2012 MCO Ice Race

Today, Jay and I raced our Honda Civic in the MCO 3-hour Endurance Ice Race at Capital City Speedway.

The track was a mix of polished ice and a line along the snow banks with more grip. Greg Kierstead and others spent hundreds of hours during the winter to prepare the track, which is used for both the MCO Ice Race and Snow Cross series and the popular Winter Driving School. There was warm weather during the week, but no rain. This helped preserve the track better than the 2010 Ice Race. There were two soft spots where the ice was too thin to support the race vehicles, so cones were placed around them.

I spent 3 hours at the track yesterday to help prep the track. Others, including Greg, worked until nearly 10PM.

This morning I arrived at 8AM. I helped the race staff with the race setup. After the drivers meeting, we opened the track for a 2-hour practice period. I took an early session to get an idea of the performance of the Civic on ice, and to assess the overall track conditions. I went out again just before noon to check how the conditions had changed. A nice line was forming around the outside of some corners.

The race started just after 1PM. Jay let me take the start. The grid was set by the order teams registered. That meant I started in third place of twelve cars. Unfortunately that meant my grid position was slightly uphill on glare ice. When the green flag dropped, I could do nothing and I lost places to the four-wheel-drive cars and to the front-wheel-drive cars that started on the outside where they could get some grip.

I slotted in when I finally got up to speed and tried to avoid sliding into anyone on the opening lap. I had lost 4 places on the start, but made up 2 just before the chicane on the second lap.

Then as we came through the cutout chicane on the second lap, the car in front of me spun. I managed to stop without hitting him, but the cars behind me piled up, hitting me side-to-side and hitting each other. I could feel four good bumps. Luckily I was not stuck, so I reversed out and continued.

My session was good. I had great speed for a FWD vehicle. I made awesome overtaking moves, something that I had thought would be impossible on the slick ice. Instead, the race was about capitalizing on the mistakes of others, minimizing my own mistakes, and having the confidence that came from trusting the car and knowing its limits.

I had a few spins but I was quick to select reverse and floor the gas, which spun the car back around to face forward. Then, just as quickly, I selected first-gear and pulled through the 360-degree spin without losing a spot.

After an hour, I pulled in to the pits. We had lots of time for a drivers change. The Supplemental Regulations stipulated a minimum of 2-minute pit stops (to prevent panicked accidents during refueling) and a total of 20-minutes accumulated stops. Our pit stop was 4m20s.

Jay driving the Civic
Jay driving the Civic

Jay drove for about 50 minutes. He also had no issues. Our fuel usage was low, so we did not need to refuel. I am not sure if any team had to refuel.

At the second driver change, we changed the battery in our GoPro Camera HD camera. We discovered that the battery had already died. This happened at the last race at Mosport too, so perhaps the three-year-old battery is due to be replaced.

Our second (and last) stop was exactly 15m40s in order to exactly meet the requirement for 20-minutes accumulated stop time.

I went out for the last hour of the race. I was going great against the 4WD cars. I continued to overtake on mistakes.

I did have one incident – I was black flagged. Just before I turned in for the chicane, I saw a car spin perpendicular to the track in the middle of the chicane. It looked like the track would be blocked, so I made the decision to take the escape road to avoid becoming part of a pile-up. After committing to taking the escape road I checked and saw that the spun car had actually rotated out of the way and did not block the track. So I waited for the car that was in front of me at the entrance to the chicane to come around; I slotted in behind him. The marshal called Race Control and said that I had gained a position by taking the escape route and I was black flagged. I pitted and explained the situation to the official and strongly disagreed with the reason for the black flag. Looking back, I wonder if the call was actually about passing the car that had spun. If so, I don’t agree that it was gaining a position, as the spun car had lost positions to the other competitors that drove around it in the chicane. My decision to take the escape route was for safety. The chicane was glare ice, and I felt there would be an accident when no one could stop for the spun car.

At the end of the event, I helped the scoring officials calculate the stop times of each team.

I had to leave before the unofficial results were available, as Rosa was expecting me at the Ottawa Fashion Show. Jay called me later to tell me the great news – we had finished first in class and third overall!

Photo Gallery: http://gallery.myredbmw.net/v/Racing/IceRace/2012/

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