Stefan Haas leads Ontario Region's Magnum Ice Race series

Haas edges closer to ice racing championship Stefan Haas of Etobicoke, Ontario, has maintained his points lead in the Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs - Ontario Region's 2002 Magnum Ice Race Series, despite opting out of the last of four races...

Haas edges closer to ice racing championship

Stefan Haas of Etobicoke, Ontario, has maintained his points lead in the Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs - Ontario Region's 2002 Magnum Ice Race Series, despite opting out of the last of four races held February 23-24 at the fairgrounds in Minden, Ontario. Haas, who races in class S3 for front-wheel-drive cars using studded tires, elected not to compete in the final race of the weekend as he felt the ice track had become too badly eroded in the unseasonably warm weather.

Haas went into the fourth event of this year's abbreviated five-weekend championship riding the points lead and the spirited racer had no plans of coasting to the championship. He got things rolling on Saturday morning with a win in the qualifying heat, putting his CanadianKarting.ca Volkswagen Rabbit on pole for the first points race of the weekend. Tony McGrath, also driving a Rabbit and lying fourth in the championship, got away quickly in the race, however, leaping out ahead of the field. Haas was hot on his tail and the Subaru of Doug Martin, running in the four-wheel-drive class, also joined the furious battle. McGrath won, with Haas still snapping at his heels.

"The first race was a lot of fun," Haas said. "It was good clean racing. We raced hard, but Tony got the best start and then didn't slip up so I just couldn't get past him."

On Saturday afternoon, Haas, McGrath and Martin were at it again. The trio rocketed away and slugged it out while the rest of the pack tried to keep up, but the leaders soon came upon slower cars, which always add an element of chance. Martin got by quickly and was soon followed by Haas, but McGrath was held up briefly. Haas was soon hard at work trying to pass Martin as McGrath began to loom closer in his mirrors.

Still unable to get past Martin, Haas was nudged from behind as McGrath tried to push him out of the way. The CanadianKarting.ca car was sideways as the driver struggled to get the car pointed in the right direction, but McGrath kept pushing and barged past. Martin went on to win ahead of McGrath while Haas recovered to finish third overall and second in class. Following a short discussion with McGrath over racing etiquette, Haas returned to his paddock area to replace a deflated front tire.

During the Sunday-morning practice session, Haas was surprised to discover that his wheel alignment and gearbox linkage were askew, probably results of the vibration caused by the flat tire on Saturday. With no time for repairs before the first race of the day, he lined up on the grid hoping for the best. He struggled with the gears, fought with the steering and hunted for some solid ice on a track that had been ravaged by warm weather and vigorous racing. He overcame the obstacles to finish second, but believing that the track was just too far gone to survive another race, he loaded up and made for home where he could work on repairs in a more hospitable environment.

"The track was just slush and mud," he said. "It was in horrible shape, there was very little ice and the race on Sunday morning was very slow, probably the slowest race I've ever been in. We do get to drop our low scores so it won't hurt me to miss a race. If the weather allows us to race next weekend, the CanadianKarting.ca car will be back and I'll be doing my best to secure the championship."

-mirs/mj-

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