~ by Daniel Demaras ~
It was still dark out when we departed for the Race Lab advanced driving course. I can’t believe we made it up there by 7:30 am on a Sunday.
But being the first drivers on track gave my dad and me the best track conditions. I was pared up with Cos, an off-road racer with Baja 1000 experience, and my dad was reunited with Jason, who’d taught us some basics of off-road driving out in the backroads a couple weeks ago.
Crazy Farm is all about learning to handle the car on ice and snow. In my first recce lap around the circuit, I was amazed by how small the margin for error was. The entire track around the perimeter of the farm was super narrow, and made even tighter in the low-speed chicanes and slalom. If I wanted to keep my car in good condition, I’d have to be careful.
My first run at speed was very cautious, but with the urging of my instructor Cos, I started to add speed while also refining my driving.
From my background in circuit racing, certain concepts being taught at Race Lab seemed completely backwards to me. For example, sliding the car is good on snow. You still have to touch the corner apex, but how you get there is so different on slippery surfaces.
Just as I was learning to slide the car and keep up speed, the track conditions really changed. All the cars lapping on track were polishing the surface until it was solid ice in the corners; much trickier. Along with changing track conditions, the pylons defining the track limits got moved around by drivers plowing into them. The track had a different layout each time!
I upped the pace each run, including one lap where I terrified my dad in the passenger seat, and despite a trips into the snowbank, I kept my car in one piece.
It’ll take a lot more seat time to get good at mixed-surface driving, but winter is long in Canada, and I think I could really enjoy going sideways quickly.
I was proud that the Bugeye held up so well. Sure, the fender liner got ripped out, and driving home it sounded like I’d left the window open. But it was totally worth it.