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Author: CASC Office on Friday, June 7, 2024 - 21:14

Dear Members, my first comment is an apology- if you are reading this on your phone do not blame me for the length of the following SMP Cup update - but if that is your medium for media, I hope you stick around till the end. I am a phone addict too - I get it.

I really do not know where to start; but unless you have been deleting club mail, or having it arrive in your spam, you will all know the club, in partnership with CASC-OR ran the SMP Cup this past weekend. It could not have been a better first regional race event for the club - St Lac's history of running the Thousand Islands Rally through the 60's is alive and well, Jack Luck would be proud. Together with the CASC we exceeded expectations as we hosted the inaugural series of the Miata Canada Cup, and the F1600's, two GT classes and a small grid of Formula Libre cars. Each of these classes competed in three races each. In addition, many of our lapping regulars participated in the very first HPDE lapping event to be inserted into a regional race weekend.

Firstly, a huge shout outgoes to all the Club volunteers - you know who you are. Events like these start with the people, and end with the people. I am so proud of all the support we had last weekend from so many of our members (22 in total) and massive thank you to all the event volunteers from Calabogie and Mosport if you are reading this as  without your mentorship and technical support  we'd be unable to put together such a fantastic weekend. Thank you.

As a community, racers are a fringe group like Travellers or a circus. Racers often work together, play together, and celebrate our losses and, most of all, our victories together. I would even compare racing to a religion for many; but fundamentally, racing is about winning, and guess what - that is exactly what several of our members did this weekend - they won, but more on that later.

As participants in this petrol-burning cult of loud exhaust notes, chemical smells from clutches and brakes, and hair raising on track skills, I bet we all have friends who point out how unfriendly it is to the environment that we spend our time burning gas. I hope the following descriptions of last weekend may help explain to these friends why we love racing as, in my opinion, they are missing the point.

Shannonville, love it or hate it, most racers have a decided opinion about the track. It is too narrow, it is hard on tires and brakes, there are not any showers and enough bathrooms, the paddocks are too small blah blah blah. I have heard it all from fellow racers. Well just like our naysayer friends they are missing the point. Shannonville is still an exceptional motorsport facility. Apart from two corners, it is like a roman amphitheater - you can see all the action and that is what makes SMP so unique. Even as a racer it allows for an unobstructed view of your competition. Not many tracks are so transparent. Sure, Shannonville has room to improve but many positive changes were noticeable this year from paper towels in the dispenser at the end of the day, trimmed and cut grass, branded SMP flag sand even a sea-can store selling their swag. Shannonville, like St Lac, is on the upswing.

Upon arrival early on Saturday morning the recently rebuilt reception area greeted racers with a new slick look- an F3 car and several race bikes were on permanent display. With a free T-shirt in hand, registration was seamless. I am not sure about the final number of attendees, but it was close to seventy plus or minus a few dropouts and last-minute lappers for the HPDE class. Last fall, I was thinking anything over fifty cars, and we would be thankful - 70 was a tremendous success.

Pat's experience, hard work and diligence had the paddock looking beautiful with classes organized well together. With 24 Mazda Miata entrants there was a lovely row of all the Miata noses on an angle that looked very professional. Similarly, the GT classes and F 1600s were given ample space yet nestled together. Not only that but the podium and CASC trailer were backdropped by a huge sponsor's banner. To add to the organized feel, all the volunteers were wearing CASC official clothing. The mindfulness and planning for the weekend was clear for all to see compared to previous years. Rev TV was also on hand along with voice of racing Pat Gonsalves to provide the play by play.

For a second year in a row, I found myself in the Starter's role. Do not tell anyone but with no prior experience until last year this job still makes me nervous. It is the best seat in the house but the exposure to risk by getting hit by debris, exposure to the sun, the wind and huffing and puffing on 110 octane race fuel for a better part of two days has its challenges. Staying focused on the race is also a challenge not to mention the responsibility for getting the races underway without incident. Throughout the entire schedule I was blessed with tight and orderly packs unlike last year's stragglers. Throughout the weekend the marshalling, rescue teams and towing all pulled their weight, and the radio chatter was very well organized, on top of every session and race. I was also incredibly grateful to have an assistant this year for an extra set of eyes and hands- thank you Jeff.

From my perch, above the track I watched all weekend as the  mock grid and pit lane ran flawlessly, a volunteer was positioned on the 4th floor admin balcony to keep an eye on the blend line, our runner delivered  the timing sheets (way to go Ryder- our youngest member), scrutineering was calm and orderly everyone was well fed including a Saturday evening BBQ for all the competitors and their crews. Then, on Saturday night to top things off the paddock entertainment was by our very own members, from Fun Comes Fast, with Emily Atkins and Ian Crerar and Noel Castell who I used to race against on keyboards. So, to sum it up with full tire service from Touchette, and ambulances, recovery vehicles and doctor on hand - James Stewart, Anne, Ted, and Pat can now take a bow for their excellent organizing skills - applause please.

Now to the fun part and the winning. But let us start with the Formula Libre grid. There were no two ways about it, but it was a sad sight with only four cars registered in this predominantly open wheel class. The cars were an older bike powered F4, a newer Radical, an F2000 and an older Formula V. The 99 Van Diemen F2000frustratingly leaked gearbox fluid from corner ten right through to Allens corner before receiving a meatball and then eventually a black flag (the marshals and staff did a great clean up job with a 20-minute delay); and the V was a no show. Which left the radical driven by Bary Dickson chasing James Morton for most of the weekend-  Dickson , new to the track and having had a series of "offs" on the test day was able to close the gap to James running in the 1.52's compared to the F4's very quick times in the 1.48s .   So, the big take away for the future is to try and make this grid viable with at least ten cars.

Next up were the Miata’s. Saturday's grid was impressive with twenty-two cars making it to the grid and two DNFs stuck in the paddock. You could sense the anticipation for this first race in this new series. Most of the Miata’s looked similar but the two front runners, Martin Langeveldt and Matthew Gidman, both who normally run in the GT classes were conspicuous with the larger wings and bodywork, not to mention a turbo to increase their top speed advantages. As expected, this duo gapped the field quickly and ran two three seconds apart for all three races. With Martin taking all three wins and Matt duplicating things with three second place finishes. Their lap times fell in the 1.57-59range for all three races. Within the pack there were more closely matched duals going on. For example, in race one the gap from 15 to 16between Ted Michalos and Katherine De Nottbeck was just 6/10s across the finish line, but the real stars of the show were Matt White and Owen Clark who in the final race of the weekend put on an outstanding display of talent. Following each other lap after lap - inches apart, exchanging places and never compromising their opponent. Owen had previously beaten Matt in the first race by 8 seconds, by race two, that gap was down to 2 seconds and finally in race 3 Matt beat Owen over the line by .202 of a second after three lead changes in the final laps. It was hard to take your eye off this epic battle and it showed the potential for the whole field to close in on this pair as their benchmark times to beat were in the 2.02 range. Incredibly, over the course of three races there were no wrecks, only several light touches and the usual number of spins but the field was hugely successful in completing the full race distances. So well done Pat for creating the series, thank you to all the Calabogie regulars for coming. And thank you Matt White (and Hector whom Matt drove 1600s for) for making my hair stand on-end. Talent shows like this are why we come to the track.

The GT classes were broken into two race groups with the higher horsepower cars from GT 1 and GT 2 running together and the balance from GT 3-4-5 classes combined. St Lac was proudly represented by Aaron Clue in the latter grouping. Aaron won Race 3 on Sunday afternoon and finished an impressive 3rd place in Race 1 and 2. I didn't see his Victory coming and its surprises like these that make racing so interesting as it wasn't Aarons speed in the last race ; but the bad luck of the two front runners for passing under yellow and being sent to the bottom of the results page.  But well-done Aaron, you deserved the top podium step after an action-packed weekend... his windshield less red Miata was extremely fast. Honourable mention goes to club member Ian Crerar who suffered a clutch failure in the first race which ended his weekend of racing, but the band played on.

In front of Clue for all three races there was a wicked cat and mouse game at the front between Krystian Palka and newcomer Selene Tsang. In practice on Saturday morning Tsang's2012 Porsche Cayman really stood out to me going through corner one, the Cayman made an impressive noise as it upshifted mid corner and the driver applied full throttle - Peter Windsor followers would recognize Tsang's lines as a short-corner driver. Trust me this young woman is one to watch. Tsang, at 16, was participating in just her second race weekend and it was her first time at SMP (she has a strong karting background as it turns out). As a side bar, I went to look for the driver of the Cayman on Saturday and was met by Selene, we introduced ourselves and I was amazed at her youth and impressed by how cool she was. Sergio had her as a student and said she is incredibly focused - let that be a lesson to us all concentration and focus = fast.

Palka's white 2003 M3 was blisteringly fast all weekend. Tsang finished 23 seconds behind Palka on Saturday afternoon, 15 seconds by race two on Sunday morning; but by Race three she passed Palka for the lead only to relinquish it. Talk about progression. Tsang and Palka ran in the high 1.54 and low1.55s and put on a thrilling race but both drivers succumbed to their mistakes with missing the yellow flag in corner four and overtaking back markers prior to the green on corner six. That is racing,

Just to mix things up I will now sum up the f1600s. You phone readers, if you are still there, are cross eyed by now so the only way I can keep you reading is to save the best for last. Many of you know I raced in the Toyo F1600 series for 5 years and I share Dr. Evans passion for the simplicity, speed, and elegance of these non-winged formula cars. The F1600s offer two engine choices, the traditional push rod 1.6 Ford engine called the Kent and the boring little 1.5-liter VTEC Honda found in the Fit. Running between 112-115 horsepower these momentum-driven cars are spectacular to watch in corners and still surprisingly fast in a straight line. The 15-car grid was a mix of older B cars running the Ford engine while the class A cars run the more modern Japanese ones.

Britain West's Conner Clubine, the son of team owners David and Laura, dominated the weekend with three first place finishes. He led each race comfortably with between a 4-7 second gap and clocked times consistently in the mid-150.50 range. Watching Connor slide the car through turn 11-12 was epic from my viewpoint. Antonio Costantino, racing for Brian Graham Racing walked away from the weekend with two very solid second place finishes in races two and three. However, the standout 1600 driver was unquestionably the underdog privateer Henderson Knox. Knox, who came second in race one after chasing Clubine suffered a mechanical failure on the opening lap of race two. I suspect it was a gear box linkage issue as he was able to return slowly to the pits under power. Starting from the last place on the grid for the final race Knox made his way past five cars on the opening lap and by the late stages of the 22-minute race made his way into third place. There was one outstanding pass exiting corner ten at the end of the Fabi straight that was the pass of the weekend in my books - I am still trying to figure out how Henderson pulled it off. The B class was dominated by Steve Bodrug winning two races and Dylan McPherson taking the final race win, in addition to raising $950.00 for the 2024 Team Canada Scholarship our very own Chris Evans had a third-place podium finish in Race three with his extended family in attendance to cheer him on. So, another great twist to the St Lac experience over the weekend - a special thank you to the F1600 organizers for assisting with paying for the BBQ. -  thanks Jules.

Finally, I am sure you are asking yourself what more is there to come and that is the two incredible race wins by Danny Corcoran in GT1 and three race wins by none other than Pat Cyr in GT2. Like Holy Moly! That is amazing. For those of you already indoctrinated into the race cult we all know that Rocco Marciello 2016 BMW 235iR is stiff competition. This BARC member's red car which runs a beautiful set of European yellow lights on during races is a class act. So, with Danny beating him in two out of three after his brother Tony's mastery of taming the 2008 Chevrolet Impala solid rear axle we should all be celebrating this accomplishment. Starting all three races was fun to watch in this run group as Cocoran struggled to get down the power coming out of the hairpin and onto the front straight. It is often a bit greasy, and the Lumina laid down huge strips of rubber on a consistent basis upon exiting this tricky turn. Marciello's BMW in contrast would squat the right front tire a solid inch off the road powering through turn1. In fact, all the BMW’s exhibited unreal grip in this combined class. Rocco managed the fastest lap with 148.975 during the last race but it was ended under caution - with the only safety car of the day, prior to which Danny had a healthy lead, and in Race 2, which went the full distance Corcoran crossed the line with a commanding twenty-five second lead. The mix of European sports cars, race trucks, stock cars and Mustangs in this high horsepower class made for an exciting mix. It was a thrill to wave the checkered flag for my fellow club members and all three race winners. Amazing job guys.

In closing, yes, I am almost done. I want to reiterate that St Lac nailed it. There are lots of small areas for improvement but next year we need an audience to appreciate the spectacle and the excitement which means and bums in seats. Watch this space cause the little club that could be is going to come back even stronger in 2025. thanks for sticking with me to the end and thank you to everyone for their support.