was icing on the cake.