A dramatic final stage of the Donnybrooke race had seen Sabre loose the top spot of the championship standings. A spot he had invariably held throughout the season.
With Sabre handing over the lead, McLaren also lost first spot; Ferrari duly stepping in to fill the void. Arriving at Edmonton, the prevalent question thus was how Yves Plaçais would fare with his new status of championship leader. And how the Ferrari would measure up against the pack of McLarens hunting it down the championship standings.
Voigt was nowhere to be seen around Edmonton. He was chasing pussy with Marcelo, down in the deep South of Spain. Probably losing his mind in some Spanish castle. Anyway, the 917 was still in Zuffenhausen for a serious revision and we were out of a car anyway.
The main feature that sets Edmonton apart, are several double apex turns. Which makes setting up the car for a turn detrimental. Something that was expected to favor both the handling of the Ferrari and the skill of seasoned driver Plaçais.
Over at Autocoast, the crew was anxious to see how their new recruit, none less than David Jaques, was going to get along with their powerful, yet tricky machine. Jaques is the king of the set-up. And might well be the only man on earth able to get along with the wayward Autocoast.
Another much welcomed development was that Bob Nagel had managed to lure Jason White into driving his McLaren. At least for the Edmonton race.
Plaçais lived up to his promising form over the last races and dully grabbed pole. Sabre kept all his chances open however, taking second. A starting position that might actually provide an advantage over pole as it allowed the factory McLaren to start on the inside line.
Third was occupied by an excellent Jaques who had extracted every last ounce from the Autocoast. He shared the second row with fast Grant in his shadowy machine.
Bos and Adamovich, both in McLarens, were on the third row. Canola, in a one-off-drive for McCaig, Jundt, Whited and Ryon rounded out the top 10.
As Plaçais came slowly rolling out of the last turn, leading the entire field to the start-finish line, all looked almost solemn for a brief while.
The calm was largely maintained throughout the field as the chequered flag dropped and the cars sped along Chevalier Straight for the first time.
Sabre had a shy look at first. Then left Plaçais plenty of room in the first left-right sweepers. Second McLaren-factory driver Bos seemed more anxious, trying to squeeze through between Jaques and Riddall for third. But soon backed off.
Bos’ pushing nevertheless seemed to slow the Shadow down on the inside line, inspiring Ryon to have look. The Haas Racing Lola slightly touched the Shadow. Then somehow tangled with Petr Hlavac in an older McLaren. Both cars went off in Parker’s End. Ryon rejoined all but last, way behind the rest of the field. Hlavac struggled to get back onto the track. The Czech would abandon soon after.
Leader Plaçais went slightly wide in Parker’s End, ending up ploughing through the kitty litter. Sabre grabbed the lead. Jaques, Riddall and Jundt also pulled past and the scarlet car from Maranello was down to 5th after only three turns.
Plaçais seemed to have some damage at this stage and lost several more places, crossing the start-finish line well outside of the top 10 at the end of the first lap.
The second lap claimed Jason White. The Detroiter entered Meldau Corner a tad too fast and ended up somersaulting over the earthed banks bordering the track.
Sabre continued in the lead, although he barely managed to catch his breath. Behind him, both Jaques and Riddall were once more displaying some of their renowned ability to extract the absolute best from difficult cars. And then some more.
Behind the scenes, Lady Calamity was observing the developments. A grudging smile curled her lips.
Jaques had been on Sabre’s bumper for nearly an entire lap. Then had something of a halfhearted look on the run to Meldau. It only allowed Grant Riddall to position his Shadow for an attempt to overtake the Autocoast into Green Bank. Jaques already proved numerous times that he can match Riddall’s outright speed. And proved that his brain was more resistant against red mist than the British driver’s, giving Grant all the space he needed.
The Shadow went into second. All seemed fine except that it’s a racer’s curse that, sometimes, the red mist cannot be avoided. Grant seemed to have a wobbly exit out of Taylor turn. A charging Jaques could not avoid him. And all hell broke loose.
Suddenly the Shadow was skidding sideways towards the last complex of bends. Grant seemed to have lost all control over the car. And hit Sabre as he was setting up the McLaren for the last turns.
Sabre spun, ending up facing the track in the wrong direction. The Shadow had come to a woozy halt on the outside of the turn. Almost unbelievably, the Autocoast was in the lead.
Grant rejoined the race at the tail of the top 10. Things were worse for David Sabre. The impact had damaged a tire and the McLaren pitted. Many cars went by, amongst which Plaçais’ Fezza. The championship battle was wide open again.
Jaques immediately had a charging Jundt up his rear. The race, at this stage, bore the promise of two of the fastest and most intelligent drivers around battling it out amongst them. Respiration around the track turned electric at the prospect.
Plaçais was meanwhile recovering lost ground and already had the Ferrari back near to the top 10.
Riddall overcooked every single bit of the Shadow once more coming out of the last turn. It would be the last time this race. The all black car spun and hit the pit-wall head-on. Hard. As he was basically in the pit anyway, Grant stopped to have his team check on the damage. The mechanics refused to let him go again and the Shadow’s retirement was fact.
Plaçais was already up to 8th by this time. And soon moved up to 7th, courtesy of Raul Jereb spinning the Motschenbacher McLaren in Parker’s End.
About 1/8th into the race, an astonishing Jaques was leading in the Autocoast. In their box, Ernie Kanzler padded Peter Bryant firmly on the back. As if saying: “Well done mate!”
Jundt, in second, was not far behind but did not look like putting up a real challenge. But then the Swiss is the master of planning races and should never be ruled out before the fat lady sings.
Adamovich was in third, mainly due to bad luck of others. He was losing ground quickly and most expected him to fall back as the faster drivers worked their way back to the front. In fourth, Thiago Canola was enjoying a very good showing in the McCaig McLaren.
Behind them, Jason Whited came under increasing pressure from Gerard Ryon who was already back to sixth. Plaçais was seventh with Bos, Riddall the wiser and Sterr rounding out the top 10.
Ryon then somewhat choked on lapping Bruno Chacon and spun off the track in Green Bank. Plaçais was up to sixth and yet another comeback race was shaping up for the Ferrari. Championship wise, with a points finish still far out of reach for Sabre, a doomed first lap had turned into a dream-scenario for the Italian team.
Plaçais easily dispensed with Whited in the Motschenbacher McLaren and made a grand entry back into the top five. The Virginian was so nonplussed by the events that he promptly had a slight spin on the approach to Taylor turn. It was enough to let Bos, on a mission to save some of the McLaren factory pride, by.
The top 10 was now fully engaged in the hazardous business of lapping slower cars. Which was interesting as it illustrated two different Brazilian approaches to the concept of being lapped:
- Bruno Chacon went out of his way to make as much room as his overweight and underpowered shit-box of a March would humanly allow;
- His compatriot Henrique however preferred to race each of the faster drivers as if it were for position. Which did not earn him much sympathy from the faster boys, Adamovich and Ryon openly denouncing the issue post-race. The Jo Siffert Porsche-driver dealt with those reproaches with typical Brazilian phlegm. He ordered a caipirinha and poured it down with a shrug.
Riddall the Wiser and Gabriel Sterr were reiterating the scrap they had at Watkins Glen. Adding some spice to the excitement at this occasion was Ryon running hot on Sterr’s heels. Sterr had a halfhearted look in Meldau Corner. He ended up on a wide line, which almost allowed Ryon to get ahead on the run to Green Bank.
Another wake-up bomb was however prepping to hit the race.
Jaques had been looking good in his Autocoast suit. He looked good and mean. He looked good in the titanium wraparound white and blue rocket. He scudded along the horizon, sipping from sweet tire squeals. Rocketing along the long and fast main straight.
Then a red bomb that strangely resembled a March 707 shot across the track. Just in front of Jaques. The red shape hit the barrier and veered back onto the track. BAM!!! Was what followed. And then Jaques was skidding through the grass on the left of the track. Bits and pieces and entire parts of bodywork snapped from the car and spread around in a typhoon of metal and grease.
Chacon’s race was over. As was Jaques’. The severity of the crash filled many with fear for the Canadian’s well-being. Once more, the CanAm-series caught a lucky break: there was no more than material damage.
Jundt inherited the lead. Adamovich did not look like able to give the Swiss a run for his money. And so it looked like the Swiss was set for victory. Provided he would be spared from calamities like those that had hit Sabre and Jaques.
Adamovich’s second looked less secure, as an excellent Thiago Canola had reeled him in and was now running immediately behind the Slovak driver. Ready to seize the first opportunity that presented itself.
Plaçais ran fourth for a brief while but then lost the position to Bos who was charging his way back to the top. Sterr had dispensed with Riddall the Wiser. Ray took a second licking when Ryon sailed by with a magnificent pass thorough the chicane at the end of the main straight.
Ryon immediately set out to catch Sterr. Which, over several laps, resulted in a comparative exhibition of styles. There was the cool understated smooth style of German Sterr. With a car that looked like evolving with the smoothness of an ice skater, softly gliding over a frozen lake. Behind him there was more southern blood in the dramatic sliding of Ryon. His car nervous in every turn; the rear wildly swapping out, pouring smoke.
Bos was getting in his strides. Distancing himself from Plaçais and then catching and passing Canola for third.
Plaçais was now running behind Canola, abiding his time and patiently waiting for an opportunity to pass. At about halfway through the race, Plaçais slightly overdid it in the chicane following the start-finish straight. His car pirouetted of the track on to Edmonton’s high banks once again.
Yves carefully steered the Ferrari back onto the track and did not seem to have incurred any damage. Nor did he loose a spot. But Canola had flown. Further down the field, Sabre’s motivation to fight back got a boost.
The Brit was however already a lap down on the leaders. A position he was not accustomed to.
Plaçais had closed the gap to Canola down to peanuts and started looking for an opportunity to pass. Coming out of the last turns, Thiago seemed to have a better exit, carrying more speed onto the start-finish straight. But then the massive V12 behind Plaçais’ back started spewing tons of power and speed.
By Parker’s End, the scarlet beauty was all over the McLaren again. Yves then positioned his car better exiting Parker’s End and obstructed Canola’s ideal line into the Smallan Chicane. The Ferrari was back into 4th and could aspire a podium finish.
The Brazilian McCaig Racing driver tried sticking to the Fezza’s tail, overcooking it slightly into Taylor Turn. The McLaren went wide. It swiftly rejoined the track, but Plaçais seemed gone.
Sabre had some more spins, losing ground to the front-runners; and especially to Yves Plaçais. After all the strong performances at the start of the season, the McLaren-Sabre duo really seemed to be looking for clues; without finding any. “Who knows these days where on earth the money goes, oh yeah? No doubt we could put it to a better use, oh my!” Teddy Mayer was caught exclaiming.
Sabre, now a lap down on teammate Bos, decided that this was as much crap as he was going to take from one race. And started pulling his act together.
Pretty soon, the McLaren was tailing Chapman’s BRM. Good old Mick was not going to make it easy on Sabre and stayed in front for about an entire lap. Then, on the main straight, the Bourne machine had to yield for the brutal Aussie komodo dragon. “We’ll get that Jackal later Jason,” Tony Rudd murmured.
Just as Sabre was getting some rhythm back into his race, 10th placed Whited and 9th placed Ryon decided on a little competition of “who can spin the most in as few laps as possible.” Both seemed to struggle with burned rear tires. That further ignited Sabre’s hopes to still take some points home. And somewhat limit the deficit to Plaçais.
McLaren teammate Bos meanwhile was in a position to help David. Plaçais’ Ferrari had caught up with Bos, and it was now within the Belgian’s powers to decide whether the Ferrari would or not make it to the podium.
The rubber on Whited’s rear drive train finally got the better of him. He spun of once more hitting a barrier. Sabre was back into the top ten. At least one point looked bagged.
Bos gave it all he had, but Plaçais was unstoppable. Juha had a bit of a slow exit out of Green Bank. It was all Plaçais needed to go around the outside of the McLaren along Taylor Turn. Plaçais was on the podium. The points advantage on Sabre increased by 2 points.
Bos threw every ounce of power his massive 8 liter had at the Ferrari on the main straight, but the Italian stallion stayed ahead. Then, in the twisty infield, the French fox edged away.
Bos was so perplexed, that he spun a few laps further down the road. Letting Thiago Canola into 4th. Bos’ tires seemed ruined and he ran wide again in Parker’s End.
Way out in front, Jundt’s lead was now so solid that the Swiss was simply cruising home. He even looked more placid than Plaçais, who was gently solidifying his podium spot. Adamovich was running between the both of them, having inherited second through the bad luck of others.
To the surprise of few, the Slovak driver soon lost his lucky shot second spot to Plaçais’ Ferrari; the Frenchman adding another 3 points to his Edmonton spoils. Adamovich now also had to worry for Canola, who was moving in fast.
Ryon’s Lola looked pretty much like Jim Hines doing the 100 meters wearing Cinderella pumps. The Belgian went wide, had some half spins and finally spun to a complete stop in the complex leading to the main straight. It allowed Sabre back into 9th; the tenacity of the Brit was finally paying off.
With less than 5 laps remaining, Canola was now glued to Adamovich’s rear. And was trying everything to get onto the last podium spot. The two cars had to lap Henrique, who misjudged the speed difference with the faster cars. Canola could smell third but Adamovich held on to it for now.
Then, Adamovich predictably made an error in Breckenridge Bend. Thiago was onto the podium.
With merely three laps remaining, Jereb got disqualified for cutting the track. Even if that seemed like a cruel penalty so far into the race, Sabre did not deplore it. He moved up to 8th and secured an additional point.
Nothing could stop Jundt from lapping like clockwork and grabbing the win. At the beginning of the season, there may have been some clockwork orange in his driving, but he now had clearly become steady as a Swiss clock.
Plaçais did an excellent job recovering from difficult beginnings to the race and secured second. Which hands him a massive advantage in the championship standings.
Even if the relentless tenacity with which Sabre ended up salvaging eight is admirable, it is hard to deny that his chances for the title swindled. And the pressure on him at Laguna will be of huge proportions.