It was great fun at Toronto Motorsports Park at the weekend with three special match races featured as part of the 2011 Canadian Nitro Nationals.
NHRA Funny Car brother-act stars Cruz and Tony Pedregon of Brownsburg, Ind., took to the Cayuga-area dragstrip for a special joust and Tony Pedregon won with a time of 4.615 seconds as compared to Cruz’s 5.788.
The battle of the Top Fuel monsters saw Highland Creek-born, U.S. resident Fred Farndon red light (he left before he was suppposed to), so the victory went to Ike Maier of Schomberg in the Paton Family Dragster. His time was 4.227 seconds but he wasn’t pushing it.
The best race of the three specials pitted American Funny Car stars Jack Wyatt and Dale Creasy Jr. against each other and Wyatt won with a time of 4.324 vs. Creasy’s 4.345. Now, that's close. The times translate into just under 300 mph, if you’re wondering.
I’ve often said that the so-called glamour puss Formula One, IndyCar, NASCAR stuff is okay but if you really want to experience a thrill, then top-notch drag racing, World of Outlaws sprint cars and/or winged supermodifieds will leave you absolutely breathless.
In the case of the drag racers, you’re talking 8,000-plus horsepower and if you’re standing anywhere near the brutes when they’re unleashed, your senses can become disoriented. Your knees go weak and the ground moves. It truly feels like an earthquake has hit.
Bruno Spengler of St. Hippolyte, Que., won the rain-shortened German Touring Car Series race Sunday at the Norisring (I like that place). His second win of the DTM season puts him back on top in the championship.
Spengler was in front the whole race and it was partly because of his complaining that it was stopped. He’d told his team that standing water on the main straight made it too dangerous to continue racing, so the safety car was sent out. With no end of the rain in sight, the race was called 19 laps short of its scheduled distance.
Ralf Schumacher finished sixth, David Coulthard was eighth and Mike Rockenfeller, who survived that enormous mid-night crash on the Mulsanne straight at Le Mans last month, was 14th.
Great Canadian F1 hope Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto didn’t have a great weekend at the Hungaroring in the Renault Formula 3.5 Series and lost his championship lead to his teammate, Jean-Eric Vergne of France.
Engine problems on Friday restricted his track time and he was only able to qualify 11th for the first race of the scheduled double-header, eventually finishing fifth. He started ninth in Sunday’s second race and was third at the checkers but a penalty for leaving his pit too early during the mandatory mid-race pit stop dropped him to seventh.
Unfortunately, it was a bit of a comedown for the Canadian, who nearly swept the last race weekend with two poles, a first and a second.
Recently named reserve driver by the Marussia Virgin Racing F1 team, Wickens also got to drive exhibition laps at the Hungaroring in a Renault F1 car, a reward for leading the championship at the halfway point.
He’ll be in the Virgin pits at Silverstone next weekend for the British Grand Prix before returning there for the next round of the World Series by Renault championship.
F1 is so near for Wickens – and yet so far. Clearly marvelously talented, he must win the F-3.5 championship if he wants to make it all the way to the top. Another weekend like this one will not be beneficial.
Antoine L'Estage of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., and co-driver Nathalie Richard of Halifax won the Rallye Baie Des Chaleurs at the weekend, their sixth Canadian Rally Championship victory in a row.
Pat Richard of Squamish, B.C. and Leanne Junnila of Calgary were second while Leo Urlichich of Toronto and Martin Brady of Meath, Ireland, finished third.
Both L'Estage and Patrick Richard nearly retired twice because of mechanical difficulties.
"The crew are the ones who made us win this event," said L'Estage. "On Friday they had to rebuild the differentials and then, today they replaced the transmission in record time – just 40 minutes. There's no way we'd be here without their work."
Said Richard: "We lost boost and damaged our lights on Friday and then today, broken suspension, damaged differentials. . . This is what happens though when you're trying to fight for a win. Things break."
L’Estage and Nathalie Richard can wrap up the 2011 national championship at the next event, the Rallye Defi at Ste Agathe, Que., in September.
Back to Toronto Motorsports Park, a.k.a. Cayuga Dragway, for a report on other weekend drag racing action, courtesy of Bruce Mehlenbacher and Tim Miller: