July 24, 2011
Memorial a life-changer for local racer
By CRASH CAMERON, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - It started as a memorial to his brother.
The last thing Mark Schwabenbauer expected was that it could have led to his own.
The west-ender now living in Morinville is a long-time member of the Northern Alberta Sports Car Club, but racing at last year's Indy event in July was something special. A few months earlier the 42-year-old had a heart attack.
"My brother passed away from cancer in 2004. My younger brother Michael, who started as an instructor at NAIT, decided to have an Andre Schwabenbauer Memorial hockey tournament in March, the weekend of Andre's birthday," Mark said of an instructors-vs.-students game.
"I was standing in front of the net and a puck came in and hit me on the wrist, right where the main artery (to your heart) is. A month later I had a mild heart attack from the blood clot that went to my heart.
"I took it easy and did what the doctors told me to do and managed to pass my physical and came back in July to race in the Indy here last year."
And got one of those kick-in-the-ass wakeup calls males in their 40s need.
"I haven't looked back! Quit smoking, mild drinking now. And, yeah, it's a lot better on my health. And easier on my wife, too!"
There is one other thing he gave up: ice-racing with his NASCC friends.
Now it's summertime only.
"This costs a little more. You use up a lot more tires."
And there's no soft snowbanks to cuddle into. Walls tend to be harder on metal.
But it's all about the passion for these racers. It's not about fame and fortune and autograph sessions. And it's pay-to-play.
"It's tough for a guy, when he's got a family and stuff. It costs you $1,500 a weekend to go to Calgary (for a road course) and that's just to race. Then you've got your tires and your fuel, your travelling, food and all that.
"But it's nice to race with the guys from Calgary. You get to know them, know how they race. Everyone gives each other room. It's not super, super competitive. Everybody wants to finish this race."
Schwabenbauer has his No. 20 orange-and-white VW Sirocco in the GT4 class.
"It's very interesting when you get the GT1 cars that are 800 horsepower coming up on a car with 200 horsepower. It rattles the whole car. The whole thing moves! Really, really cool."
He says all the sports car drivers are hyped on the new track layout.
"We're doing almost two-minute lap times compared to about a minute-15 before. Huge difference in horsepower. You need the horsepower. And the braking is so-o-o important on this track. You can go as fast as you want but if you aren't slowing down your day can be ending very quickly.
"The backstretch after Corner 1, if you hit it right, you can go full-out all the way. It looks like it's tricky, but you can go full-out. It's very exhilarating."