By Dave S. Clark
Last week, Edmonton’s Castrol Raceway officially opened its road course, a project 20 years in the making. I attended the grand opening and it got me itching to go racing again and hopefully will inspire others to do the same.
But it also got me thinking about the little bit of racing experience that I have, most of which was at the race-track-turned-garbage-dump formerly known as Race City Speedway in Calgary.
I was never more than a Race City rookie. I’ve only spent two weekends driving at the track and only one was for an actual race. I might have been around the track 150 times at best. But when I think about the track and picture it as a landfill now it makes me sad.
The one event I competed in at Race City Calgary was Chump Car on May long weekend in 2011. It was made up of two endurance races, seven-hours each, to be split amongst our team of rookie drivers. It was my first experience with door-to-door racing and a memory that will stay with me for a very long time. That weekend I spent about four hours on the track and while that doesn’t seem like a very long time, the amount I learned about racing, about the car and about myself as a driver, was incredible. Even with a lot of seat time, I still had so much to learn.
I spent a lot of time preparing myself for that race. There were so many long days and evenings in the shop with the other team members building our car to the proper specs. I also invested countless hours researching the course, watching videos and reading about what other people had learned. But that type of research only does so much. There was no replacement for actually driving the track.
I think about how long it took me to get the chicane right. It took dozens and dozens of laps, going a little bit faster through it each time before I got better at it than most of the other drivers on the track. It was out of necessity though. Our car was slow and the chicane was the one place I could actually pass people as they braked for it and I went flat out. I think about all the visualization I did of braking points and how I was supposed to properly approach and get through the carousel. I certainly never perfected that over the course of two weekends.
I think about all of the drivers who have been around the track not hundreds, but thousands of times. How they must be able to visualize a lap by just closing their eyes. All of their hours of practice so that they could get the little bit of an advantage coming out of a corner or late braking into one. It’s all for naught now.
The good news is there is a new road course in Alberta at Castrol Raceway. A new track for the racers to spend countless hours, sets of brake pads and tires memorizing and perfecting for years to come. At the grand opening last week, everyone was adamant that this course would be there for a long time. With no residential development or landfills encroaching on the site, let’s hope that is true. As long as the track is supported by the community, and there is no reason to think that it won’t, nobody will be writing a eulogy for Castrol Raceway for a long time.
Leave a comment: What are your favorite memories of Race City?