River's Edge at Mission

Mission, British Columbia, Canada
June 28 and 29

On my previous trip to Canada, I was fraught with worry about getting across the border. After that first race, though, I had few worries at all. I packed the truck and started driving north. Traffic snarled on a bridge over the Skagit river just south of Burlington. It took more than 45 minutes to move 3 miles. Such traffic is particularly frustrating, but what made matters worse was that my exit was just on the other side of the bridge!

The whole jam was caused by a truck that had lost a bunch of coolant. There wasn't even an accident, but everyone had to stop and stare.

I breezed through customs and had no problem getting into the track. Drags had already started and the young lady working the booth at the entrance didn't know which paddock spot had been reserved for me. I parked the rig and bothered the SCCBC folks in their trailer to discover my reservation.

Attendance was very light, with very few spots taken and only a few other cars running the test-and-tune. I said hello to a few of the folks I knew and my new pit-mates. Hugh Golden said that he ran the test-and-tune and found that there wasn't another car on the track!

I got my pit setup and then went through registration and technical inspection. On my last visit to Mission, the technical inspection line moved at a glacial pace. On this visit, I found a different technical steward running the show, and he was much more sociable and far more efficient. I made it to the hotel before 7pm.

As is typical for me, I went out and had a couple of beers with dinner. I went to a wonderful neighborhood pub. Western Canada's zoning laws amuse me: this neighborhood bar was literally in a lot right inside a neighborhood! House, house, bar, parking lot, house.

The place was fun; one of the locals was paling around with his friends and the staff. When he went to the bathroom and mingled with some other folks at the other end of the building, the bartender put some Saran Wrap over his beer glass, carefully trimming it so that it was almost impossible to see.

Sure enough, it fooled the customer and everyone ad a great laugh. Everyone who visits a foreign country always explains that the people are so friendly, as if they don't expect them to be hospitable -- perhaps because Americans seem to do so little to make foreign visitors feel welcome, or even safe.

Every Canadian I know is a well-rooted, conscientious, and person with sharp ideas and a great sense of humor.

I woke up and grabbed breakfast and filled my fuel bottles. At the track, I made the decision to run both practices since I've only raced at Mission once before. After the sessions, I bled my brakes and adjusted my tire temperature.

I also spent a little time trying to sort out my tire strategy; I had a new set of tires with me, and I figured I could scrub them in this afternoon, then run them during the races. That wouldn't give me any sessions to fine-tune their pressures, though, so I decided against it. I also thought of scrubbing them in, then putting back the original set. The scrubbed set would work fine at the next race in Seattle. That might have been a great plan -- but laziness took over and I didn't bother changing anything.

My times were decent, though a tad slower compared to my previous visit. I really wanted to leave with a ton of points, so I didn't aggresivelly attack the track; I was far more interested in finishing the races and getting out of there with everything intact.

The weather was downright hot; I heard on the radio that record highs were expected. It was unsasonably hot, more than 85 degrees. But nothing as bad as the visit I had made at the end of June.

On Saturday night, I went to dinner with some friends. They had invited me to drive a stint in their car during the eight-hour endurance race at Portland in a couple of weeks. I was absolutely thrilled. During some of the down time between sessions, I hopped in their car was thrilled to find the fit quite comfortable; I was afraid I would have to stuff myself in and awkwardly reach the controls while feeling confined.

I began looking forward to the enduro. I'd never driven one, and looked forward to it as an incredible learning experience.

On Sunday, my morning qualifying sessions were both abbreviated by yellow flags. A couple of cars got together pretty hard and ran off the track deep in Turn 3, and there were a couple of spins that left drivers in dangerous spots. It's certainly more important to tow those drivers and cars to safety, but I was a bit frustrated because I didn't think I had a good clean run at setting a qualifying time.

The car was handling great, and I was having a lot of fun. In the ITS qualifying session, I found myself behind Ron Tanner -- one of the guys who was battling for the championship with me. I followed him for a little more than a lap before deciding that I could pass him, and made a nice clean move to the inside in Turn 2. In my rear-view mirror, I saw Ron go wide and kick up a ton of dust. I was terrified that I had pinched him or had even hit him. Certainly, there was no consequence for making such a pass as a qualifying session doesn't involve finishing order.

When I exited the car, Hugh found me and made some jokes about passing him. I was terrified, and Hugh assured me that everything was square and clean, that I hadn't done anything wrong.

I went into my first race for the C Production class. I already had the championship sewed-up entering the weekend, so I took it easy through the race. There weren't any other cars in my class, so I just stayed out of the way of the other drivers and tried to get the car over the line.

Everything went great; there was an extended yellow, so I kept the car cool and finished nice and easy. The faster cars lap me three or four times on this tiny track, and I tried to give them plenty of room.

During the break, I adjusted my tire pressures a bit and gassed-up. I go some water down, then went back out onto the grid. When the green flag dropped, I made a great start, getting safely though the kink and holding a great line through the first turn. The next turn went well, too, and I found a hole to shoot through the inside. But I ended up stacked through turn 3, following a car that was substantially slower. By the time I calculated a way around, it was too late -- several cars came from behind to charge through that hole, and left me standing.

I was annoyed, but a race lasts thirty minutes and I had plenty of time to recover. I was chasing a couple of the Kahn Team drivers and having a great time slowly picking our way through the pack. On the longer straightaways, I could see Ron Tanner about six cars ahead, and thought of catching him. I figured that his car -- a Datsun 240Z, notorious for bad brakes -- would fade in the later laps and I'd have a shot of catching him.

About seven laps into the race, I found myself behind an RX-7. I had a good look around the car into turn 3, then thought better of it and backed off. I took a nice wide line around turn three and accellerated hard on the way out. The RX-7 driver went towards the left, so I hung around on the straightest line, closer to the wall and made up a couple of car lengths quickly.

Much to my surprise, the RX-7 driver didn't hold her line and pinched me towards the wall! I moved towards the wall as much as I dared, assuming she'd would see me--but she didn't and ended up tagging the left-front corner of my car with her right rear.

My car didn't move much; I quickly corrected a tad to the left, then straightened out and got the car ready for the next corner. The other driver's car, though, looked to be in terrible shape for a split second. That RX-7 has a race weight about 500 pounds less than my car, so it twisted towards the wall abruptly before the driver recovered it. Fortunately, she didn't hit anything and managed to get away.

I heard the trun workers report the blocking on the radio, and that made me feel better. But when my car gets hit, I'm rather stuck. If you're in traffic and have an accident, you're able to almost immediately park and then examine the damage. In the race car, I can't do much; I'm strapped in, so stopping would mean that I'd have to miss at least three or four laps while I left the car, checked out the hit, and then buckled back in.

My imagination runs away with me. Any noise or vibration is amplified a million times into a season-ending problem. My imagination runs wild: the hit certainly must have totalled the car, and I'm sure my bumper is hanging on by a thread. I drove a couple more laps and didn't hear any more reports, but I was quite rattled.

To add fuel to my paranoid fires, the brake fluid light on my dashboard flickered on. The brake pedal travelled a little bit more than normal, and I didn't feel like I had much control while modulating brake pressure. I feared the worst, and knew I needed a finish so I backed off a few notches and just finished the race.

Just before I finished, the turn workers radioed that they had found my turn signal plastic and thought that there might have been contact during the blocking move they had reported earlier. The steward said that he wasn't worried about it and would monitor the driver's progress through the rest of the race. That annoyed me.

I weighed-in, since I knew there were only three cars in my class. The stewards approached me while in line at the scales, and asked me if I wanted to protest. I told them that I wasn't sure, but I wanted to show them my video.

When things get tough, I always talk to Hugh. I was kind of mad about getting hit, but the damage wasn't bad -- a scuff or two, and my turn signal lens was punched out. The sheet metal around the opening was bent, but it wasn't anything substantial. He directed me towards the stewards.

Unfortunately, the other driver beat me to it. She began complaining to them while I waited my turn. The stewards directed me to a neutral corner, and I waited it out. When she left, they asked for my side of the story and watched my video. That was that: they went off to show my video to the first driver.

I hadn't even returned to my pits when the stewards approached me. They told me the other driver saw the video and immediately apologized. I wish she had done so face-to-face, but I figured I'd take what I could get and started fiddling with my car.

It turned out that a part below the master cyinder was leaking. I couldn't tell if it was the ABS pump or the brake pressure regulator block, but the fluid was coming out good and steady. It had dropped just below the "minimum" line on the resevoir, so I added a bit of fluid to keep the clutch from going dry.

I took the car into Strictly BMW the Wednesday after the race. They made the diagnosis and ordered a replacement pump by Federal Express. The part alone -- no labor, no other parts -- cost more than $1700. I couldn't believe it! I was excited to get into the next race, even though I knew I didn't stand much of a chance at winning the ITS campionship. I had to try, and be there, and hope for the best.

What an eventful weekend!