Calgary Sports Car Club continues long tradition of racing
You careen down the road at a breakneck speed, the car's engine roaring with pressure. Instead of cautiously breaking for the oncoming left turn, you drift along its winding arch with impact.
Your tires frantically look to regain traction. Dirt grinds into the air from beneath each tire as your car slides the apex of the turn. You're in control, and it looks effortless.
This is a small window into what rally racing is all about, one of many styles of racing Johnny Summers is all too familiar with.
Representing the competitive Canadian car racing scene, Summers has had several years of experience competing in rallycross, auto slalom and time attack events.
Also an accredited BMW advanced driving instructor, Summers is definitely no stranger behind the wheel.
"About seven years ago I started dabbling a bit in it," Summers said. "Then in 2007, I started to race. My first car was a 2002 Cavalier, and it sucked.
"I had no idea what I was doing, which was perfect because a slow car is perfect to learn on."
Summers' passion for cars comes second only to his main love — music.
Summers pairs his jazz singing voice with his trumpet playing skills, and is both a composer and arranger.
One of Summers' biggest achievements is The Calgary Jazz Orchestra which he created and continues to direct.
Prior to forming his own racing crew along with VEX Performance -- a performance shop for automotive services -- Summers was one of the directors at the Calgary Sports Car Club.
The Racing Family
Since it opened in 1954, the club has been organizing and participating in motorsport events. Sanctioned by the Western Canada Motorsports Association, along with the Canadian Association of Rally Sport and ASN Canada, the club puts on events such as rally racing, auto slalom, winter autocross and road racing.
Still supporting the club with advice, Summers said it is filled with great members.
"They're just a group of great guys," Summers said. "All the guys I raced with are super nice and it's run and managed extremely well. The directors always do a great job with it every year."
Eric Grochowski - a former president of the club who now a races in the Canadian Rally Championship - also felt positive towards the atmosphere of the club.
"It's definitely a family," Grochowski said. "There's little animosity between members. Everyone will do whatever is possible to help another competitor that needs help, to get them to the track and to get them running.
"I've been to some racing clubs where if you needed to borrow a wrench, no one would help you out and no one really talked to you. The Calgary Sports Car Club is completely the opposite."
Member Keith Morison recommends it to anyone with an interest in motorsports, and gets along great with the group at the club.
"We're all racers at heart," Morison said. "We all understand each other, and the club has a really good bond amongst members."
If anything, getting involved with motorsports is easier than it sounds, and is certainly less expensive initially than is first perceived.
Don't Pimp My Ride
Currently driving a custom Subaru WRX STI that's prepared for his rally racing, Summers described how one of the misunderstandings of racing was actually needing a decked-out ride.
"The biggest misconception about racing is that everybody thinks they need to have an STI, or a Corvette, or an S200, or something that is a street monster and is highly modified and street-prepped," Summers said. "That's not true. The best thing to do first is to get something cheap that handles well, and then simply go out and learn how to drive."
Since he started, Summers has won first place race finishes many times. Last year alone, Summers won three rallycross series.
Though seemingly an individual sport, Summers appreciates the teamwork aspects of racing, especially in rally.
"You have a co-driver with you in the car telling you when the next turn is coming up, so you're trying to take that information and work as team," Summers said. "Also, we talk through everything with my crew chief and everyone involved, and then seeing it all work out, it's fantastic."
When he's sitting behind the wheel though, Summers feels the joy of riding every time he races.
"I love the feeling of performing something technically perfect -- feeling extremely comfortable and relaxed, yet driving the car flat out, nearly as fast as it can go," Summers said. "It's weird. You begin to simply watch what happens.
"You're not actively trying to do something and it's like you're along for the ride, even though you're in full control," Summers said. "It's a great feeling."
For more information on the Calgary Sports Car Club, visit: cscc.ab.ca
- By DAVID GOLDENSTEIN