Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up and start your engines.
Race car drivers up and down the Island are geared up and ready to go for the start of another season at Saratoga Speedway May 7, and for two local siblings and their parents, the sound of screaming engines is like music to their ears.
“Oh yeah for sure — that would be accurate,” chuckled Duane Lawrenuk, head technician and sponsor for the Coast Auto Service Racing Team out of Qualicum Beach.
Back behind the wheel for another run at the old Island track this year are his kids, Kevin, 15, and Jennifer, 19.
This is Kevin’s fourth year of racing up at Saratoga; Jen’s third.
A Grade 10 student at Kwalikum Secondary School, Kevin has placed top six in the point standings of the Hornet Class two years in a row and earned Rookie of the Year honours in his first season. He finished second in the standings in 2009 and was presented the Sportsmanship Award for the past two years to go along with numerous trophy finishes.
Jennifer posted top 10 finishes for two consecutive seasons and was voted Most Improved Driver in 2009. She missed the 2010 season due to back surgery from a basketball injury, and is stoked to be back behind the wheel.
On a side note, the Kwalikum grad recently gave a power point presentation to the Grade 8 students at Qualicum Beach Middle School regarding driver safety and keeping the speed at the track and not on the streets.
The siblings started in the Figure 8 Class and moved up to the Hornet Class (stock 4 cylinder cars; no turbos, no all wheel drives).
Kevin will be running a 1996 Honda Prelude Vtec and Jennifer a 1989 Toyota Celica GTS.
Repairs there are loads of, said Dad, pointing out the team goes through about 20 tires per season, not to mention blown engines, broken axles, front end damage.
“A successful race is no damage,” he said.
Both racers spend a lot of time working on their cars — and practicing.
“They’re the ones that get them ready … we do the mechanical stuff, but they’re the ones that take them apart body-wise get them ready for repairs and painting.”
The average speed of the Hornet cars at Saratoga Speedway, a three-eighths-mile, D-shaped oval that sees speeds of 115 kilometers per hour and upwards of 120kms on the straightways. The cars are reinforced with roll bars and side girders and must undergo regular track inspections. Rules say no bumping but auto racing being what it is, “there is a lot of contact.”
According to mom Laurie, 60 cars participated in the Hornet season last year with drivers ranging in age from 12-74.
“Oh yeah,” Kevin answered quickly when asked if they’re looking forward to the start of the season.
“For sure,” Jennifer nodded in anticipation.
“We even bought an RV so we can stay up there; we’re there so much during the racing season,” said mom Laurie.
Saratoga’s Hornet Class season is made up of a minimum 14 races, usually more, and the team will also be taking their cars on the road to Vernon for the Hornet Invitational in August.
On race nights every Saturday, they will compete in up to four races including main event and trophy dashes.
“It really is (a family affair),” Dad confirmed, pointing out, “we spend every weekend together, and we’re always talking about it, thinking about it, and figuring out what we can do better. We have a blast.”
Like any other sport, he says emotions during competition can run high sometimes.
“Whether you’re a dad watching your kid play hockey, a soccer mom … you’re protective (and) there’s that sense of pride.”
Another big part of it the socializing he says, the meeting other crews.
Duane was awarded Most Helpful Pit Crew in the Hornet Class in 2009 — always willing to help get other drivers back out on the track.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Dad, “and it gives them an experience they’ll have the rest of their lives.”
Saratoga Speedway kicks off the 2011 season Saturday, May 7 with a fireworks extravaganza. Rain or shine, the high octane fun night out will feature Crash to Pass cars, Hornet cars and Road Runners. Gates open at 5:30 p.m., racing starts at 7 p.m. sharp.