~ by Daniel Demaras ~

My favourite racing drivers have always been those who challenge themselves to compete in different disciplines. I’m not alone. Just last week during an interview Fernando Alonso gave, he scoffed at Oscar Piastri for saying he was too scared to compete in the Indianapolis 500 (no secret which of those two racers I respect more). To me, the real racers are the multi-disciplinary stars like Mario Andretti, Jim Clark, Juan Pablo Montoya, and of course, Fernando Alonso. So, within the limits of financially viable grassroots racing in Ontario, I’m trying to do the same.

This past Wednesday, SKLD Motorsports gave me the chance to test their No. 9 Acura Integra on the banked oval at Sunset Speedway.

Open practice didn’t start until 4pm, and I still had to work that morning, so we drove up to the race track later than usual. Our family has watched so many short-track races at Sunset Speedway in the past, but this time we went past the spectator entrance and into the paddock.

Meeting with the SKLD team, it was clear these four young racing enthusiasts had a wealth of knowledge and much experience.

I watched short-track race winner Austyn Jennett take the No. 9 car out for a few laps, then I suited up for my first session. After squeezing myself through the window and getting a bump-start from the team, I drove down the chute and went onto the track for single-car practice. With just 10 laps to get acclimatized, I had to learn quickly! The car was rapid in the corners and felt stable, but I couldn’t help but feel I was going a little slow.

After talking with the team between sessions, I went out on track with new insights. By bouncing off the rev-limiter at the end of the straits, I found more pace and grew more comfortable behind the wheel. In one of the sessions, I came into Turn 1 a little too hot and had a big push of understeer, but I managed to catch the car without sliding up the track. Heart-in-mouth moment aside, I felt good as the session ended.

Trying something totally outside of your wheelhouse is always fun, and thanks to SKLD my first time in a race car on an oval was a great experience

The natural progression from racing karts to racing cars is open-wheel cars, and I never even thought about tin-tops. In the past year-and-a-half of racing Formula 1200, I’ve only ever been on road courses like Cayuga and Calabogie, so ovals weren’t even in the back of my mind. This new challenge will broaden my horizon and I can’t wait to get back on the high-banks to compete in a stock car race at Sunset Speedway this summer.

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