September, 1977 — For a racing weekend, it was pretty close to perfect — because at the very first race on our new track at Quyon, Quebec, I scored pole position, I won my heat, and then I won the final.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
The new track had just been completed a couple of weeks before. The paving crew had told us to wait till the asphalt cured properly before racing on the new pavement. When the time came, we were more than anxious to get going.
The track was modeled on the track at Mt. Tremblent/Ste Jovite in Quebec and included the elevation changes that made the Grand Prix layout so exciting to drive. I’d experienced it while driving at the Jim Russell Racing school in 1975.
Even though our karting track was smaller, it still had the same blind uphill run into turn 1 and the same sudden descent while exiting the corner. It also had the hill in the middle of the straight that could get the fastest karts slightly airborne. It was challenging and exciting all at the same time. We couldn’t wait.
We’d travelled up to the site a couple of times during the paving to check up on our investment. It really was an investement for us because we’d bought shares in the company that owned the land and the track and about a dozen of us had each borrowed money from the bank and pooled it to complete the paving job. Paul Joinette had spent most of August working with the crew to get it all finished.
Now we were finally ready to race. The racing surface was smooth and new, but the grounds were still bare (no grass). In fact, if you cut corners too closely while lapping, the kart’s wheel could easily fall several inches as the ground was not always at the same level as the racing surface.
Most of us had gone up for the weekend and camped at the track even though the facilities for camping on the first weekend were non-existent. But, remember that these were the days of customized vans with interiors that would make today’s HGTV home designers drool with envy.
So, some of us pitched tents and some had started to build out the interior of their vans and slept there. My recently-acquired 1974 Dodge van had a new paint job which nicely covered the previous owner’s “Biere Froide” grocery store logos, but I hadn’t started to build out the interior yet. I think we stayed in an old hotel in the town of Quyon.
The only disappointment of the weekend was Jon Snadden’s decision not to race. I forget why that was, I think he might have had an eye issue or something, but this weekend he played starter and race director.
He turned up wearing a light blue t-shirt with SNABBON! written across the back in big black letters. His explanation: whenever he got his name in the paper, they always got it wrong so he figured he would play along.
We had a good crowd for this event: Al McRory and Paul Joinette, the pair who’d got kart racing going in Ottawa again, Jane Wagner, Dave Potterton, Sean Sweet, Jeanne Joinette, Dave Elliott, Fred Zufelt, and a few others who’s names I can’t remember. Everyone was divided into two heats, and the finishing order of those determined grid places for the final.
I had a good start in the first heat and just kept going as fast as I could and focused on the track ahead. A first-lap tussle between Sean Sweet and Fred Zufelt let me get some distance away from them. About halfway through the race, I looked behind me and was astonished to see everyone else about half-a-lap behind!
I decided I’d slow down and close the gap because, after all, we were there to race. I remember people in the pits looking really concerned and my girlfriend Niki getting a bit annoyed. They thought I might blow the lead and the race.
They could have been right, because I remembered the story of George Eaton in a 1969 CanAm race in which he took it easy for a while and then couldn’t get his mojo back when it was time to speed up. So I got back up to racing speed and took the flag with Sean Sweet second and Fred Zufelt third.
In the second heat, Jane Wagner led from pole and took the checkered flag first from Al McRory and David Potterton.
On Saturday evening we had a nice big bonfire, some nice cold beers, and lots of good camraderie. Once the night settled in and there was no light pollution because of our distance from towns and cities, the number of stars you could see in the sky were countless.
It was the best of times…
It’s a sad by-product of doing this blog that I’m finding that some of the old tracks I used to race on have been ignored and disused and no longer host racing. But our track still survives today as Le Circuit Quyon and it has been extended to several times it’s original size.