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Kathy Wade's Blog

 

On The Road With The World Driving Championship

Published: August 25, 2017 10:09 am ET

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I was really looking forward to the World Driving Championship, but I have to admit I was very nervous about moving 30 people across the country from Calgary to Charlottetown. I’d had nightmares for weeks leading up…that didn’t help to ease my anxiety!

Five racetracks, four provinces, three flights, over 10 bus connections and lots of social activities, not to mention 22 races all crammed into 10 days. Myself and Jeff Porchak, SC’s Web Director were the tour guides and hosts for the tour, with help from Hailey Saunders, Marketing Co-ordinator for the Ontario & Quebec legs along with Manon Gravel, one of our SC Field Reps, for the Quebec leg.

The best news – we didn’t lose anyone!

There were lost cell phones (and found), misplaced items and colours and one piece of luggage that missed a flight but not one person in the WDC group, which included drivers, their guests, and International Media missed any of the three flights!

So, what’s it like moving a group like this from airport to airport...

Sunday, Aug. 13 – Calgary to Toronto - Bus pick up was at a reasonable hour – 7 a.m. Everyone was loaded and accounted for except one. We called the missing person’s room, cell phone and even pounded on his door- no response. What to do? Can’t risk the rest of the group missing the flight for one person so off we went.

Flight number one and we had already lost one. Not a good sign.

As we were unloading the last bag off the bus, the missing person arrived!

Sunday afternoon – Arrival at Toronto Pearson Airport – This was going to be tricky navigating the group through Pearson airport. While we stick handled for our luggage at the baggage carousel , Jeff & I came up with a strategy. Pick a meeting spot within the baggage area. One of us would stay with the group, while the other made sure the bus was on site. Then we’d usher the group to a set of elevators and down one level to board the bus. Success!

Wednesday, August 16 – Toronto to Montreal - Toronto Island Airport –The hotel arranged for a cab company to send 10-12 cabs to transport us to the Island Airport which would only require paying the last cab driver for the group. Somehow another cab company’s cabs managed to infiltrate the group and with the frenzy of loading luggage into trunks and bodies into the vehicles, not everyone was in the right cab. I was in the last cab and had visions of some of the group ending up at Pearson because they didn’t speak English and didn’t understand where we were going. There was a flurry of frantic text messages exchanged with Jeff who went in the first car to do a count at the gate. All present and accounted for! Whew!

Wednesday – Arrival in Montreal - It was virtually up and down from Toronto to Montreal where our bus was waiting to whisk us away to Trois Rivieres. Wow, this was going way too smoothly. Spoke too soon.

Eirik Hoitomt and Ryan Macedonio were in a huddle with a Porter rep. Eirik’s luggage had missed the flight and wouldn’t be in until later. Not good. We had a two hour bus ride ahead , two hours planned for the lunch, and half an hour to get to the track. The only way Eirik’s luggage, which of course contained his colours, would make it in time for the races is if someone stayed behind. Ryan Macedonia offered to wait for the bag. Thank you Ryan!

Off we went …. The bus arrived at the Delta about the same time as Ryan and Eirik’s bright orange suitcase that contained his driving colours landed in an Uber car. (4:00 p.m.) I never saw a bigger smile on Eirik’s face then at that moment that Ryan handed him his orange bag.

Thursday, August 17- Bus Ride from Trois Rivieres to Montreal at 5:20 a.m. Thank god, we had the hotel put 5 a.m. wake up calls on each of the guests’ rooms. Almost everyone was on time, loaded and all. Only one straggler… but at 5:35 a.m. we were all on our way.

Montreal to Charlottetown - At 8:15 a.m. we arrived at the Dorval airport. We all seemed to check in at different counters but we all congregated at the gate. OK, this is the last flight. Flight number three….almost there. We’ve almost got everyone to PEI!

Arrival at Charlottetown Airport- 12:15 p.m. touchdown in Charlottetown, PEI our final destination as a group. Success! We had made it and as an added bonus the Gold Cup & Saucer Ambassadors were on hand to greet us with chocolate covered potato chips!

Competitive racing and world class driving were the WDC standard at all five legs, thanks to the race secretaries who put the cards together and the horse people who entered their horses.

Off the track, there was always something going on, thanks to the generosity of our industry partners, host tracks, and sponsors. There was great camaraderie within the group and each and every driver was a wonderful ambassador for their country and horse racing.

As the host country, we couldn’t have written a better script! James MacDonald crowned WDC champion in his hometown province in front of an enthusiastic crowd which provided a record handle!

Sunday, August 21 – Holman Grand Lobby - We head our separate ways.

Sunday Evening – Charlottetown - Toronto - Myself , Darryl Kaplan, and Jeff were booked on a 6:30 p.m. WestJet flight to go home. Shortly after arriving at the gate, there was an announcement that our flight was delayed…more information to be announced as it becomes available…. Not a good sign.

Twenty minutes later it was announced that there were mechanical issues with the plane and it would not be leaving the island. 15 minutes later they announced that they would send the last plane in from Toronto back tonight, rather than in the a.m. “Imagine if this had happened during the WDC tour,” pointed out Darryl. “No, I can’t imagine!”

At 12:17 a.m., six hours after the scheduled time, we boarded the plane. At 2:30 a.m. we touched down in Toronto. The World Driving Championship was done, and so were we!

All in all, it was a great tour and here are some of my favourite WDC Moments:

  • The drivers becoming Honorary Calgarians - in addition to a pledge, the drivers had to demonstrate that they could rope a steer and ride a horse.

  • Meeting Hayley Wickenheiser at Century Downs’ Fundraising Gala – what an inspiring speaker and sports ambassador; we were able to get a group shot of Hayley with the drivers and while they sang Happy Birthday to her.

  • The Dunn Report – On our bus ride home after a race night, Dexter Dunn, as defending champion, would give a report on who won the races and what time we had to meet the bus the next morning. Charming New Zealand accent, I could barely understand a word he said!

  • Noel Baldacchino’s victory at 3R – 2017 was the first time that Malta had a representative in the WDC. Noel spoke no English (he had a translator accompany him), but was on time for everything and smiled whenever you spoke to him. He scored a victory in the fourth leg of the WDC at Hippodrome 3R with an 11 year old Western Hanover gelding, Tidewater Tomahawk.

  • Mika Forss’ Triple at Mohawk – Mika, what is your favourite track? Mika put on a bit of a driving clinic at Mohawk scoring a triple and doing the “dab” as he crossed the finish line in this third win. ( Dabbing, or the dab, is an enigmatic dance move that can also be seen as a playful gesture. To perform the move, a person drops their head into the bent crook of a slanted arm, while raising the opposite arm in a parallel direction straight out.)

  • James MacDonald at the Karaoke Championship during the Kitchen Party – Yes, apparently our World Driving Champion can sing too! It was a “Voice” worthy performance with Dexter Dunn and Marcus Miller helping out as backup singers.

  • Gold Cup & Saucer Parade – It was a challenge to get the drivers to the parade on time after the late night Kitchen Party festivities and a few doors had to be knocked (pounded) on in the a.m. One driver had to be personally escorted to his parade car, half an hour after the group left which meant he (and I) had to walk the parade route in reverse. The parade was phenomenal – 150 floats featuring bands, dancers, WDC drivers and more!

  • WDC Winner’s Circle Festivities –A cheering crowd, the playing of O Canada and James being hoisted in the air by Marcus & Mika. Smiles all around. Doesn’t get any better than this!


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