By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
The last time they were at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, the drivers of Wheelhouse Racing spent most of their time trying to get their car running again.
This time, however, they spent most of it on the track.
The near-six-month furlough since the last time they hit the track in Bowmanville did wonders for the team made up of drivers from Oshawa and Whitby – and it all started with tearing their car apart.
“The team has learned a lot, and the car has changed quite a bit,” Matt Swanson, one of the founders of the team, told The Oshawa Express shortly before the race.
Part of the lessons learned over the past few months, Swanson says, is that they needed to have their car built for endurance, rather than just a few quick laps around the track.
One of the problems the team faced in its first run on the Bowmanville track was the engine overheating, with the tank holding the engine coolant rupturing. That mechanical fault kept the team off the racetrack and in the parking lot for most of the first day of racing, pushing to get the car working again.
Now, nearly six months later, Swanson says new and better parts were added to prevent such a thing from happening again.
“We tore the engine down and basically rebuilt it from the block up just to put some extra parts in there to make it withstand the extra heat and abuse on the track.”
Swanson says the team also worked to make the car lighter and handle better, stripping more weight off the car and adding a spoiler to keep the vehicle anchored to the road.
With all the improvements made to the car, Swanson and the rest of Wheelhouse Racing were ready to hit the track and make a better effort of the weekend than the race back in April.
On a cool October weekend, Wheelhouse Racing was back at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park for the final race of the ChumpCar Canada series. The point of the series is to buy a car for $500 or less and get it into racing shape. The team was returning to the track with its forest green Mazda 626, and were hoping that it would get more time on the road than off it.
And the first day of racing turned out to be a good one. Aside from two small accidents leading to some delays, the car ran for most of Saturday with no problems.
Rather than hunkering down over a car trying to get it running, Swanson and the rest of the Wheelhouse Racing team were making sure the pit stops were quick and the Mazda back out on the track as quickly as possible.
The next day, however, did not go so well.
“We hit the wall at turn three pretty good,” Swanson told The Oshawa Express in the days after the race. “The driver entered the corner a little late. Turn three is a really high speed, kind of flat out turn…and the car started going sideways and the car that won the weekend was right behind him, and as he went sideways, the car hit him square in the passenger side. Right in the middle of the car. He spun around, and then the same car hit him again in the front, and that punted him right into the concrete wall.”
Swanson says the driver was OK, if not a bit shaken up, after the accident. The car, however, is done for.
But that doesn’t mean this is the end of Wheelhouse Racing, with the team already on the hunt for another Mazda 626 to take over the helm.
“We know the platform, we got the cage already built and all the parts. We got everything ready to go.”
Swanson says the team has a busy winter ahead as it gets ready to return to the track in April.