For as long as he can remember, Gabriel Schwemler has always wanted to race and this summer his dream came true.
At the ripe old age of 14, Schwemler, a Grade 9 student at Quesnel junior school, took the wheel in a 1990 Ford Mustang and showed the older drivers he knew what he was doing.
The Mustang, made road worthy by the student mechanics at Correlieu senior secondary, was a gift Schwemler received for his 14th birthday in early July.
Like most kids, Schwemler wasted little time trying out his new car as he headed out with his father, Raymond, to the Cariboo race track to try out the car that afternoon.
With dad whooping and hollering from pit row, Gabriel started off slowly and gradually built up his speed, topping out at about 50 mph.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Gabriel said were his first thoughts as he drove around the 3/8 mile oval.
“I’ve always wanted to race.”
Gabriel, a NASCAR fan, especially Dale Ernhardt Jr., remembers tagging along with his dad, a veteran of the Crash to Pass races.
“That’s when I got the bug,” Gabriel said.
Just over a week after his birthday, Gabriel made his first start in a mini-stock car race during Billy Barker Days.
As the youngest driver on the track, Gabriel said he had a lot of things on his mind as he sat in the starting grid.
“I wanted to get a good start and have fun,” he said.
But once the race started, Gabriel’s attention turned to the business of driving, hoping to not make any mistakes and holding his line.
In the four-lap dash, Gabriel finished third out of four drivers.
Later in the day, Gabriel finished 11th out of 12 in the 10-lap heat and 11th again in the 20-lap main race.
Although he was focused on not making any mistakes, Gabriel did spin out once when the track was slicked with rain. Other than that he said he wasn’t afraid, just a little nervous.
Although he finished at the back of the pack, the other drivers commended Gabriel for holding his line, for not dipping from one side of the track to the other, which made racing much easier for the other drivers because they knew they could count on him to not suddenly veer off course and cut them off.
With a set of races under his belt, Gabriel then hit the Cariboo Raceway for more races in September.
In the dash Gabriel collected his first-ever first-place finish, beating out four other drivers to the finish line.
“I was really happy when I finished first,” he said.
Gabriel finished the weekend with a third place finish in the heat and a sixth place finish in the main event, two spots behind his father who finished fourth.
“I tried to catch my dad in the main event, but I spun out,” Gabriel said sheepishly.
“I wasn’t focused on the race, I was focused on catching my dad.”
For Raymond, racing against his son was an experience filled with mixed emotions.
“I was more nervous than he was,” Raymond said.
“But I knew he could do it, it’s a hoot.”
Gabriel did get to have his cake and eat it too the next day when he finished first and ahead of his dad in the B dash.
All in all, Gabriel said he was pleased with his first experiences as a race car driver and admitted racing was not an easy thing to do, especially straightening the car out when he was slipping sideways in a corner because he hit the throttle too early.
The experience has also convinced Gabriel that when he turns 16 he wants to try racing bigger stock cars in the hobby stock category and race on longer tracks where he can go faster.
“It’s more fun than I thought it would be,” Gabriel said.
“I like to go fast.”