~ by Daniel Demaras ~
After eight years of racing karts, it was time for me to step up to racing cars. My first race weekend in the Canadian F1200 Championship was the opportunity to achieve a life-long dream.
A solid day of practice on Friday, and I was ready for my first race on Saturday. After a chilly driver’s meeting in the morning, I went out for free practice. I ran in a group with my teammates, which was a valuable experience. The draft is very important in F1200, and I benefited from experiencing it in practice.
Qualifying was not optimal. Mechanical issues meant the 1200 CC engine was unable to reach full throttle on the straights, making it impossible to stay in the draft or set a good lap time. I qualified P6 in class for the race.
During lunch break, the Vallis Motor Sport team worked very hard to sort out the issues with the car. VMS is an incredibly knowledgeable and highly experienced crew. When it comes to F1200, and I know they can solve any issues I’m experiencing because they have already faced the same issues many times over in the past 45 years of racing. They took the body off the frame, serviced the carburetor, and put everything back together in time for the race.
My first ever race start in an F1200 race was…poor. I was in the wrong gear and lost two positions by Turn 1. But by Turn 3, I completed a pass and made one position back up. I continued to work through the field or drivers, caught one on the back straight, and passed another on the next lap in Turn 2. At this point, I had reached the lead pack, and it became time to drive smart.
I patiently waited to make my next move, opportunistically following drivers attempting overtakes ahead. While running in fourth place, the car ahead began to have performance issues, causing us to lose touch with the two leaders, so I made my move on the front straight, driving down the inside of my rival, trying to complete the pass before Turn 1. But another racer made the same move on me, driving down my inside at the same moment!
Exiting Turn 1, I was back in fourth place still, but now with no threat behind me, but no chance of catching the top two. I chose to wait for the chance to take third place, staying in the draft until the last lap. I made my move at Turn 8, taking the outside line with more momentum and speed … but I was driving in the ‘clag’ as David Hobbs used to call it. I held it around the outside of Turn 8, which became the inside line at Turn 9. A drag race to the finish and I crossed the line in third place…not bad for my first ever open-wheel race. I was even recognized at the ‘hard-charger’ with most positions gained in the race. Whoo!
My driving performance wasn’t perfect, and I still have a long way to go until I can truly compete with the top drivers, however, members of the team praised my patience in those closing laps. With a podium under my belt and managing to impress a group of veterans who have seen it all, I set my sights on the next race.