Thanks to me main man Dave (like Ali G, I too have a main man named Dave), the car nut carnival known only as Strawberry Creek Raceway and spoken of only in hushed reverential tones was opened to a group of fifteen racers on Sunday. Yours truly was one of those fifteen.i
Huddled in front of the two-storey paddock, we gawked in slack-jawed amazement as the opportunity before us : a private race track in the middle of the Alberta Prairies built by an eccentric multi-millionaireii just five years earlieriii and now open to this select group for one precious afternoon mere weeks before the uncompromising snow flakes were scheduled to blanket us all once again and put an end to the dry tarmac track season. Our thoughts, or at least mine, were about this rambling as we each made our respective gentleman’s agreements with the enigmatic owner, Jay, not to sue him should we spin off the absurdly safe track and maim ourselves like idjits. “Fuck the waivers. Just go drive”, was the message. Roger that.
So drive we did. In three groups of five cars we went first counter-clockwise around the 2.2km circuit for three 15-minute sessions before going clockwise for another two sessions, interrupted only by a catered sushi lunch and a drag race in which my other friend Adam’s Tesla Model S 90Div jumped me off the start line and beat my beloved Blackzilla to the finish. The new king has been crowned. And he’s electric. [Video of the drag race is forthcoming as soon as Adam stops being lazy and posts it up on his vlog. UPDATE 27/09/17 : Vlog is up and the best track footage clips start here! ].
The track itself was compact but offered excellent visibility into upcoming corners and featured rollercoaster elevation changes unknown on other Prairie tracks.v Overall, it was more than a fair challenge for all in attendance even though it made the 1.7-tonne GT-R feel positively ponderous in a way that Castrol never could.vi Whereas Strawberry Creek rewards lightweight cars that you can be pinned through the long bends and hucked around the stomach-churning compression turns, Castrol has far more room available to mash the throttle and lean on sophisticated all-wheel drive systems. Strawberry Creek demands ultimate balance over fuck-you power. Unfortunately, this analysis led to the realisation that my all-mountain skis weren’t much fun in the back-country powder, that my swiss army knife couldn’t spoon soup, and that my AK47 wasn’t much of a sniper rifle. Fuck it, was I already talking myself into another new car ? An FRS ? Cayman R ? GT3 perhaps ? Hmmm.
[And yes, that's a Messerschmidt twin-turbine helicopter (MMB Bo 105) above-right, the same model that Red Bull uses for acrobatic demonstrations because it's capable of backflips and 3.5G ascents, largely thanks to its hingeless FRP rotors. The owner, Guy, is a friend of Jay's and arrived with his 10-year-old son midway through the afternoon. There was some murmuring about Guy owning upwards of twenty-five MMBs that he was slowly refurbishing and selling but whether he bought them at a People's Republic of the Congo fire sale or not is as yet unconfirmed but if you're in the market I'd be happy to make the necessary introductions.]
Speaking of introductions, allow me to introduce Jay’s garage, or at least as much of it as would fit in a single panoramic shot. Can you tell from his collection that, in his career as a gentleman driver, he went on to win no less than ten (10) Formula 5000 races in New Zealand and also holds numerous class records at tracks all over the world ? Needless to say it was a purist’s paradise : a mightily impressive assortment of modified kit cars, replica race cars,vii track-oriented street cars, and all manner of truly wacky builds, one of which you will very likely be seeing a whole lot more of on these very pages very soon.
Jay is, after all, a businessman first and foremost, and as such, everything on display was also for sale, most of it very reasonably so. How could we not make a deal, particularly when it would include more track time in Wunderland ? Can you guess which of the aboveseen cars will soon be the fourth member of Pete’s Modest Garage ?viii
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- So too, as you can see, was my other friend Tarek and his Macan GTS. It looked a little out of place but with some better tires he would’ve been a force to be reckoned with. T’s GTS is only 500 lbs heavier than my GT-R (less of a differential than you’d expect going from performance car to crossover) and T has his Gran Turismo Super License, an edge you can’t neglect and no small matter to achieve. ↩
- Granted there’s a wide spectrum between 2-999 but there’s no real way of determining these things short of asking and even I’m not that blunt at a first encounter. In good time perhaps I’ll narrow it down to the nearest hundred. ↩
- And at no small expense, both financially and politically. But Jay’s persistent, ambitious, and spontaneous like that. It’s no wonder he recently purchased the Edmonton Queen and plans to breath new life into the aging riverboat restaurant. ↩
- Given the predictably heavy loads on Adam’s 90 kW battery pack during his Model S’s first track day, he towed along… a diesel generator. For charging between sessions, of course ; turning his normally coal-powered electricmobile into a cutting edge diesel-powered electricmobile. This is progress! ↩
- There are supposedly a total of 13 turns on the 2.2 km circuit but I’ll be damned if I can tell where some end and some begin :
- Though it has to be said that reflashing the ECU with an older COBB Stage 2 map resolved the fuel cut-off issues from track day #2, restoring a good measure of my confidence in both Nissan and the forumites who suggested that a corrupt map file is frequently to blame for this issue. ↩
- The Porsche 906 built by an Argentina-based Pur Sang-style shop absolutely stole my heart, not least of all because you’d swear that every last square inch of AR was populated by woefully inept orcs if you read Trilema at all these last few years. Guess there’s at least one sane pocket therein, there as anywhere. Pur Sang is mostly known for their pre-war Alfas and Bugattis, but they also squeezed out at least one gorgeous Porsche for a very affordable $40k (compare to $2-3 mn for an original). ↩
- I thought it was pretty hilarious when Stan said “afaik pete_d is this canadian fella who likes to race cars, and also occasionally reads the logz and writes summaries, in something like stalin’s radio caster (levitan) voice.” That first part about “race cars” struck me as particularly lulzy, given that this was 18 months ago at a time when I’d never so much as set foot on a road course and had only very limited driver training and some entirely innocent karting under my belt. Fast-forward to present-day and I’m buying Japanese muscle cars one month and all-out crazy ass sports cars the next. Da fuck, right ? Dude’s more prescient than he knows.
Further to this, Pete’s Modest Garage will be back down to three whips just as soon as poor Saddam is sold off for parts. He suffered a fatal ignition/fuel/engine malfunction about two months ago and has spent over thirty hours in the shop since then as everything from fuel distribution to exhaust leaks were checked for and everything seemed to be in working order except the 5.6L beast still wouldn’t start. The problem still can’t be definitively sorted so the 27-year-old is going to the big scrapyard in the sky as soon as a buyer is found. You’ll be missed, my Euro-for-oil-selling friend. You’ll be missed. ↩