As Spark Power continues to be a key sponsor for the Racing with Autism team, we are excited to share details and results of Austin Riley’s performance at the ICAR Mirabel Quebec tournament this past weekend. Austin’s father, Jason Riley, provided a full breakdown of the weekend’s races below:
“What a weekend!
We had a full practice day on Friday, which saw Austin take to the track in six 20-minute sessions in the new car. Austin took his time learning the car and track, progressively getting faster each time until he topped the time sheets at the end of the day. We were looking good going into the weekend.
It was truly great to see fans back in the paddock again. As we were only on track once on Saturday, Austin spent most of the day signing autographs and posing for pictures with families. It is so awesome to see him share his passion for motorsports with the younger generations.
When it did come to our practice session, Austin again was near the top of the time sheets (even on very old tires). Before the session ended, Austin radioed in and said the car had stopped because of a fuel pressure issue. He was able to restart the car and bring it back to a pit lane, which ended the short session for us. Austin’s mechanic, Jeremy, and I worked well into the night trying to sort out this issue, along with a few other growing pains you often get with new pieces of equipment. In a very strange weekend schedule, we would qualify and have two races on Sunday. It was a very long day.
We arrived at the track under threatening skies Sunday morning, very early, as our only practice of the day was at 7:55 a.m. Austin finished that session second overall. We only had about an hour to get the car ready for qualifying, hoping it wasn’t going to rain. We added some more fuel and put our new tires on, and were back on grid ready to go. Austin’s pace in qualifying was incredible. He finished the session on pole and set a new track record in the process! After passing tech, we rushed back to our trailer to get the car ready for race number one of the day.. The race is 40 minutes in length and in these cars on this track, (which is incredibly bumpy), it will take a huge physical and mental effort.
Austin didn’t have the best of starts despite being on Pole. He entered turn one in third but made a pass for second in the process. He wouldn’t stay second for long – five turns later he made a beautifully timed pass for the lead under heavy braking and then he was on his way. Just past the halfway mark of the race, Austin had built up an 11 second lead over second place – but then he radioed in saying he was having that same fuel pressure issue he had on Saturday and the car would shut down exiting one certain turn on the track.. We believe that when the fuel level would get beyond a certain point, all fuel would be pushed over to one side during the turn and then it would be rushed to the front of the tank under hard braking. Combined with all the bumps, it could quite easily cause the fuel pump to suck air for a spilt second. Over the next 20 minutes, Austin nursed the car around the track with his lead evaporating lap after lap. We were so excited to see the last lap board being shown with Austin still in the lead, but second place was coming fast. Everyone was watching the last turn to see who would come out first. Austin… he did it. His first win in the new car. What a drive!
After the podium celebrations from Race 1, we were quite eager to get the car back to our pit spot to get the car ready for the race that afternoon. No sooner did we start to prep the car again it started to rain. Looking at the weather apps, it looked like it was going to rain for the next hour or so but stop before Austin’s race. We were about 20 minutes from the start of the race and the rain had dried up. We got Austin into the car, and we were about to head to grid, and it started to rain lightly again. With about 10 minutes to go before the start of the race we decided it would be best to put the rain tires on and hope it keeps raining. As we rolled up to grid the rain intensified slightly. Austin has only had one race in the rain in the Radical and that was early last year in the old car; we were not sure what to expect when the green flagged dropped.
I like to think of myself as a very humble guy, even when it comes to Austin’s talents behind the wheel. What we saw from Austin in the rain, in the new car, was nothing less than breathtaking. He was in a league of his own. I have seen some amazing things from Austin over the years in races, but this performance will be something I will remember forever.
Austin took the lead into turn one and that was pretty much the end of the race; his pace was unmatched by the rest of the field. He was continually two seconds a lap faster than everyone else. When he crossed the finish line, he had built up a 38 second lead on second place and lapped everyone up to 4th place. When we got to tech inspection, Austin was greeted by officials, competitors and fans who all said that was one of the most spectacular drives they had ever seen. It was a beautiful thing to watch…. It reminded me of a quote that we hold a special part in our lives: “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of, who do the thing no one can imagine”.
We are back at it at CTMP this coming weekend and for the first time in a long time they are allowing spectators!.”
Spark is committed to supporting our local communities through our Spark100 program. For more information on Racing with Autism and Austin’s journey, visit their website.