From October 1 to 3, 2021, Spark-sponsored racer, Austin Riley — part of the Racing with Autism team — took to the track for the Radical Cup Canada at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. We are thrilled to share that Austin placed first and became the 2021 Radical Cup Canada Champion!
Read a first-hand account of the amazing race weekend from Austin’s father, Jason Riley:
Because the schedule was a bit different than we are used to this season, it would have us qualifying late in the day for the both races on Saturday and Sunday. We’ve had lots of progress getting the new car to be a little easier to drive than it has been and going into qualifying Austin was feeling confident. At the halfway mark of the session, Austin had just set the fastest lap by over three-tenths and was on an even faster lap when a crash caused a red flag and he had to abort his flyer. We went green again with about seven minutes to go, but there was too much traffic to get a clean lap so we brought him to the pit lane to save our tires. Unfortunately for Austin, another driver found same clear track and had a draft down the straight and beat Austin’s time by .086 of a second. This meant that Austin started second for Saturday’s race.
Austin started second and had a brilliant opening lap, taking the lead and opening a gap to the second place car. As we approached the halfway mark, Austin opened up an almost five second lead when a mid pack crash caused a full course caution bunching everyone back up. Austin’s championship rival was now on his bumper for the restart. Austin timed the restart perfectly and was able to gap the second place car by a second. A few laps later, another wreck caused another caution and Austin would have to do it all again. This caution was longer than the first one and the restart would come with less than 10 minutes remaining. Again, Austin timed the restart perfect but the gap was much tighter than previous and squeezed everything out of the car he could. He was able to hold off second place to take the win and again shrink the leaders point advantage. The championship would all come down to Sunday’s race.
Sunday’s weather was much different than Saturday. It was cold, wet, and foggy when we arrived the track. It was going to be a wet race. While we were waiting on grid to start the race, I noticed steam coming out from Austin’s engine compartment. With three minutes to go before the start, we frantically ripped the engine cover off only to see the radiator cap had failed and rad fluid was pouring out. We grabbed a work glover and loosened the cap to let the pressure out and tighten it back up as best as possible just as the field rolled onto the track. Austin started Sunday’s race third because his best lap was aborted due to the red flag. He had a great start and was second on the first lap right behind the leader. The leader was a visiting racer and wasn’t involved in the points or officially in the race scoring, so Austin was essentially first. Austin and the leader traded best laps over the first five laps and had built up a lead of almost 10 seconds to the back behind Austin, which included the championship leader. With Austin’s engine temps continuing to rise, we radioed Austin to back off the leader and try and get more air and water through the radiators. As we passed the halfway mark, Austin’s championship rival who was watching his championship disappear from his grasp, made an uncharacteristic mistake trying to gain a position and brushed his car against the outside wall in turn one, ending his race. All Austin had to do was to bring the car home to win the race and the championship. The big question was: would the rad cap hold for another 20 minutes? We didn’t think it would make it to the start of the race, never mind the halfway mark; my heart was in my throat. When the last lap flag appeared and Austin disappeared into the mist exiting turn 1, I turned and stared at the exit of turn 8, waiting for Austin to reappear. The relief was overwhelming as that is exactly what happened! He crossed the line a few seconds later and claimed his second consecutive Radical Canada Cup championship. What an unbelievable season!
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.