Windsor Weekend ‘fast’ approaching

 

 

By Bryan Jessop

 

Windsor and Essex County’s fastest weekend will soon bring its 18th — but by no means its last — installment to Grand Bend Motorplex.

Windsor Weekend, founded and organized by drag racing enthusiast Chuck Fram, will return to GBM from Aug. 18-20 for competition in several different categories. The fully loaded schedule of quarter mile events will again accommodate vehicles from factory original daily drivers to heavily-modified, race-only entries not intended for travelling more than 1,320 feet at a time. Since being introduced as Windsor Day in 2000, the local grassroots drag racing event has established itself as one of Canada’s largest community-based quarter mile competitions, catering to racers ranging from first-time participants to seasoned veterans backed by decades of prior experience.

Amherstburg’s Chris O’Keefe launches from the tree with a wheel stand in his Oldsmobile Cutlass during a Windsor Weekend 17 race at Grand Bend Motorplex in 2016. O’Keefe is one of Amherstburg’s fastest entries in Windsor Weekend, scheduled this year for Friday, Aug. 18 to Sunday, Aug. 20. (Photo courtesy of Dave Rocheleau/Angry Spider Photography)

Amherstburg’s Chris O’Keefe launches from the tree with a wheel stand in his Oldsmobile Cutlass during a Windsor Weekend 17 race at Grand Bend Motorplex in 2016. O’Keefe is one of Amherstburg’s fastest entries in Windsor Weekend, scheduled this year for Friday, Aug. 18 to Sunday, Aug. 20. (Photo courtesy of Dave Rocheleau/Angry Spider Photography)

The family-oriented weekend will also include a Friday night pit party with live music and Saturday’s traditional Night of Fire. This year, the latter will feature fireworks provided and conducted by K&H Fireworks of Windsor and a demonstration run by jet funny car The Black Pearl. The evening will also include match races by alcohol fueled funny cars and four front engine dragsters.

For the first time since 2013, Windsor Weekend has been slotted for a three-day period outside of the August Civic Holiday weekend. Because of changes made to the International Hot Rod Association’s (IHRA) national event series and television packages, the Mopar Nitro Jam Nationals has been slotted for Grand Bend’s Aug. 4-6 weekend. Whether or not Windsor Weekend will continue to take place later in August for future years will depend on the response and conditions the event experiences in 2017.

“We’re hoping this means we’ll see a more race-friendly crowd,” Fram said. “At $30 (advance spectator ticket price per adult) for three days during Civic Holiday weekend, we’ve been the cheapest camping anywhere. It’s created some headaches in the pit area. We had people there who didn’t even know there was racing going on.”

Lower price advance spectator tickets — not available at Grand Bend Motorplex — are being sold at Reaume Chevrolet in LaSalle, Sauve’s Home Centre in Belle River, Adam Keller Motors in Harrow and JH Restorations and both PartSource locations in Windsor. Rules and advance ticket pricing are displayed under the “Spectator” heading of the website www.windsorweekend.ca.

Racing classes this year will include Quick 8, Quick 8 Outlaw, Open Comp, Bracket 1, Bracket 2, Bikes and Sleds, Junior Dragsters, Trophy, Ladies Only Trophy, Young Guns and the more recently added High Roller. The High Roller class is open to any vehicle type running 10.99 or faster with delay boxes permitted. With many of the region’s racers heading to Pittsburgh for a National Open event for the same weekend, this year’s Windsor Weekend will not include an Extreme 32 program.

 Jim Patrick of Amherstburg performs a pre-race burnout to heat up the rear tires of his Chevrolet Nova before a Bracket 1 race during a previous edition of Windsor Weekend at Grand Bend Motorplex. This year’s Windsor Weekend will take place at GBM Friday, Aug. 18 to Sunday, Aug. 20. (Photo courtesy of Dave Rocheleau/Angry Spider Photography)

Jim Patrick of Amherstburg performs a pre-race burnout to heat up the rear tires of his Chevrolet Nova before a Bracket 1 race during a previous edition of Windsor Weekend at Grand Bend Motorplex. This year’s Windsor Weekend will take place at GBM Friday, Aug. 18 to Sunday, Aug. 20. (Photo courtesy of Dave Rocheleau/Angry Spider Photography)

The two Quick 8 divisions will run the shorter eighth-mile distance this year, a change Fram explained appeals to spectators. The Quick 8 Outlaw division is open to any ‘door car’ from Windsor-Essex County while Quick 8 rules are more stringent, allowing a maximum tire size of 28” x 10.5” and fewer modifications.

“We twist the rules around a bit to keep the 2,000 horsepower guys from ruining everyone else’s day,” said Fram, who is also owner and operator of Chuck’s Speed Shop on Walker Road.

The event’s primary organizer explained that while Quick 8 competitors are again keeping their plans and vehicle details under wraps, he expects an even, competitive class where the field’s middle-of-the-pack racers should be running elapsed times of approximately 9.5 seconds.

Rules and payouts for each class are available on the Windsor Weekend website. Some divisions will complete in ‘heads up’ format, where head-to-head vehicles start at the same time regardless of speeds and elapsed times recorded in previous or time trial runs. Others, which cater to slower cars, run as bracket races where the slower of two side-by-side drivers is given a head start based on the difference between the two dial in times. Dial ins — displayed on vehicle windows — are the times a driver predicts his or her car will run during elimination rounds. The bracket racer who runs closest to his or her dial in without running a quicker than the posted time — known as ‘breaking out’ — advances to the next round.

In addition to the customary preparation process, Fram is also fielding rumours circulating this this year’s Windsor Weekend will be the last.

“It was mentioned during the (pre-season) drivers’ meeting that the track is for sale and some people started panicking,” Fram explained. “He (GBM owner Paul Spriet) won’t allow it to close. The logistics involved in turning it into anything other than a racetrack would be astronomical. I’ve got all confidence that the track will continue to operate and as long as there’s a Grand Bend Motorplex, there’ll be a Windsor Weekend.

“Yes, the track is for sale, and some people think that means it’ll close — that’s the least likely scenario. Even if it sat empty, I’d rent it for the weekend.”

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