Victoria Day Speedfest Sundowner 2011

This past Victoria Day weekend, Team 00 attended the Sundowner 3-hour enduro. Jay, Steve and I drove #00, a nearly stock Acura Integra Type-R we bought in Dallas; Frank crewed for the team with help from Vern.

We arrived at the track Friday evening around 8PM. After a quick BBQ steak supper, we started to prep the car, as we were the first group on track Saturday morning at 8AM.

Steve working on the wheel studs
Steve working on the wheel studs

Trouble started immediately. Two aluminum lug nuts on the left rear wheel sheared off. The torque face against the rim was still there, but the hex head broke off. The only solution we had was to drill out the remnants, at the cost of breaking multiple drill bits. Once the nuts were finally removed we had to replace the wheel studs, as the drilling had destroyed the old ones. We had spare studs, but they were longer than the original studs. To gain enough space to thread the longer bolts through the axle hub, we had to remove the ABS sensor and rotate the dust shield out of the way. The next challenge was to seat the new studs. We borrowed some steel washers and a steel wheel nut from the Krikorian’s and torqued them down, which slowly pulled the studs through. It chewed up all six battery packs we had for the air wrench.

We finished around midnight and retired to Jay’s RV for the night.

We were up at 7AM. Steve was the first on track. He and I split the morning 30-minute practice session. I set the best time – 1:43.393.

After lunch, Jay took the 30-minute qualifying session. We finished in 15th place on the grid of 17 with a time of 1:46.376. We had classified the car as GT-4 with hopes that with fewer cars in the class we might stand a better chance, even though our lap times were well off the GT-4 pace.

In the mid-afternoon, a rain-squall passed over Mosport. As I watched the puddles form, I knew our car had been set up for dry conditions. I grew more and more anxious as race time approached. A dinner consisting of only strawberry Twizzlers didn’t help either my anxiety.

The race started at 5PM; we arrived at mock grid around 4:40. Mentally I prepared for the start by focusing on just staying on the track and didn’t worry about positions. The rain had stopped, but the track was still wet. We had three hours to make up any lost positions.

As we came around to start the race, I was on the inside of the 8th row (14th place as one of the competitors did not start). When the green came out, I saw a big gap down the middle of the track. There was some risk, as I would have nowhere to go if the was an accident in turn-1. But it paid off handsomely – I made two positions. Everyone was cautious and it was a clean start. At the top of turn-2, Mark Gawronski was slow on the inside – he might have started on slicks – so I passed on the outside of 2.

In turn-5, I went to the outside again and went around two faster BMW’s, but lost the positions on the race up the back straight.

Up into turn-8, I was behind a red BMW when he started to lose it in the wet. Would this be a repeat of my big crash at Calabogie in 2008? He started to spin right, then corrected left before completely losing it around to the right again. I had lifted and stayed basically center track behind him until I could figure out which way he would end up. When he finally lost the tail, I saw the opening to the left and went for it. I quickly glanced in my mirror and saw that his spin had basically bottled up everyone behind him – I was the only one who had gotten by cleanly.

By the time I came around to the start line, I was already up to 10th place overall.

Working turn-9
Working turn-9

This gave me a breather to chase down the next car ahead of me, a Porsche GT3 driven by Roberto Sabato. What a thrill it was to hound down a GT3! It was obvious that Roberto couldn’t get the power down on the wet track. I tried at the bottom of turn-2 and again in turn-5, but each time he made his Porsche as wide as possible. At the same time, one of the Sentras was also trying to get by me and we traded positions a few times but I was able to get by pull out a gap on the Andretti straight.

At the end of the second lap Howard Chin took back the position he lost on the opening lap and was able to close up on the Porsche too. I was able to stay with him and eventually took the position back again on the pit straight; he retired a few laps later with a mechanical issue.

In the wet, I was able to go on the power a little earlier than the cars around me, which gave a good run out of the corners.

Eventually, as the track dried out, my wet-track advantage was lost and I started to fall back as the faster cars could start using their power and grip to get by. After a little over an hour, I was called in for our first drivers change. I had been up as high as 9th place overall, but when I pitted, I had fallen back to 11th.

Over the radio Steve asked about the fuel state and I replied that the tank was just under half. So we made the decision to just do a drivers change without refueling. Coming into pit lane I loosened the belts and prepared to hop out.

Jay got in and when out. I told him the car was great and to start pushing right away.

However, we found that the fuel gauge is not very accurate. Jay drove until the car started having fuel pickup problems after about 30 minutes. We prepared for our second stop, this time for both fuel and driver. I was still in my race suit so I was assigned to fire extinguisher while Frank did the fueling. We put in one 27-litre can and meant to add at least half of a second. I watched the fuel level, but I misjudged it and we got about 1/3 of the second can.

Steve got in the car and tore out of the pits. But he was nailed for exceeding the pit lane speed limit. He came in for his stop-and-go penalty and went out again.

After about 30 minutes he radioed in that the oil light had come on, so he came into the pits. We added liter of oil and he went out again.

A short time later, he radioed in that he was out of fuel. Since Jay’s stint was short, we decided to do a fuel stop and driver change to put Jay back in.

Frank had already changed out of his fire suit, so I did the fueling. We had to ask one of the Krikorian’s crew-members to hold the fire extinguisher. We put in a full can of fuel and then strapped in Jay.

However, he also broke the pit lane speed limit and had to come in for a stop and go penalty. He had started a scrap with Vincent from Quebec but the penalty brought that to an end.

In the rush to get in the car, Jay didn’t have time to get the radio system plugged in, so we didn’t have any communications from him. When he was slow to get around, we grew concerned. He finally arrived on pit lane, driving slowly. Once stopped, he asked us to check the tires – the car was not handling well. We checked all tires (pressures were good), brakes (one pad was well worn) and wheel nuts (all looked secure). Nothing looked too bad, so we sent him out again. Again he was late to come back around. Time ticked on and he did not complete the lap, so we checked with the officials. They radioed the control tower and they found out he had stopped at the top of turn-4.

It was 15 minutes from the end of the 3 hours.

Once the race was over and the car was towed back to our paddock we found the left front wheel bearing had failed. The only thing holding the wheel hub on the car was the brake caliper. This caused problems when we tried to load the car into the trailer. We had everyone push as hard as we could then had to use the tie-down straps to pull the car into the trailer.

After that, we had a burger BBQ for supper.

Reviewing the weekend, I felt great about my start. I really made a great run in the wet. Even the track announcer was remarking on my progress. I was only 0.3 seconds off Steve’s best laps although we are still slower than expected. Our two strategies really failed. Classifying in GT-4 was a mistake – the other car finished, so no matter what we would have done, we could not win. We weren’t even fast enough to be competitive in GT-5. The breakout time is 1:41.000, and Steve’s best lap was 1:42.706. And our pit stops were terrible. We made 7 stops, including three driver changes and two stop-and-go penalties.

We will return in September for the BEMC War Bonnet 3-hour race. Hopefully we can have more success then.


Rosa and Mama with Papa's remains
Rosa and Mama with Papa's remains

Since Papa passed away in November, Mama, Rosa and I have been discussing what we should do with his cremated remains and by extension what will happen when Mama passes away. Mama said that Papa and she had already bought a space at a mausoleum in Beijing.

After so long discussions, Rosa was able to convince Mama to buy a spot here in Ottawa, so that it will be closer to us. Rosa argued that if the remains were in Beijing, there would be no one who would visit. By having the remains nearby, Mama could visit whenever she wants.

Last week I took mama to see the Hope Cemetery Ottawa-Carleton. It was specifically chosen as a Roman Catholic facility. Mama is very picky about that, especially as she was able to convince Papa to be baptized last summer. She liked the cemetery and agreed that we would intern Papa there.

Today, she, Rosa and I went back to move papa’s urn in to the space.

A spot was chosen that has enough room to include mama’s urn when she passes away. It was inside the mausoleum – there were also locations on the outside of the building and burial sites.

We left some photos and Mama left a small bottle of holy water.

As the cemetery is on the other side of the Rideau River, it takes about 35 minutes to drive there. Once the new Strandherd-Armstrong Bridge opens, the trip will take only half that.

2011 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada at Calabogie Motorsports Park

Calabogie Control Tower
Calabogie Control Tower

This weekend I worked in the control tower at Calabogie Motorsports Park for the inaugural Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada event. I was an assistant to the series Race Director Terry Dale and I also helped the clerk of the course Peter Manganelli with the running of the other races during the weekend.

Just last weekend I went to Mosport to take the training course for the Clerk of the Course. I also wrote the exam and submitted it to CASC-OR for review. I found out then that the exam review is face-to-face. The earliest I can have the review is next weekend at the Victoria Day Speedfest.

So this weekend at Calabogie was not a signature event (an event where I can get a signature on my new logbook). But I did get to work in the tower for the entire weekend, and it was a real pleasure.

Aside from my racing (Solo-II from 1997 to 2003, road racing from 2003 to the present), I have always been an active volunteer for regional motorsport. I have held licenses as a flag marshal and pit marshal, I have worked in the pace car for a number of events, and I was a former Secretary of the Meet for MCO‘s Ted Powell Memorial Race Weekend and their regional Race Schools. I also instruct at the Race Schools and high performance driving schools, such as for the BMW Car Club of Ottawa.

I want to expand my experience into the role of clerk of the course. It will take years to really get the experience I need, but I am determined to do what is necessary. It’s part of my desire to be more ambitious about what I want in life. Becoming a clerk is one of the things I’ve put off for years, so it’s time to seize the moment. Only by inaction do we give up before trying something.

Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada
Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada

I was excited to be working with a professional series like the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge. I downloaded and read all of the IMSA race regulations, series regulations and all of the supplementary regulations too. I also put PDF copies on my laptop and on my iPhone. I was able to easily quote some of the rules when required during one of the sessions – I was proud of that!

During the invitation races, I worked with the Clerk as one of the emergency dispatchers and Peter let me run the course during short periods of time (typically when nothing much was happening)!

There were practice sessions, qualifying and two Porsche GT3 Cup races on the weekend. As well, there were GT Invitational and Formula Libre Invitational races during the weekend. The entry list was a little sparse as the event was non-championship for all the series except Porsche GT3 Cup. Next year, the fields should be much larger.

Spam en français

SPAM (© Hormel Foods Corporation)
SPAM (© Hormel Foods Corporation)

Aujourdui, j’ai reçu ma premier spam ou pourriel en français. Normalement, je recevais pourriel en russe.

Dans le dernier mois, j’ai répondu deux courriel en français. Le premier pour le club Motorsport Club du Ottawa (MCO), et le deuxième fois (heir soir) de le Coordonateurs des Instructeurs de la BMW Club de Quebec.

Aussi, en le questionnaire du recensement de 2011, Rosa a ecrit que je parler français.

On Stopping Conspiracy Theories

I am really surprised at how bad the Obama administration has been at stopping ridiculous conspiracy theories. I had higher hopes for this administration than what I’ve been seeing over the last 2 years.

On Friday President Obama released his long-form birth certificate. I thought that there was no such document, that Hawaii only had birth registration documents. Now, years later and it turns out there is a birth certificate. Seeing how the silly Birthers have been making fodder of this issue since before the election, why in the hell did it take this long to provide this document?

Then came the stunning news that Osama bin Laden had been found and killed in the middle of Pakistan.

What could have been an amazing story in a year of stunning news – history being made – was soon sullied by a changing story that has cast doubt on the veracity of any part of the account.

The first reports on Operation Neptune Spear were that there was a gunfight throughout the compound, bin Laden “resisted the assault force” and used one of his wives as a shield, and both were “killed in the middle of an intense gun battle” (New York Times). It seemed cut-and-dry: bin Laden was actively resisting capture. There were rumours of a live video feed from the raid, directly to the White House Situation Room.

Leon Panetta, the head of the CIA (soon to take over at the Department of Defense) provided much of that story. For example, in a television interview on PBS, he said “There were some firefights that were going on as these guys were making their way up the staircase of that compound.” The Pentagon claimed that bin Laden was shot while holding an AK-47.

Later, nearly all the details of the raid changed completely.

Now the story is that he gunfight only lasted a few minutes at the start of the operation, as only the courier, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, opened fire and was killed in the return fire from the American forces. No one else fired at the assault force, and no one else was even armed at the time. No one was being used as a human shield. Bin Laden did not have a gun or shoot. And there was no live video feed during the raid, as originally reported.

The easiest way to prevent changing stories in the fog of war is to wait until the full data is available before releasing the information to the press. There was no need to hurry on the story details – the operation was over and did not need to be timely (as it would for an on-going event). The administration cannot be changing the story. This is like catnip to people who believe conspiracy theories.

Finally, the administration has stated that they will not release any photos of bin Laden. This seems to leave a huge hole that can only be filled with more conspiracy theories.

I think the U.S. will have to release photos of bin Laden. Otherwise, it will blow up into another conspiracy theory. But to stop that from happening, they have to do it now. The longer they wait, the more likely that people will think that there is something they are covering up. For example, Saddam’s sons Uday and Qusay. They released photos in the days following their death in Mosul to prove to the Iraqi people that they really had killed them.

When the government, or members of the government, lie or exaggerate, it causes a loss of faith and trust. This is damaging to the country as a whole. I cannot believe how bad the US government is at understanding this. It seems so self-evident. They should provide the confirmed evidence as soon as possible and don’t change the story.

On a related topic, President Obama stated more clearly than I could what I was trying to say two months ago about terrorists not being Muslim. President Obama said, “Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims.

[Updated May 6, 2011: Al-Qaeda (القاعدة‎) has acknowledged that bin Laden was killed. Perhaps this will change the need to release photos after all]

Feeling Centered

Tonight, I’m feeling really centered. Everything in my life is so good.

I’m finally debt free. I have been contributing as much as I could into my RRSP to catch up, but I didn’t put aside enough to keep my line of credit zeroed out.

My BMW is ready for the summer – new Hawk HPS brake pads, oil change, and my summer tires (Bridgestone Potenza RE-11) are filled with nitrogen and mounted. I also replaced the ridiculous BMW lug-studs with proper studs and lug nuts, so I can change my winter and summer tires myself without worrying about breaking the lug-studs again.

I finally upgraded to Blu-Ray and bought a few IMAX movies.

I finally bought a Jawbone ERA Bluetooth for my iPhone so that I can (legally) receive phone calls when I am driving.

I finally bought some new glasses. I bought a pair of sturdy regular glasses I can wear in my helmet when racing, and a pair of stylish sunglasses. My old sunglasses will still be my primary glasses for when I race.

I received my Race Licence and my Race Instructors licences from CASC-OR. I will go to Mosport this weekend to take my Clerk of the Course training so I can have my licence when I work in the control tower at the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada next weekend at Calabogie.

I have all that I could want. Including the most important thing to me. I married the most wonderful woman in the world. I am so in love with her.

All I need to do is cherish my wife, live long, and race hard.