Boom and Bust – Racing inCanada for the first time.

Le Sommet des Legends 2009 –Circuit Mont-Tremblant, Quebec.

July 10-12, 2009.

As regular readers will know it has been almost a year sincewe moved across the Atlantic to start a new life in upstate New York.  The move certainly put a damper on racing activities for obvious reasons what with cars being on different continents and trying to work out the logistics.  Recently things have progressed though and I was ready tohit the track.

Armed with the Crossle 19F which had arrived safely from the UK after a winter re-build and the newly acquired McLaren M1B we set off for Quebec.  Mont Tremblant is a well-known ski resort in the mountains about one hour north of Montreal.  The track has been around since the mid-sixties – Stirling Moss tells me it was not built in his day – and was the scene of several major events including of course the early CanAm races.  Privately owned these days, the track has lots of elevation changes and is beautifully smooth.  I seem to remember the late PaulHawkins flipping his Lola on one of the humps “back in the day” so it is not a track for the faint hearted.

Lee Chapman and the team were in charge of the cars for the weekend and I was being looked after by Ray who had everything under control.  I elected to do the testing day for obvious reasons and was first out in the M1B.  I think it is fair to say that the car is quite a beast.  The power is actually quite good – mid-400’s running on Webers – and the handling is not too bad.  However, the brakes were pretty bad with not much immediate bite at all.  Compared to the gearbox though they were like the latest carbon technology.  The LG400 Hewland was the ultimate soup bowl with huge lever travel and very little certainty about changes as the crunches sounded terrible each time.  So now we had a combination of dodgy brakes and a difficult change – surely a recipe for some problems?

I can indeed now tell you that the ground clearance of theMcLaren allows for a safe trip through the gravel trap!  It only happened the once but we certainly have a little work to do to make things better on that count.  We had already moved the brake bias forward because of locking rears but as the weekend went on determined that the rear discs were actually overheating probably due to not having any cooling ducts.

In the meantime they put me in the “Post-‘65” sports racer category and after practice I was fastest.  Sounds impressive but the competition was not that strong which was just as well bearing in mind the car.

Now for the Crossle. Formula B over here is pretty competitive with highly developed cars dominated by Brabhams.  They all run 12” rears and straight away I was in some trouble as the Crossle only has 10” rears.  For this circuit, with several very fast sweepers, I was going to struggle against the top cars and so it was.  I was able to post times about 2 seconds away from the best of the cars which included the series hotshoe Joe Blacker and Duncan Dayton in his beautiful McLaren M4A.  However that turned out to be the least of my problems – read on!

Racing over here involves a Saturday qualifying race that determines the grip positions for the Sunday race.  All very odd but there you have it!  Despite the rolling start – I hate them– I got away well with the Crossle and was holding my own before the oil light started to come on around left hand corners.  Then it stayed on and I coasted in.

The bottom line – an oil filter full of metal and a blown engine.  Remember this engine has just been rebuilt so we have had the worst possible start with no explanation –that’s racing as they always say in these instances (dumb phrase I always think).

The weather suggested that Saturday might have a few showers.  This was true as it dropped almost three inches in a space of a very few hours.  The McLaren was equipped only with slicks so home we went, the day done – ho-hum!

Sunday was warm and sunny as I watched Duncan Dayton storm from the back of the Classic Monoposto grid to win the race in his M4A – under a full course yellow as it happened. Because I did not take part in the Saturday event in the M1B I was placed half way down the grid for my event with several very slow cars in between the leading Ginetta and me up front.

The M1B is a real point and squirt car at this stage and I used all of that advantage to claw my way into the lead while taking no chances.  The rear brakes soon started locking after a few laps but we stayed together to win the race comfortably in the end.  Very pleasing I guess but I am sure the competition will be much stronger in future events.  There is work to be done to make this car more competitive and it will take some time. 

What about the rest of the Lee Chapman gang?  Well, star performer Hamish Somerville was out in his beautiful Williams FW07 alongside his Lola T212.  The 212 was up against some pretty fierce and modern competition in the “Group C” race and he struggled a little with handling issues after a recent rear end re-build.  The Historic F1 race was a cracker with Hamish just losing out to Duncan Dayton in his beautiful ex-Andretti Lotus 79in a titanic race-long struggle. James King – in his much older March 761 – used all his experience to jump Michael Fitzgerald in Rick Carlino’s March 811 on the last lap.

And what about Rick Carlino himself?  A bit like me really, as his pretty looking Chevron B36 lost a cylinder during the Sunday race – sounded pricey –and his Hesketh required extra care during the F1 race because a rear shock absorber was split and non-functional. Not something to increase confidence and make one aim for the extra few tenths!! 

Like Rick and Hamish I have to thanks Lee and his team for the ultra-professional support during the weekend.  It is was possible it was done! 

Next up is Watkins Glen where we will run the M1B and try out the Chevron B29 for the first time. Have a look at the Gallery section of this site in a few days for a few pictures of the weekend.




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