Episode # 33
Over the past few years I’d got a liking for Dirt Modified racing and by the end of 2000 I was a regular fan.
I was still working for Twilite Transportation on the dedicated wood pulp run between Ottawa and Espinola with a shift schedule that only allowed me a weekend off to go racing, once a fortnight.
During the winter, the same shift pattern also effected my social life, but I did manage to find time for some ‘internet dating’.
The unsociable work shifts, were becoming a pain , so I started looking around for something better.
In 2000, Walmart, the ‘worlds largest retailer’ had opened a huge distribution center in nearby Cornwall and a friend of a friend, had gone to work for PCY , who were the dedicated transport company involved. It was paid by the hour, and drivers were home every night, so it sounded very appealing.
Let me digress.
I’ve mentioned in the past, how the trucking industry in North America is out dated compared to its European counterparts , and one of the major ‘downers’ , I’d come across , was the practice of most companies, of paying drivers by the mileage driven. This isn’t a good system, as it encourages drivers to speed, and also means, that most drivers don’t get paid for much for the time spent waiting around to get loaded. etc
I wanted a job, like I’d had in England, where I was paid for my time, regardless of how far I had to drive.
Sylvain Sauve , the boy friend of my good friend Debbie Howes, started working on the PCY / Walmart contract from the offset , he seemed happy there, and let me know when a driving position became available. I applied and was excepted, and on April 19, I started a new job driving an International. Even though it involved working weekends , it looked like most occasions, I’d be finished in time to attend my local races.
On May 19, I was at Frogtown to see Mark Hitchcock get a win while at the Cornwall opener the next day, the twin Features which were won by Bill Mullin and Dan Jalbert respectively.
My racing visits for the next few months went like this,
Brockville May 25 (Lee Gill), Frogtown May 26 (rain) Cornwall May 27 (rained during feature) Brockville June 1 (rain) Can Am June 2 ( result not recorded) Cornwall June 2 (rain), Edelweiss June 8 (Laurent Ladouceur), Frogtown June 9 (Mike Perrotte), Cornwall June 10 (Bill Mullin), Frogtown June 16 Mark Hitchcock, Cornwall June 17 (Bill Mullin), Can Am June 21 (rain), Brockville June 22 (Jeff Sykes), Frogtown June 23 (rain), Cornwall June 24 (Mark Hitchcock) Granby June 25 (SDS Steve Paine) Brockville June 26 (SDS Danny Johnson) Frogtown June 30 (Jeff Sykes), Cornwall July 1 (Hitchcock/Jalbert)
On July 2 , I set off in my Plymouth Reliant on an early morning road trip to visit the Merrittville Speedway for the first time. The track is located about a 20 minute drive from Niagara Falls, Ontario and was more than a six hour drive from Maxville. This was the Canada Day ‘Holiday Monday’ and I wasn’t due back at work until the Wednesday. The race was a Super Dirt Series event for 358 Mods and was won by Bobby Krull.
The show was over at around 11-00 pm and my plan was to head back in the direction of home and beat the early morning Toronto traffic. I remember pulling into the Fifth Wheel Truck Stop at Bowmansville on Hwy 401 in the early hours, and trying to sleep in the back of the car. The Plymouth wasn’t the best of vehicles to do this , so not much sleep was had, before completing the drive home.
The next day the tour moved up to the Autodrome Drummond for a Monday ‘night special’. It happened to be my day off, so I took a leisurely afternoon drive up in to Quebec. I remember following ‘long distance’ driver Butch Tittle # Z ( from Pennsylvania) for much of the way along Autoroute 20. It turned out to be a wasted journey for both of us, when just before start time Mother Nature decided to give us a severe hail storm, and the event got canceled.
It was about this time of the year, that my Plymouth starting ‘playing up’ with the engine cutting out for no apparent reason, and it was because of this, I ended up missing the July 14, Frogtown races. I still had the Oldsmobile 98 ‘boat’ parked in my driveway, so had to start using that again. I was at Cornwall the next day with it , to see Brian McDonald get a win.
In addition to the important Super Dirt Series events in my area, for 2001 we had the beginning of the Canadian Challenge. It was a 358 Modified series consisting of two 100 lap points races which had been arranged by Cornwall promoter Ron Morin and Granby’s Bob Gatien.
The night before ( Sat July 20) there were no Modifieds on the program at Frogtown, so for a change of scenery , I visited Autodrome St Eustache , just north of Montreal for the first time. Even though it was a paved track, and not my usual ‘cup of tea’, it was a place I wanted to see.
At the start of this episode , I mentioned how I’ve always kept in touch with my UK friends and the BriSCA F1 Stock Car Racing fraternity.
Well, one of these friends is Colin Casserley, a former driver who is now involved in the media side of the sport. In our e-mails we’d discussed the fact that Canada had never been represented in the BriSCA F1 World Final. Behind the scenes, Colin got chatting to the people that ‘mattered’ ( The BSCDA committee and my old friend Malc Aylott, who had become the BriSCA Chairman ) .
‘To cut a long story short’ in July, I was contacted by BSCDA committee man Guy Parker asking if I could find a suitable Canadian representative for the forth coming BriSCA F1 World Final to be held at the Hednesford Hills Raceway on Sept 15.
I didn’t want to get involved in the financial side of the deal, but offered to be the ‘middle man’ to get the plan in motion. Even though, there wasn’t much time before the event, I wanted to make sure I chose the right candidate for the job in hand. The BriSCA F1 stock cars are a tough contact form of racing, and who ever I picked would have to be ‘no pussy cat’ . It had to be a quality driver who wasn’t scared to ‘mix it’ and trade paint.
With just two months before the big race, it made sense for the driver to be one of my local guys, to make it easier to communicate and work on. I figured the best person for the job, was former 358 Super Dirt Series Champion, Laurent Ladouceur who lived in nearby Alexandria, Ontario.
On my day off from work, I drove over to Laurent’s Mr Rad work shop to talk to him about it. He was quite interested and I loaned him one of my World Final videos, so he could take a look. He agreed to let me know his answer as soon as possible.
I didn’t have to wait long for a positive reply, and I forwarded his contact details to Guy Parker in England, who was organizing things. In the meantime, while I was making visits to chat with Laurent, I mentioned that my Plymouth Reliant, had come to the end of the road, and I was looking to buy a replacement. His eldest son, Joey happened to have a Honda Civic that he no longer used, and it was up for sale. We struck a deal, and I arranged to buy it.
Mum and Dad returned to England on Sunday Aug 19, and later that evening, I was at Cornwall for the races to get rained out !
I was at Frogtown Aug 25, Cornwall Aug 26, Edelweiss Aug 31, Frogtown Sept 1, and on Sept 2, I saw Pete Bicknell win the 358 Super Dirt Series race at Cornwall.
The next day was the Labor Day Monday and I made my first road trip in the Honda on a visit to the Big Block Modified Super Dirt Race at the Rolling Wheels Raceway, Elbridge NY. This was won by Brett Hearn.
The following week on, Friday Sept 7, I was at Brockville for a Lee Gill win then on Sunday at Cornwall for the annual Enduro.
On the morning of Sept 11, I had a dentist appointment and little did I know, that this day would go down in history as one of the most memorable days for man kind.
As I entered the dentist surgery to begin my treatment, the radio was on as we listened to reports coming in of Terrorist Attacks in the USA. Airplanes had crashed into New Yorks World Trade Center, the Pentagon in Washington DC as well as another that had crashed on land in Pennsylvania. It was a terrible tragedy for the world, and since that day many things in life have never been the same.
Carla at this time, was living in Washington DC and eventually by late afternoon I managed to talk to her on the phone. From her apartment window, she could see the smoke coming from the damaged Pentagon building, she was distraught and wanted to get out of there.
At this particular time, she was without the use of her car, so after phone calls to her Mother, we hatched a plan. I took the next day off from work, so I could drive down to our old rendezvous spot at Whitney Point, near Binghamton NY, and met up with Pat who’d driven Carla up from Maryland. By supper time on Sept 12 , Carla was safely back at my place in Maxville, Ontario. She was to stay with me for just over a week.
I was at Brockville on Sept 14 for the 358 Super Dirt Series race that was won by Alan Johnson.
Meanwhile, over in England it was the BriSCA F1 World Final week end and Laurent Ladouceur and wife Chris were now over there. They’d been picked up at the Airport by Malc Aylott and were staying with Mark Taylor in the north of England. For the World Final race, Laurent would be using the spare car of Mark Gilbank # 21.
I wasn’t there to see it for my self, but from what I heard, Laurent put up a good show, on the paved Hednesford track in Marks shale (dirt) car . After meeting Laurent in Canada, dad wanted to see the race, so he joined my old friend Colin Herridge for the trip to Hednesford. Winner of the 2001 BriSCA F1 Stock Car World Final was Rob Speak. The BriSCA F2 World Final was held at Brafield on Sept 9 where Daz Kitson retained his title.
On Sept 17, before Carla returned to Washington, I took her on a trip to Montreal where the Back Street Boys, (a popular band with young girls at the time) were appearing at the Bell Center. A few minutes before they were due on stage to perform, I managed to buy a ticket for her, from a guy in the street for 30 bucks.
On Sept 22, I took Carla back to Whitney Point in the morning, then came back home via Elbridge NY (Rolling Wheels) for the evening Super Dirt Race . Brett Hearn was the winner that night.
With the acquisition of the Honda Civic I now felt happier about taking longer road trips, and on Friday Oct 19, I set off to a track I’d always wanted to visit. Ever since the ‘pen friend’ letters I received , way back in the 1970’s , telling me about the Eastern States Weekend at the Orange County Fair Speedway, it had been on my ‘bucket list’.
After work on Friday , I drove down to the track at Middletown NY, and arrived around mid night, just as the partying was getting under way. It soon became obvious that the Eastern States Weekend was one of the best social events of the dirt racing calendar, with the tracks bar, the 31st Lap being the hub of action.
Although the Honda Civic was a small car, there was a lot more room to sleep in than you’d expect. It was the hatchback model and with the back seats folded down, and the front passenger seat pushed forward, there was enough room to make up a bed ( with plenty of cushions for padding). So, my first visit to the OCFS, also became my first ‘sleep over’ in the Honda.
The races that weekend were won by Danny Johnson (Big Block) Brett Hearn (358)
After Sundays big race I drove on to Washington DC to see Carla, where I was to stay in her apartment on Sunday night.
On Monday we spent the day together which included a drive to see the damaged Pentagon building. I drove back Canada later that night, stopping for a few hours sleep in the car at a Flying J Truck Stop near Gibson PA. When I awoke there was snow on the car , which is what I got on my return to Maxville.
It was now the start of winter and the dreaded long months ahead without racing. It was also my time for socializing and making new friends away from racing. One of these , was Lisa Lacroix, a neighbor in Maxville , who was to become a long time friend.