Let me start with some names: David Sabre, Grant Riddall, Jason White. And others. Those are not just racing legends. Those men are more than just part of racing’s Hall of Fame. Those are men sitting in the penthouse office of that same Hall. In the boardroom. Presiding the board. They are the head honcho’s of the very racing world. The quarterback jocks.
At Mont Tremblant, my boy finished higher up than Riddall and Sabre. Some will oppose that the former got caught in an incident while lapping back-markers. And the latter blew his engine. But that really is immaterial to our team’s achievement.
As to White, in the second half of the race, my boy was racing for position with White’s green McLaren. And turned out the faster of the two. At that point, I was convinced we would pop a bottle of fine champagne as my man made it back to the pits.
Not a vulgar Crystal by Roederer. Which really is nothing but sparkling wine for people who love monkey music. But a bottle of Brut Rosé Dom Ruinart. The rosé seemingly appropriate as we were in North-America. This, after all, is where they pour Coca-Cola like it were vintage wine. As it turned out, we never got to that.
Following Mosport, we had no other option but to ship our car back to Zuffenhausen. Back across two continents and one ocean. Which is kind of what this racing team operation started to feel like. An ocean of money drained away into bottomless continents.
Obviously, I scolded and raged at nitwit Vermeersch for having destroyed the car. I hurled at old Marcelo for constantly loosing himself in drunken memories of times long gone. That he would better get a hold of his addiction for liquid stuff. Or get himself hooked on white substances instead. That at least, would make us some money.
I was pacing up and down the garage-box. Violently kicking empty boxes. Planting firm fists into concrete walls. At one point, I was about to shove my foot squarely through what remained of the car. But then, something held me back. It was as if a kind of tenderness rose from the car and grabbed me. It almost felt like the first time with a woman.
Old Guzik turned me around. Claiming that the damaged car was actually a good thing. At first, I wanted to kick the kike’s teeth. But, from experience, I knew it was always worthwhile listening to J.J. Guzik. And as he explained the why’s and how’s, the rolling hills of Mosport radiated in the kind of spurring freshness that only spring environments can sprout.
Guzik had incorporated the racing team was as a not-for-profit organization under section 501(c)7 of the Internal Revenue Code. Which meant it was tax exempt. At least to the extent the racing team could be considered a recreational club. As opposed to a professional operation. That was the first reason why our driver being a clumsy actually worked to our advantage. Should we enter the highly professional series that is Can-Am and win everything straight out of the box, it would indeed be hard to sustain the recreational nature of our team. As a matter of fact, it started to dawn on me that our true goal should not be winning. But loosing. It took me some glasses of 61 Chateau Haut-Brion to fully come to terms with that. But the burgundy helped me grasp the full meaning of Guzik’s plan.
The 501(c)7 status entailed some more limitations. One being that the race team was not allowed to derive more than 35% of its receipts from non-members. Those were the kind of nitty-gritty details J.J. could not be bothered with. He was the man of the great overall schemes, not of the fussy little final touches. Still, those details mattered. It is where devils hide; the tiniest breach sufficient to loose the entire tax exemption all together. That is where L.J. Shumway enters our little organization.
Silent and reserved, to the point of being somewhat awkward at times, he is the man who makes sure that J.J.’s great plans are correctly implemented. My two J’s, I call them. Without whom my money would not flow.
L.J. had thus warned us that only members could pour money into the race team. Which was, as such, not a real problem. Hell, we could limit the number of members to two, with one member, me, pouring all the money in. The I.R.S. would however be on our tail quicker than you can say Jack Robinson. Asking about the origin of the money. Which would put us back at square one.
Resurfaces J.J. He came up with the plan to sell team memberships at Mosport. A membership would be offered for 10 dollars. About 45,000 fans were in attendance at Mosport. Even if only half of those registered as members supporting our little team, we were looking at a potential 225,000 dollars.
So we had set-up a small stand in the paddock of Mosport allowing fans to register. A table and two chairs, and a rather bad poster format picture of our car was about all there was to it.
Naturally, no Canadian was even remotely interested in the membership of a team of losers. But we did not care one dime. Heck, we really wanted no one to effectively register. Once we got that fool Marcelo in one of his darker moods, we put him behind the stand. Ensuring that anyone even considering a membership, soon thought the better of it. Heading for the hills on the spot.
What we did instead, was draw up a list of virtual members by copying parts of the yellow pages. Mixing up names and addresses naturally. One does not use traceable bank transfers or cheques to pay a ten dollar subscription. Such amounts are paid with good old cash. Untraceable. Without origin or color stamped all over it. Only Guzik thinks of such practical details.
If there was one thing we were not short of, it was cash. Our average customer does not hold a banking account. Let alone qualify for a cheque book or credit card. They generally hold everything they own in the pocket of their threadbare jackets. Or under the matrass of the dumps they squat. It’s all cash with these people. And so we end up collecting heaps of the green stuff.
Arriving at Mosport, the team’s transporter thus had a small suitcase carrying fifteen thousand 10-dollar bills, fourteen thousand and one hundred 5-dollar bills and four thousand five hundred 1-dollar bills. Together, the round sum of 225,000 dollars. Money that stemmed from our core-activities. Money that I consider as rightfully earned. But that I cannot spent because of a new morality society seems to insist on embracing. Luckily, few things are easier than changing the morality of money.
Following Mosport, money perceived as immoral before, had suddenly changed into money that a non-for-profit organization had rightfully received from a few thousand members. Imagine the I.R.S. verifying over twenty thousand individual subscriptions. And soon stumble over incorrect addresses. Not in a million years. Offcourse, they would suspect that something was fishy. But they would never be able to prove it. It’s what the French poetically call: noyer le poisson.
Two hundred and twenty five thousand dollars of pristine clean money. And nine races to go. Not bad for a team of losers, right.
We were not at the end of our worries though. In theory, a 501(c)7 organization could transfer its excess cash to members that worked for the organization. However, should the team transfer me 200,000 dollars every race, that would again attract unhealthy IRS-attention.
So, to get our car repaired, we contacted a company called “RC Repairs.” A company that was incorporated by L.J. That company then contracted other firms to actually ship the car to Zuffenhausen. And ordered the Porsche-factory to fully repair the car. It also settled all the invoices.
And then charged these invoices back to the racing team. After having added about 100% to them. Clean and taxed money owned by a commercial company. Allowed to pay me a salary. And provide me with a fully legitimate income. My two little J’s. Should they have been angels, I would have kissed them on the head.
By the time our car made it to St Jovite, fully repaired and ready to go, Guzik had thus convinced me that we should not be overly ambitious. And that some more damage to the car was, as such, not a tragedy.
But just then Vermeersch showed promise in pre-race practice. Making my hopes rise again. Not that he was suddenly mingling with the fastest drivers. But, contrary to Mosport, he was no longer entire ages slower. Merely some decades.
During qualifying, he even managed to leave four cars behind him. And more importantly, every time he made it back to the pit, he raved about how stable the car felt. Marcelo had, in a rare moment of lucidity, suggested some minor changes to the set-up of the front suspension. They seemed to have worked miracles. I promptly ordered measures ensuring that the Spanish hobo would no longer be able to get his hands on booze during race weekends.
A strong result in the race was thus somewhat expected. A prospect, we all rejoiced in. Even self acclaimed losers like a small success now and again.
The front of the grid was again largely a McLaren affair. With four of the first six cars being fielded by the New Zealand constructor.
As the flag dropped, David Jacques, who had jumped into absent Jereb’s McLaren, easily held on to the lead. McLaren-regular David Sabre duly followed in second.
The field again seemed to succeed in having a pretty clean start. Sky Willis however spun her McLaren on the start-finish straight. Evasive action also caused Bruno Chacon and Jason Fitch to spin.
My boy avoided the mayhem and, with the race barely started, had already gained some places.
Grant Riddall was in an impatient mood in this early stage of the race. He quickly dispensed with the Adam Hackman McLaren, claiming a spot in the top six. Then put the handling of his 917/10 to his benefit, grabbing fifth spot from Yves Plaçais with a daring move into the Gulch. All this before lap 1 was even completed.
David Jacques enjoyed a free road ahead of him in the early laps. And used it to open up a gap with David Sabre. Whose orange McLaren was followed closely by Ogonoski’s Shadow. Without Austin being able to really put pressure. While Riddall was trying to close up to Jason Whited in yet another McLaren.
At this stage, the race actually tended to turn into a bit of a bore.
Jacob Fredriksson created some suspense, spinning his B.R.M. wildly out of turn 6, entering the South Loop. The car smacked into the wall hard. The suspension got bend and the fast Swede’s race was over.
Urick and Hlavac went Waltzing Matilda in turn 2. Throwing Scott’s car backwards into the wall and forcing the American driver into retirement.
The most incredible thing however was that, with all these spins and mishaps, my boy was already running 16th. After only 4 laps of racing. And he did not even look out of place up there, valiantly holding off household names like Schurer and Hlavac. It was when the first ideas of a good bottle of Krug entered my mind.
Juha Bos had skillfully managed to steer his McLaren from a 14th starting position into the top 10. But he now came under pressure from Maattanen’s McLaren and fellow Belgian Gerard Ryon. In typical fashion, Juha however kept his cool. Masterfully fending of all attacks.
The start of lap 8 set the scene for what would become the most thrilling stage of the race.
Exiting the last turn, Sabre and Ogonoski spun their cars in synchronized harmony. It almost looked like ballet on rubber when the then second and third placed car skid off the outside curb, sliding across the track and punting their noses into the pit-wall. Whited and Riddall were the main beneficiaries, each stepping onto the provisional podium.
Sabre was about to endure more misfortune still. Was he to hasty in trying to pick up the pace again? Was his car damaged? Or had his tires picked up some dirt? Who would say? Fact was that, entering turn 1, the McLaren went round again.
Ogonoski went by and immediately opened the chase for Riddall’s Porsche. As to David Sabre, he never entirely overcame his early race misfortune.
Not much later, Jason Whited went off in turn 8, where the South Loop switches back towards the main track. The ordeal cost him dearly. The damage incurred through the incident required Jason to pit the McLaren for repairs. While he joined the pit, he had already fallen back to a distant 14th spot. And he would loose many more places throughout a lengthy pit-stop.
Riddall was now in second. With third placed Ogonoski in a dark Shadow looming in the distance behind. What would become the fiercest pursuit of the race was shaping.
The small train of cars lead by Juha Bos was now on the heels of Plaçais’ Ferrari. That provided some entertainment, but Plaçais then slowy distanced himself from the yellow McLaren again. Maattanen displayed some brilliant driving while keeping up with Bos, while Gerard Ryon’s Lola was loosing connection with this small train.
Further down, Sky Willis and Brian Janik, both in older McLaren M6B’s, had an intense argument over 17th and 18th spot. Willis managed a better run out of turn 8, using the momentum to get side-by-side with Janik on the back-straight. And successfully made a move into turn 10.
Up front, things started to heat up. David Jacques still enjoyed a seemingly unassailable lead at this stage. But behind him, Ogonoski had almost entirely annihilated the gap with Grant Riddall, running his Porsche in second place. And the Canadian was not intent on leaving it at that.
We were now 18 laps into the race and a humble war was raging between the Shadow and the Porsche-machinery. In laps 19-20, Riddall seemed better at lapping some slower cars and increased the gap slightly. But as soon as the back-markers were dispensed with, the black Shadow was right back on the tail of the slender Porsche.
Maattanen ended up overcooking it while chasing Bos and had a hard off exiting turn 2. The car suffered damage, causing Jukka to spin the car into retirement in the Esses.
My appetite for a good bottle of Krug had by now also dwindled. My boy had overshot the braking zone for turn 7, ending with an excursion into the potty wagon. He continued the race, but was now down to an unimpressive 17th.
With Maattanen out of the race, Bos’ fabulous 6th place was now under pressure from Gerard Ryon. Juha was doing all he could to defend his place but overdid it going sideways out of turn 8. The McLaren lost all it’s momentum, allowing Ryon’s Lola to pull alongside on the back straight. Juha was set on not giving up on the position and both cars went over the hump almost side-by-side. Providing a hair-raising moment of suspense.
The Lola had the position going into turn 10, but Bos tried the ultimate in defending his position. The yellow McLaren skittered off the track, seriously damaging the front of the car. A lengthy pit-stop followed. Juha’s top ten aspirations seemed over.
Meanwhile, the battle over second between Ogonoski and Riddall was reaching it’s peak. At times, the Shadow looked like sniffing at every part of the Porsche and crawling up its gearbox. There were laps where the two cars rounded The Gulch and Bridge Turn side-by-side all the way. With any other driver, it was certain to end in tears. But here were two drivers at the summit of their skill. Leaving each other enough room, while still extracting every last inch from their cars. It was a magnificent display of bravery and talent. It was as if the drivers felt each other’s presence, predicted the lines the other would choose.
On lap 30, Riddall went wide in turn 2. It was al Ogonoski needed. The Shadow flashed by without a split second of hesitation. Behind, the determination of Riddall to regain second was none lesser however. And the fight rumbled on.
One lap further in the race, Ogonoski prepared to lap Bruno Chacon on the start-finish straight. Riddall however cleverly put up his car on the outside line. Leaving Austin no option but to slow down as he closed in on Chacon’s March. Witnessing the Porsche storm back to second again. It was a brilliant move by Riddall. One that may well become the move of the season.
Ogonoski was however not set on leaving it at that. The intensity of the fight over second place seemed to grow. The cars now tackling almost every bend side-by-side. The Shadow managed to get by the Porsche again in the Esses.
Now, the Porsche initially looked like conceding some breathing room. But by the time they were exiting the last turn, back-markers again allowed Riddall to be right on the Shadow’s tail. Grant tried to pass Ogonoski around the outside in turns 1 and 2. A repeat of his earlier move in lap 31. But this time, it went sour. The Porsche ended up on the grass and spun around its center.
Riddall avoided damaging the car and was soon on his way again. But Ogonoski had escaped and now enjoyed a safe cushion of time.
With 32 laps ran, the race seemed to settle down a bit. David Jacques was in a comfortable lead, Ogonoski’s Shadow firmly in second. Riddall was chasing the Shadow with his Porsche. Mosport-winner Sabre followed in fourth and Yves Plaçais had worked his way up to fifth in the Ferrari.
My retard driver had fallen further back after some more spins and a pit stop to repair some damage. During the lengthy stop, he had been complaining to Marcelo about the car loosing grip as the fuel load decreased. He claimed the car was very twitchy. I barely suppressed a spasm to twitch him in the nuts. But managed to restrain my self. After all, I am a man of will and class.
He was now running 18th and seemed to be slowly closing in on Jason White.
Riddall was pushing the Porsche very hard, looking to get closer to the Shadow again. A bit too hard maybe, as he spun a second time. Austin now had second spot firmly secured. But was possibly dreaming of one spot better. He was also pushing his car hard, trying to reel in David Jacques.
The inevitable happened. Exiting Bridge Turn, Ogonoski spun. And had the factory Porsche straight on its pipes again. On top of finding a way past the Shadow, Grant Riddall now also had to pay attention to his mirrors. As Sabre’s McLaren was indeed closing in on him.
Putting the power of the Chevy big block to his best use, Sabre soon caught the Porsche. But finding a way past, was another matter. Grant was defending his position with all he and the Porsche had on offer. But it was not enough to overcome the huge power surplus of the McLaren. On about lap 45, David Sabre perfected his exit out of turn 7 and blasted by the Porsche. Riddall valiantly soldiered on but there was not much he could put up against the power of the McLaren.
With about two thirds of the race ran, Jacques still looked secure in the lead. Ogonoski could start dreaming of a silver trophy. And Sabre was on his way to the last spot on the podium.
But disaster was about to strike out of the blue… In a disguise of blue smoke pouring out of Sabre’s engine. In around lap 50, while going over the Hump at full charge, the Chevy-block exploded with a big bang. Sabre’s day was done. Riddall’s Porsche was back in third.
It was not to last however. In lap 52, Brian Janik and Steve Parker spun in turn 1-2. Just as Grant came storming through. Riddall could not avoid the spinning cars and crashed hard into the barriers. Another race ended prematurely for the Britt.
The podium was now Jacques in a McLaren, Ogonoski in the Shadow and Plaçais’ Ferrari. Just behind, Martin Lacina was doing an incredible job of holding on to 4th in an old McLaren M6B. A car that was not as much down on power, as it was on aerodynamical grip.
Notwithstanding several more spins and offs, one very embarrassingly in front of the grand stands, our goatee faced idiot was running 14th again. Ideas of bottles of Ruinart surfaced once more.
The old Spaniard was however mumbling something about the car not having sufficient fuel on board. Calling for a last stop. My hopes were dwindling swiftly.
Fuckface however got it in his head to defend his 14th spot against living legend Juha Bos. Bos was giving him the business, looking for a gap in almost every lap. But my boy kept his head cool and stayed put.
Bos then made a rare error, spinning his car in the Esses. It looked as if we were actually going to bag 14th. But there was the fuel question…
Some turns later, the fuel no longer mattered. Lacina, on the way to lap our car, braked late into turn 10, hitting the nimble Porsche’s behind and launching the car into the barriers. Vermeersch could continue, but he needed to pit for repairs. Allowing the mechanics to add some fuel while at it.
With fuel on board of a repaired car, Vermeersch was on his way again and secured 16th spot. Not even last of the running cars.
With about 10 laps to go, Ogonoski had closed down the gap to Jacques to below 10 seconds. And now looked like launching one last bid for ultimate honors. He was taking big chunks out of the gap with Jacques every lap around. And with three laps to go, the gap was down to around 5 seconds. It suddenly looked as if the race was back on.
Ogonoski however ran out of time, and even ended up spinning his car on the very last lap. The second spot on the podium was however safely secured. Just as it had been at Mosport.
It left the road wide open for David Jacques to grab a dominant win. Also putting him second in the provisional championship standings. A place he shares with David Sabre, courtesy of Sabre’s Mosport victory.
The feared McLaren stranglehold on the championship thus still seems somewhat of an illusion. Only one McLaren on the Mont Tremblant podium. And Ogonoski’s Shadow leading the championship. With only two McLaren’s in the top 5 of the provisional championship tables, Martina Lacina’s Lola and Plaçais’ Ferrari taking 4th and 5th spot.
A season appearing more open than ever is the result. And many questions left unanswered. How will Sabre fight back from the St Jovite-disappointment? Will Riddall finally manage to turn his brilliant drives into points? Will Ogonoski continue to disturb the promised McLaren dominance? The next race at Road Atlanta may offer some answers. But certainly not all.
As to our race. 16th was an improvement, certainly. And taking into account the downwards readjustment of our ambitions, was not even a bad result. Still, it did not really call for champagne. But to convince everybody of my bottom-line good nature, I treated the entire team to some premium imported bottles of Perrier. In the end, what is life without bubbles?