Having missed my opportunity to go lapping at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on the VARAC test day in June last year, I was determined more than ever, to find another track day with one of the local motorsport clubs.
My Zed was finally back on the road after an extended stay in the shop but my rebuilt engine wasn’t broken in nor track ready until I put some more kilometers on it. Autoslalom events are a lot of fun for sure but I always like to get in at least one track day each driving season whether it’s part of a ZCON trip or a stand alone lapping day. I didn’t have much of a wait. Danby Crowder of the St. Lawrence Automobile Club in Kingston, invited OZC to participate in a lapping day in July at Shannonville Motorsports Park. It was being sponsored in part by the Ottawa Mini Group and there were still plenty of spots available. We invited Danby to promote the event at our monthly July Zoom meeting at the time. Unfortunately, other than myself, there were no other Zeds on the track that day. Shannonville is a great track to go lapping, especially for a beginner as it has little if any, elevation changes. If you miss a turn and end up going off the asphalt, as long as you continue to steer straight and resist the urge to correct and turn the wheels quickly, you should safely end up stopped and in an upright position! On the other hand, the track has multiple configurations for the organizer to select from. There are 4 layouts (named Nelson, Long, Pro, and Fabi) and St.Lac’s initial plan was to have 2 separate run groups, running simultaneously on 2 separate layouts. Given the limited resources (marshals, volunteers) and operational demands, this approach didn’t cut it and we all ended up running on the Long track layout all day. The cost was an inviting $250 for the day.
Drivers were slotted into 1 of 3 run groups, depending on driving experience. The day’s schedule called for each group to be on track for 7 sessions of 20 minutes each. That is lots of seat time for sure and few of us ended up running in every session.
I’ve been to Shannonville for lapping days a number of times over the past 10 years or more and have enjoyed my track days there. I’m getting older now as I used to think nothing of getting up real early, driving to the track, spending the day out in the sun and lap in a non-air conditioned car, packing everything up and making the long drive home, all in a day’s work. This time, the day before the track day, I drove out to Belleville and spent the night at a Comfort Inn, then got up the next day to arrive at Shannonvile at 8:00 a.m. to register, prep the Zed and attend the driver’s meeting. Darby reviewed the day’s schedule, rules of engagement, location of the marshalling stations, use of flags and shared his words of wisdom. I was slotted into the intermediate group and was soon out for my first session of the morning. I was nervous for my newly rebuilt engine and my driving too as it had been over 18 months. since I had driven at any speed on a track. I slowly eased into it and my first session ended without incident. It was coming back to me and I started to remember some of the finer points concerning the track layout. I was having a blast, keeping up with my peer group and not backing up a train of cars behind me. Driving a 40 year old car flat out for extended minutes in repeated sessions in the middle of summer can make for uneasy feelings. I’ve had more than my share of track day misadventures as some of you know. Among them are, a blown head gasket at Shannonville (managed to drive home), over-heated cooling system at Mosport DDT (needed a tow truck half way home) and a catastrophic engine problem at CTMP big track (flatbed ride home CTMP). This day turned out just great for a change. I completed my scheduled sessions without any ‘offs’ and no mechanical issues at all. Any motorsport event that you can drive home from, unassisted after a ton of seat time, is a good one.
I’m sure OZC will be looking for lapping days for our members to sign up for this year. It would be nice to have the company of some Zeds instead of having fun all by myself. If you decide to participate, here are a few suggestions for your To Do list. Look up your track on the Internet to familiarize yourself with the overall site plan layout, turns and straights. Watch YouTube videos to get the driver’s view and tips. Service and check out your brakes, tires, drive belts, cooling system and all fluids. Track day technical inspection check lists abound out there. Arrive early to prep your car and attend the driver’s meeting. It’s a long day outside, could be hot and sunny so bring a chair, drinks, snacks, basic tools. If not, don’t be shy to beg or borrow as required!
If we’re talking about an autoslalom event, most of the same things apply. Main difference is they are of shorter duration, less wear on the car, less cost to participate, still a blast to try. It’s more likely that I’ll see more Zeds at those events though. Although there were a lot of Minis on track that day, I didn’t end up running with any of them. Just watched them from the grandstand during my downtime. They gave away a bunch of door prizes from the Mini car dealer at the end of event driver’s meeting. I managed to win a neat Mini ball cap that I don’t really need. If anyone has a Mini, you got it, no charge. Just email or text me to arrange pickup. (Editor’s note: I wasn’t able to find either but you may be able to here.)
Printed with kind permission from the official newsletter of the Zed Car Club of Ontario: Zedline Winter 2021/2022.