Nicholas Belling has made his mark on the Mission Raceway record book.
In control of his open-wheel Ralph Firman-designed Formula 1000 race car during the weekend of Oct. 6-7, the 31-year-old Langley resident set the official overall track speed record at Mission Raceway’s road course track.
Belling had his sights set to exceed every other driver and race car class track speed record in the history of the Mission Raceway road course circuit. His dream was secured when he surpassed every official track speed record since 1993, when the track was first driven/operated.
Supported by his pit crew consisting of his dad and mom, Mark and Heidi, Belling made history with an official lap time of 1.0428 minutes. The record was set on a road course of 2.2 kilometres, which encompassed a tight nine-turn track.
“We have technology on the car that reads time off on the dash,” Belling said. “When I first saw the number I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a mistake. I waited on the radio until I heard from my crew to confirm it. When it was announced it was done, then it became a reality.”
Conditions during the day were warm and sunny – in other words not exactly ideal for a fast time.
“Believe it or not, the best kind of conditions for setting records are typically overcast, where the track is a little bit cooler,” he said. “The tires won’t overheat. If the track is too hot, the tires get greasy and hot.”
Belling said the planets had to align perfectly in order for him to set the record.
“I did not know that it was going to be possible to go that fast,” he said. “Everything just sort of lined up.”
A driver is pushing his car’s tires to 110 per cent of its capability, says Belling, so it’s always at the threshold of being able to achieve maximum traction.
For the record setting lap, the drive felt very smooth.
“Everything felt so connected and when I saw my digital dash with my time, I almost didn’t believe it because it felt so easy, because I was one with the car. It’s like an out of body experience when everything connects.”
Belling credits genes for his affinity for speed.
His grandfather drove race cars at the Monte Carlo race circuit in Europe, Belling said.
“But in reality it is a disciplined approach to becoming one with the car through careful balancing of all the cars components and handling characteristics,” he said. “They say in the race world that the major distinction between a high performance car and the others is in how the car is set up.”
When it comes to car set up, Belling said he’s “pretty focused.”
“Through my entire race career I have been striving to shave milliseconds off every road course I have ever driven,” he said.
Belling’s passion for racing started at a young age. Like many teenagers, he began modifying and upgrading the performance of his daily ride. He converetd a 1993 Nissan 300zx into a 550hp competition race prepped car with a custom engine being built from, Belling said, “one the world’s most renowned motorsport engine builders in the industry.”
“I took my street car up and down the west coast, to about 15 events a year,” Belling said. “That’s where I developed a realization that race car driving was the path for me.”
Belling then invited his dad Mark to join him in national race competitions in his street modified race car back in 1999.
After a stint of training at the Bondurant race school in Phoenix, AZ, with his dad, Belling quickly determined that formula car racing was his next challenge.
He founded a race team (www.firmanwestcars.com) to compete throughout the western United States and Canada.
This was first to compete in the formula continental open wheel racing class, but to then compete later in the Formula 1000 Pro Series. Belling estimates having run over 100 races throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Belling noted that the Canadian government has initiatives to help fund technological advancements linked to “uncertainties of outcome” in the racing world.
He says he has embraced many new technologies with “the notion of pushing boundaries to create more certain outcomes through a systematic process of research and development.”
Belling lamented that in his pursuit of technology advancements, he has blown up numerous engines.
“As a driver, I think of the car as an extension of my body, melding technology with mind” he said.
Promoting open wheel racing is Belling’s business. He owns and operates Firman West Cars, based out of Langley, and operating primarily through the Western United States.
His team supports customers new into the racing and veterans running open wheel formula 1,000 cars throughout North America.
“I really am competing with myself, looking to find the threshold within myself and through technology,” Belling remarked.
“It’s a pretty exciting dynamic,” he added. “And the bonus, I get to see my family participate in a sport I love and I am able to introduce new aspiring drivers and team members to the world of motorsports, a world I have come to embrace with all of my being.”
As for the record in Mission, Belling is thrilled.
“We broke history and that’s the biggest thing,” Belling said. “To break history in any world of competition [is great], especially motorsports, which is the No. 1 most intense and harshest, most demanding [sport] for a human being.”