It didn’t take much to convince North Vancouver’s Richard Granholm to buy a top-of-the-line racecar.
Lured to Mission Raceway a couple of years ago by a skiing buddy who was heavily involved in the car racing scene, Granholm loved what he saw at the track and loved it even more when he got to sit inside one of the open-wheeled race cars.
“I said, ‘yeah, I’m going to buy one of these,’” he recalls with a laugh. “I didn’t even drive anywhere. . . . I knew I had to have one.”
The cars, of course, are pricey, but luckily for Granholm he was able to hook up with a willing and able sponsor — Battery World located on Boundary Road in Vancouver. It’s a store that sells batteries and it also happens to be owned by one Richard Granholm. Ready to plaster his store’s logo on a car and hit the track, Granholm ordered a Firmann F1000 made by England’s Ralph Firmann, a highly regarded automaker.
“I went and bought the best car money can buy,” says Granholm of his 850-pound racer that can push past 250 kilometres per hour with its Suzuki GSX-R1000 motorcycle engine. The car arrived and, with the help of Glenn Nixon of Nixon Prosports, was tuned up for the track.
Granholm admits it’s hard to total up just how much he spent getting the car ready to race.
“It’s difficult to put a price on it because you buy a car for like $70,000 and then you add the geartronic system and then you modify the wings and you make lots and lots of modifications. You custom-make the seat to fit your body. It adds up.”
But when it arrived he knew he made the right decision.
“It’s quite a beautiful car to drive,” he says, adding that it’s now basically the fastest car out there on the Mission track. But having a fast car is one thing, racing a fast car is altogether different. Granholm’s first race came in the Sports Car Club of British Columbia’s novice division at the beginning of the 2012 season.
“It was so cool,” he says. “I was scared, because it’s very easy to get in trouble with my car because of the power. . . . I took it very easy, I started at the very back of the pack and I said to myself I won’t pass any cars for a full lap. I understand that there always can be trouble in the first corner. I followed everybody for one lap and then I started passing. I think I ended up about sixth out of 22 cars.”
From there he pushed the pace a little bit each time out. When he hit the track for the opening race this season he was off of the novice circuit and into the big leagues. His lap times dropped from one minute 15 seconds to about 1:06 as the car reached a top speed of 207 kilometres per hour down the raceway’s straightaway.
“I’ve had the fastest time out there on the track of any car in any class all year,” he says. The wins and points started piling up too.
“I wouldn’t say that I’m the best driver but I’m definitely becoming a very good driver,” he says. “I’m not taking too many risks, I have finished every race that I’ve entered in two years and so has the car, which really says something.”
It hasn’t all been easy though. A couple of weeks ago during the Labour Daze races Granholm nearly put his beautiful baby into the wall.
“We did something to the car’s setup and it caused the car to push and not turn properly under full power,” he says. “I let off the gas fully in order to get the car to grip and we were one inch from the wall as we went by it at 100 miles per hour.”
What was he thinking at that moment?
“Uhhhmmm, not much time to think,” he says with a chuckle. “We made it, we cleared the wall and then back on the gas. . . . You forget about it and just make sure you make the turn better next time.”
This weekend the Sports Car Club is holding its final two races of the season and Granholm comes into them in first place in both the Open Wheel category as well as the Formula Libre category, a free-for-all designation used for all open wheel cars that don’t fit into other more restrictive classes such as Formula V or Formula Fords.
Granholm reckons he’s got the Formula Libre championship wrapped up but he will be pushed by Formula V racer Paul Higgins for the Open Wheel club championship crown. The track opens at 7 a.m. Sept. 14 and 15 with practices and qualifying in the mornings followed by racing starting at 1:40 p.m. on Saturday and 1:15 p.m. Sunday. Granholm’s open wheel races are scheduled for 2:35 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
No matter what happens, the 56-year-old battery salesman turned speed demon knows that he’ll be back next year ready for more racing.
“I’m fully into it now, I’m hooked,” he says. “At the track we’re all buddies. . . . It’s just great camaraderie. I’m one of the guys now.”
Spectators are welcome at the races and there are plenty of opportunities for folks to catch the racing bug themselves, says Granholm.
“Everybody is always welcome to walk through the pits and ask questions of the drivers,” he says. “I love getting kids and putting them in the cockpit.”
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