I’m breaking tradition and going with the good news first: winter is here. We got a good solid snow base yesterday and with the enduring cold it will stay. Furthermore, the first snowstorm is in the forecast for this Tuesday and Wednesday. We should be getting near a foot of snow.
I had spoken about the upcoming winter to the track owner when I went for the preliminary testing a few weeks ago. Since I had skipped a year I wanted to make sure that he still kept his winter track open. He said yes so I didn’t question further. What I didn’t know, and I’ve just learned it now, is that he only now opens what I call “the beginner winter track”. It is only a very short 500 m (0.3 miles) winding track. You can see the difference in the site map here:
The usual track was the purple one (#1, 3, & 4). His current winter track is only the blue one (#15). Anyhow, his reasons were that there is too much snow accumulation in the underpass area and makes it too expensive for him to maintain. Also, he supposedly had too much trouble finding customers since most were deadly afraid of hitting the walls. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat? Never did I have such fears in all my sessions there (nice thick snowbanks were always a reassuring buffer).
This is obviously the bad news. My spoilers won’t do shit in these 40 kph corners. It’s not suited to my car at all. Hell, even some guy with a base Impreza and some skill would be able to lap around it as fast. Furthermore, I won’t be able to compare with my previous lap times. I am VERY disappointed and that’s an understatement. I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be somewhat enjoyable, chaining corners sideways always is, but it’s like asking me to put the training wheels back on the bike. I have no other real options as far as winter tracks go and I’m not throwing this beast out on public roads again. I’m past this point in my life.
I’ll be trying to negotiate some kind of deal with the track owner but I’m not getting my hopes up at all. Anyhow, I guess that I’ll be going at the end of the week no matter the outcome, sigh.
Posted by Jay Auger @ RGBS on December 13, 2017
We had a bit less than a foot of snow and it is very cold so that was good news. However, the winds kicked up for most of the storm and that seriously messed things up.
I just got off the phone with the track owner and he says that the snow is too powdery to make a good base. Furthermore, he suspects that due to the winds the underpass should already have several feet of snow packed there. He promised me that he will go look tomorrow and give me news. However, he didn’t sound that enthusiastic and once again stated that maintaining his track in winter costs him more than the occasional renters like me bring him. Thus, I offered him more money than the usual rental fee. He didn’t completely shut the door but let’s just say that my state of distraught is back.
If only I was not so far away I would volunteer to maintain it myself in exchange for free or way cheaper rentals. My backhoe acquaintance still works full time due to a contract so he wouldn’t have much time to dedicate to this, much less since he has only his bucket and no snowblower attachment. Sigh, I guess I’ll be waiting for the news tomorrow. I’ll be trying to brainstorm ideas in the meanwhile…
P.S. I forgot to include that the best idea I’ve had so far would be to convince the owner to modify the circuit tracing, basically making a hairpin before the underpass as to redo the track in reverse then another hairpin somewhere in the drag section to loop it all… The problem with this is that this makes impossible (too dangerous) for multiple vehicles to run at the same time. However, I’ll be trying to push this option on him anyway. On my end, I wouldn’t be able to compare stage times (other than side by side video comparisons of the shared tracings), but I reckon it would make quite a fun track!
Posted by Jay Auger @ RGBS on December 14, 2017
I was unable to reach an agreement with the track owner as far as making a new tracing for the track. He seems adamant not to keep maintaining the main lapping track in winter. He’s also elderly and voiced concern about the health troubles he’s having. I understand him fully and respect his decision. I have also received news that even the small track isn’t ready due to problems with his snow compacting rig. He should have it fixed soon. This is literally killing me!
Notwithstanding if the main lapping track will be accessible or not, I will be going to try out his smaller track as an alternative, that is if he guarantees me the exclusivity for the session. I don’t want to be banging on the arse of other cars at every few laps! At this point I can be arrogant about my skills since I have only been messing around in winter for the last 22 years and have one hell of a beast of a car.
Overall, I am not quite happy with the situation but I cannot change it and have no other options with my allocated budget. His $100 track rentals are what I can afford. If I was rich there would be nice options such as the Mecaglisse complex (Dec-Jan only) at $800 and an expensive trip a pop, or Team O’Neil Rally School’s incredible NH facilities for $1,500 USD and a border crossing a pop. Hell, even overseas trips if I was a millionaire. Time to get realistic though.
I’d say stay tuned but it’ll be only getting my own hopes up.
Posted by Jay Auger @ RGBS on December 16, 2017
Some warmer temps, including a small amount of rain, are expected just before the next snowstorm forecast on Tuesday. This should quite help compact the current snow accumulation and make for better overall conditions. I’ve just got word from the track owner that the underpass is currently passible but the highly powdered snow increases rolling resistance too much. He promised that he would try to compact the snow for me after the next snowstorm, on both his lapping track and his smaller winter track. Therefore I remain confident that I will be able to test the car in the usual layout and in similar conditions as previous years, at least once.
By the way, here’s a bit of history about the Sanair track. It was opened first as a dragway in 1970 due to the popularity of the muscle car / drag racing era. A year later, the track hosted the only Canadian round of the American NHRA grand tour series (up to 1992). The lapping track came along in 1972 to host the SCCA Trans-Am series. However this was a short lived venture and lasted only two years. The heyday of Sanair truly was in the mid 1980’s when in 1983 the tri-oval was built to host the NASCAR North series up to 1985, a round of the CART Indy Car (Champ Car) series from 1984 to 1986, and the ACT Pro Stock tour from 1986 to 1994.
The decline of Sanair obviously started in the mid 1990s after the end of the NHRA and ACT tour events. In the mid 2000s, the owner began to try and diversify his assets and also built a small karting track, dirt bike track, RC track, and opened specialized programs such as tactical training for diplomatic officials and law enforcement. In 2010, he began opening the lapping track in winter in hopes for more clientele. In 2014 came the smaller winter track.
Since Sanair’s heyday, the dragway is only host to weekly Friday night “street drag racing” that is open to the public (May to November) and very occasional club or private events. The lapping track is only host to once a year club events, police training, and occasional private rentals. The tri-oval simply hosts a stock car racing school. The karting, dirt bike, RC, and winter facilities lay mostly unused.
Besides the diversification attempt, Sanair’s enormous facilities lay in decay for the past 20 years in the shade of its former success. Every building is left to rot unused, fuel pumping station rusted out, the asphalt cracked, and concrete barriers crumbling. This gives an impression of an Eastern Europe cold war era facility. It incurs a bittersweet nostalgic feeling of the 1980s but of one that is destined to eventually vanish…