Tuesday, November 6, 2007

LSPR - Reunion tour re-started

So being at a rally with ALL the drivers you rode with in a season is a little like being at a cocktail party with all your ex-wives. But all my ex-wives are pretty good people and so are Justin and Chris. This weekend I was in the right seat for Dennis Martin.

Now Dennis has a......reputation......and not undeserved, of wrecking cars. The last BIG off he had was in the '05 LSPR with Alan Perry running 3rd on the road when he REALLY regretted the used tires he was on...but that's a whole 'nuther story as they say.

I called Justin in late September and inquired about his LSPR plans and he said he had none. So we agreed that I was a free man to co-drive for Dennis and Bill Westrick said he would sit in with Justin, so it seemed like everybody was covered.

Dennis and I had tried this reunion at Ojibwe in August only to suffer the 10 year old car syndrome. But it was the "nice" kind of dnf!

Dennis has an honest good speed factor, so we started in 7th position out of 69 cars...we would be delighted to finish there. As a matter of fact we would take anything in the top ten. So after pooching up the new Super Special in Houghton we headed off for Herman Truck Trail. Not one of Dennis's best efforts, but we survived. See the video...pay particular attention about 3:06 into this video!!!

Pat Moro found this puddle a few cars later and completely ended his bid for the PGT Championship.Photo by Art Partyka!!

This was not either of our best events. Dennis was rusty and the Hankooks he had on didn't seem to be able to hook up with the new additional 35 hp he'd found at the wheels. To be fair these were the "old" soft compound (70's) and most were on the new "71's", but it was very difficult to keep the car in straight line.

However we look at our "rustiness", we had a couple of top 4 stage times and most fell in the top 8 and finished a very respectable 8th overall in a very competitive field.

But what else went on you ask?

Let's take my drivers by the numbers. The last guy I drove for didn't have too stellar an event.

Chris Duplessis has now "joined the club!". Martin was still grinning with a lap full of windshield!

And then there was my OTHER driver. Justin and Bill ended Brockway rather abruptly. Bill's GPS said they went from something like 60 to 0 in 1/10 of a second. Both were hauled away for observation, but seemed mostly unscathed. A testimony to HANS devices for sure. So it seems I need to go to a casino and gamble. I sure picked the right one for LSPR!

Another season wraps up. I took points in PGT, Gr2 and Open, so suspect I can be officially termed a rally ho. I ran with three great drivers and am certainly open for negotiation for the 2008 season (R-A, NASA, and maybe even CARS!!!)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

2007 Rally America Group 2 Champion Crowned!

Well…officially he’ll get his hardware in a month after LSPR, I suppose.

Thanks Art Partyka for the above photo which explains a lot about the camber adjuster being out of whack on the right front strut when we pulled into Hayden!

Chris Duplessis has run just 5 events this season in his Duplessis Racing (ne: Pooh Corner Farm Racing) Group 2 VW Golf. He just won all five of them. From time to time he got pushed by the likes of Michel Hoche-Mong….and this weekend a little by Jimmy Keeney, but for the most part everyone was eating his dust….even on wet courses. And while the championship is decided on one’s best 7 out of the 9 national events on the Rally America tour, Chris’s 110 points in 5 events is mathematically unbeatable…..so it’s over.

Martin Headland (Chris's normal, if there is such a thing for co-drivers) co-driver had another commitment this weekend and asked if I was available....seems none of my regular (if there is such a thing for drivers) drivers was interested in the long tow, so I was. After some hasty negotiations with Team O'Neil Driving School and GoFast Energy Drink, they had (barely) the funds to haul the mighty Golf to Steamboat Springs....so we were on!

Now let me tell you how it is to ride with this VW wunderkind. First, the car is significantly lighter than most of the cars I’ve had the privilege of co-driving in. That makes it nimble and easy to change direction and yaw. Most PGT and Open cars are all wheel drive and require some fancy gyrations to get around differently configured corners. This VW (at least this one driven by this driver) seemed to change direction as if it was reading my mind (I’m the co-driver….the guy who knows what’s going to happen around that next corner!) and I’m not even the guy with the steering wheel….or more importantly the brake pedal. You see, Chris is a protégé of Tim O’Neil, Left Foot Braking King of the World….and actually trains for Tim at the Driving School. The only car I’ve gone deeper and harder into any corner in was Justin Pritchard’s ’66 Austin Mini. Now THERE’s a light car. But in the right hands cars this light seem to defy physics.

I had people approaching me (noticing the semi-permanent grin on my face) suggesting that they KNEW why I was grinning. They had seen us at this corner or that corner and our approach speeds, time-in-transition, and even sometimes exit speeds seemed to be better than a lot of the big dogs at the front of the pack. The list of reasons we didn’t win this rally overall is actually quite short. Horsepower: this car develops maybe 115 at the wheels….at sea level….we were between 7,000 and 8,500 feet…stock engines gasp at those altitudes. Tires: Sunday, we could have used bigger chunks out of the Michelins. We took everybody’s advice about cutting the tires, and these were the team’s last four, so hacking them up beyond future use was not wise. He’ll probably run LSPR on this set. Talent would not be one of the reasons.

That’s the other thing I enjoy about this team. They are pure grass roots rally. Chris is the next Matthew Johnson, or for that matter John Buffum….rally gods who scraped together whatever was needed and built their own cars….towed 1000’s of miles, raced, won, towed 1000’s of miles back. In a parking lot full of huge trailers, and box trucks full of entire spare cars and blue shirted mechanics, Chris’s brother Forest sits….waiting to spring into action….which, was, and pretty much has been all season, boringly unnecessary.

FLASH! Hey Subaru! Hey Mitsubishi (well maybe not Mitsubishi)! Hey Volkswagen! You want team driver that’ll bring back the car in one piece AND win! He’s re-writing the book that for so many years has dictated that one simply HAS to go over the edge a few times costing multiple shells and untold paint jobs. I think Chris doesn’t believe that.

Now on to some other stuff that happened this past weekend at Rally Colorado. First, congrats to Matthew and Jeremy for finally cashing another Subaru check. Like Chris, Matthew simply blew away the competition. Stephan Verdier and MJ were having a good go at it, with Pat Moro in the shadows and the Conley’s in Pat’s shadow….when the ol’ WRX “Y” pipe issue started popping again…literally. I think Stephan lost 2 and Moro 1. These could have cost Verdier his win…not sure…don’t have the scores in front of me. But this little glitch first reared its ugly head at STPR. Subaru must have changed it’s supplier of these things, because they’ve become the next ‘fuseable link” in WRX PGT cars when the temperature’s over 80. Although trannies seem to be the other one that ruins everybody’s day. Johnson had to change his out after the press stage.

As it stands, the PGT championship will come down to LSPR…..Verdier can be the spoiler, but MJ has to win and Pat can’t be any lower than second for Pat to hold the lead. A lot more exciting than last year.

Oh yeah…there’s still a good fight among the money teams….SRT-USA got zapped with an unspecified “unsportsmanlike” penalty of five points for each of their team drivers. I heard through the vine-o-grapes that this infraction actually occurred at Ojibwe, but can’t confirm…so we’ll leave it at rumor status. Anyway, that neatly tightens things up among the top 4 for a super showdown at LSPR….stay tuned!

OK….driving back on boring I-70 in Eastern Colorado….I’ll think of more for another post when the weekend all settles in

Over and out from the current president (there’ll be lots more) of the Christopher (Robin?) Duplessis Fan Club.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Even a BIGGER Age Differential!!!

Pooh Corner Farm and Pooh are getting together!

Duplessis Motorsports headquartered at Pooh Corner Farm in Mason Twp, Maine is teaming up with Pooh (moi!) from 100 Acre Wood fame to compete at Rally Colorado September 22nd and 23rd in Steamboat Springs, CO. That's really the 100 Acre Wood.....at an other rally!

Please no honey jars stuck on our noses!

Chris Duplessis, age about 12 (it's ALL relative!) is driving the G2 Golf and currently leading the Rally America Group 2 standings. He's also tied for second in the 2WD with the fire breathing Dodge SRT-4 Gr5 car of Cary Kendall just 5 points behind the highly supported Ford Focus of Kyle Sarasin and Mikael Johanssen.

Chris is an instructor at Tim O'Neils Driving School in New Hampshire, and so has the ability to....practice....a lot.

Martin Headland, Chris's normal co-driver (if there is such a thing as "normal" for this profession) has a conflict this weekend and asked me to sit with Chris and keep him focused.

So far this season I have co-driven for Justin Pritchard at 4 events, the last one (Rally West Virginia) being highly successful, and Dennis Martin (see the post below).

This ride with Chris is really exciting as it appears he can mathematically wrap up the Gr2 championship here. It was here last year that Matthew Johnson and I technically wrapped up the PGT championship, but we didn't know if the Foust/Crouch car would make LSPR or not. It didn't. I really want to be a part of that in this young future champion's career.

More from Steamboat!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Reunion Tour

Possibly the fastest guy I ever co-drove for is Dennis Martin. At his peak about 2 years ago, he was a consistent top 5 finisher in an aging Mitsubishi Evo4. Unlike Matthew Johnson who is fearless and occasionally reckless, Dennis is reckless and occasionally fearless. He worries about what might happen as opposed to what IS happening. Hence, our record through the 2003 and 2004 seasons was top 5 or so finishes or crash. We pretty much supported stock in whoever makes bondo!

So when Justin opted out of Ojibwe this year for a race date at Mosport, Dennis and I hooked up to see if we still could do this.

Dennis has found (or they found him) some really gung-ho guys in Green Bay....Jim, Curt, Colin and Mark who have decided the Evo is a worthy project and brought it a long way back from it's last....less-than-successful outing, the infamous roll at LSPR in 2004 (with Alan Perry on the right side....I was tied up with the curse of work on rally weekend....won't let THAT happen again).

The car looks great (Sophia Loren still looks great too....surgery is mahvelous). And now it even sounded great, went great, and handled great....hmmmmmm. This might work.

All that was to be decided was whether or not Dennis and I could still communicate well at 100 mph on a one lane gravel road.

We took the car out on a "shake-down" stage Thursday afternoon...only made one run (low on fuel and none to be had until Friday). Notes worked...car worked....Dennis was quick....this was looking pretty good.

Due to Dennis's great finish on LSPR with Alex Kihurani last October, he has a terrific speed factor which got us 6th out of 47 cars on the road....right between Matthew Johnson and Stephan Verdier....two gritty PGT competitors trying to knock off Pat Moro from the current throne of PGT. Moro, who recently invested all of his spare capital competing at X Games, was sitting this one out....not time to get the car back into PGT shape after making legal modifications to it for X Games.

Well, readers, that's about where the good news ends and the bad news begins.

Less than a mile into the first real stage Friday afternoon, the snazzy nomex suit of Jeremy Wimpey came running up the road waving a triangle and an OK sign....MJ had executed a snap roll on the third serious turn of the whole rally and buried the Hankook-mobile off in a ditch with lots of bruises (to the car, not them). He was out....already. That left Verdier as the only other serious PGT contender left to cruise through the event to his 22 points and $2500 Subaru contingency money. No sweat!

Meanwhile, Dennis and I pull up to the start of the next stage....we'd been here several years before as unwilling spectators watching cars start while ours was on a trailer after yet another DNF. Now it was our turn to go have some fun!

As a team, we were clicking pretty well. I was about 9.5 out of 10 on the notes and Dennis was pretty close to that driving...although he clearly wasn't taking any chances.....and we were still turning top 7-8 times on these stages. There would always be tomorrow to turn up the wick if we felt there was a reason to.

About half way through this stage, Dennis noticed the car sputtering occasionally...then more frequently...then eventually stopping. Our day was over. Dennis spent a good 20-25 minutes with the tools he had on board trying to find the source of the problem, but to no avail. We got towed out, loaded up on our trailer and went back to the motel to try to find out what the issue was, and re-enter the Regional event the next morning.

It took about an hour to track down the culprit. A braided fuel line hose on the vacuum side of the fuel cell was "collapsing". Braided hose is only braided on the outside to keep fatiguing neoprene from bursting under pressure.....but there isn't any on the inside to keep it from collapsing under vacuum. That's what this did, in essence choking off the fuel supply. When we by-passed this hose the car ran great. By 9:00AM the next morning the car was purring and chipper and ready to go again, so Dennis plunked down $100 and we entered the Regional event just to have fun and get some seat time.

The first stage ran fine....well, fuel flow-wise anyway. The radiator cap came ajar and so for several miles we had steam billowing out from under the hood and used the windshield wipers frequently to scrape off ethylene glycol from the windshield. It certainly compromised our time, but still we were in the top 10. Dennis took quick stock of the problem, borrowed some water from the intercooler spray reservoir, and we set off to catch up with our spot in line.

The next stage was a long one....13+miles and we were looking forward to finally letting the ol' girl run. Ah, the vagaries of rally! About half way into this one the fuel issue popped up again. We muscled on to the finish, but the car was definitely protesting it's lack of fuel. We had a 3 miler and a 9 miler to go and then we'd be in service and we could dive more into the problem.

2 miles into the 3 miler...she just gave up the ghost. We'd get about 100-200 yards of go fast out of her and she'd crap out again. We pulled off for a good 10 minutes while Dennis did everything in his power including change a fuel pump (which actually worked for a bit). We set off again trying to reach the end of this short stage, but our speed ability was endangering everyone, so we pulled off at a bannered trail and WAY off the road so as not to be noticed by competing cars. I got on the radio and declared ourselves to the radio net as OK, but out of the rally. Sweep came by and got us....AGAIN and towed us out to our waiting crew...where we kicked back and called it a weekend.

We mapped our way back around to a marshal position and watched everybody come through a tricky set of turns, and the field looked pretty much in tact through this second to last stage.

But boy did things change after that! The last stage was 24 miles long...at dusk....in the dust....and it took it's toll!

First, Stephan Verdier who only had to coast to victory somehow found himself nosed into a lake. Then Tanner Foust...solidly in second place overall and challenging for the lead found ANOTHER OJIBWE ROCK (he had found one the size of a doghouse last year to lose the PGT and the podium finish to Matthew Johnson and I) which knocked him from second to 14th and out of contention.

Piotr Wiktorczyk who had arrived in a new old 2006 ex 2002 PGT Subaru WRX was found not to be in PGT compliance, and so was penalized 3 places in class (thus removing him from any contingency money) leaving Heath Nunnemacher and his mom Heidi as the PGT winners! The real winner in PGT, of course, is Pat Moro who stayed home in Ohio and who's only real competition both dnf'd for the weekend. So Moro closes in on the championship having not won a single event.

Next stop Rally Colorado (formerly "Cog") in Steamboat Springs....but I bet I'll have some more words for the CoDriver Blog before then,

Thursday, August 9, 2007


we learned some more about "cutting"!

We had a good weekend....no, let me correct that. We had a GREAT weekend!

While the rest of the Rally World was either in or focusing on Los Angeles for the X Games, Justin and I took the opportunity to run NASA's Rally West Virginia.....What a jewel of a rally!!!!! For only it's second year, this is an event not to be missed if for nothing else than the FUN FACTOR!

Justin spend a lot of time (and money) getting underneath the car and sorting out suspension issues and steering issues we identified at STPR. The car just FELT better driving around town. Didn't even squeak or creak anymore! We would compete in NASA's Showroom Stock Class. That's there designation of Rally-America's PGT class.

We came here for practice. With our problems at Oregon and STPR, we just simply haven't worked out the driver-co-driver stuff....not enough miles! So Justin called me and asked if i'd want to do Rally West Virginia. It's close, cheap, and we'd heard the roads were great. So that's what we did!

There were lots of buddies there...first, the class act of this event, Seamus Burke, but Matt Johnson's '07 co-driver, Jeremy Wimpey was there co-driving for his brother, Josh. Kyle Sarasin and Mikael Johannson were there like us...for practice. Loads of Irish in loads of Evos. This was going to be fun!

We just didn't know how much fun! Being in "practice" mode, I was not even aware that we were in second place OVERALL by the end of the first afternoon. We'd run about 30 stage miles. And these were great miles for us. Repeated stages. That's really good for practice, because you actually get to go out and FIX things you didn't do right the first time. Friday gave us one rough/tight stage and one fast/open stage...we did them each 3 times, one way or the other...actually we got delayed and canceled the last one...but nobody cared. We were feeling good about the outing, but had no idea how well we were doing.

The next morning's confusion didn't help any. Somehow the scoring crew couldn't get it all sorted out by the restart time Saturday, so we STILL didn't realize our position. After all, we're just here for practice, right? So they restarted us in the same start order we had Saturday. We were 8th on the road out of 39 cars. No problems.

Saturday started off with two stages we did three times in the same direction...again....great practice. Somewhere in here, unbeknownst to us, Seamus had his gearbox stick in 2nd gear...and lost 6 1/2 minutes. Not until Eddie Fries showed me his score page did I realize....WE WERE WINNING THE FREAKIN' RALLY!!!!! OMG! Now the Co-Driver dilemma. Here's the situation:

We're leading the rally by 1:05. There are 5 stages left. Seamus is taking 10-15 seconds off our times on each stage (Seamus has a REAL CAR...Evo9 300+HP, diffs, suspension, 6 speeds,). So it certainly appears Seamus will catch us and pass us before the rally ends. If i tell Justin there's the possibility he pushes it and that's not what we're here for. So I don't.

Then we spent 45 minutes waiting for this next stage to start and finally...it was cancelled. Now Burke only had 5 stages to catch us...hmmmmmm! And then before they let us transit this stage, they announced the final stage of the day would be canceled due to the time lost here. Now Burke/Fries only had 4 stages to catch us! Eddie was continuously recalculating how many seconds per mile they were going to have to take off us....and the number ket going up!!!!

I opted not to mention all this to Justin and see how Burke/Fries did on the next section of two stages. They took 38 seconds off us on the next stage, and 17 on the next. It appeared this was not going to be a problem for Seamus. With two stages to go and only 10 seconds separating us I finally apprised Justin of the situation. He had some idea we were close, but had no knowledge of Burkes 6 1/2 minute problem...he ultimately agreed with my decision not to make this part of our program for Saturday.

Ulimately Burke beat us by 45 seconds....we could never have held him off, but it WAS possible his transmission problems could re-surface. They didn't.

So we won Showroom Stock, and took second overall!

It was tough for us not having our usual measuring sticks there, Johnson, Verdier, Moro, but keeping Burke in sight and staying ahead of Charlie Sherill (another Evo) was just what the doctor ordered for the Pritchard/DeMotte team.

Justin drove a terrific "practice session". He didn't put a wheel off (accidentally anyway!) all weekend. He was truly committed over most of the 5's and 6's, and took jumps and crests flat out. If you've ever done anything when you were just "in the zone", you know how we felt this past weekend.

Justin's off for a race at Mosport on the Ojibwe weekend, so I'll be doing a reunion tour with Dennis Martin in his Evo....more to follow!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Wellsboro, was not so well.

After a hectic five week rehab of the car (read below about the exploits at Oregon Trail), we all convened on Wellsboro, PA for like the gazillionth running of STPR.

I drove over with Mike Houser of 100AW Map Guy fame, and Justin drove in with his Dad and Paul Devco. Eric Fraser and Rob Jozwiak came down from Windsor ON (eh?) to help out on crew.

We had secured the "Farmhouse" at Ski Sawmill about 18 miles south of Wellsboro as the PGT compound. Us, Matthew Johnson, Pat Moro and Travis Hanson all had crews staying there and it was an absolute brain trust of PGTers...most importantly Subaru WRX PGTers. I think at one point we had 28 people sleeping around the house. (There are 34 beds, so it's not like people were sleeping on the kitchen drainboard or anything).

Justin was suffering from some plague and sounded awful, felt awful, but soldiered on. The car seemed to run OK and drove down the road straight, and after Oregon, that's about all we could hope for.

Friday opened up to paperwork...registration, scrutineering (Justin's fog allowed him to leave the log book and insurance papers at home....that should have told him something). I brought a new Peltor Amp (the old one shot craps again at Oregon), so we would at least be able to talk to each other. We went out to run the shakedown stage.

We agreed to run through at 7/10 and just start to regain the "rhythm" of the car on gravel. We were doing exactly that (slow and smooth) when right before the end of the 3.4 mile practice stage the engine just quit. No warning, no sputtering....just stopped. Since the Finish was on an uphill, there was no getting the car to the end. Hansons came by and towed us around and back into the service....where it was nmow beginning to pour rain.

Par Moro had suffered a split "Y-Pipe" in the turbo intercooler system earlier and replaced it only to have the new one split. Lo and behold that's what happened to us. Callnig every Subaru dealer within 100 miles from within Pat's box truck yielded NO Y-Pipes. Back to the Farmhouse.

Before the night was over, Moro and Pritchard had fashioned repaired Y-pipes using threaded iron pipe, radiator hose and clamps....lots of clamps...no kiddin'. Reminded me of McGiver!

I'll send you over to Justin's Blog for the gory details....but suffice it to say...we were slow, tentative, getting better and then the gremlin hit...or maybe it was just a sleeping gremlin from Oregon. Seems the right front control arm broke...and it probably started in Oregon, but it became evident on Stage 6 where Justin was spinning the wheel wildly to get the wheels to turn. We felt insecure enough about this situation (imagine the steering falling apart at 90 in a tight left-hander).

So if we scrape together enough rubles we'll take a shot at Maine. We saved a lot of money staying at the Farmhouse, and we DIDN'T significantly break the car, so we'll see. This car is frustrating...but then and Ex-Verdier, Ex-Langbein car simply coulnd't be expected to be of showroom quality. And now WE'VE put our stamp (literally) of approval on her!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Well, THAT should explain the weekend!

This event and I have a thing going. In '04 Dennis Martin and I rolled off the mountainside. In '06, Matthew Johnson and I won PGT and finished 5th overall....and this year? Well, read on.

It was a character building weekend. The intrepid George Beckerman (another vintage rallyist....not the cars...the rallyist!) stopped by my home on Sunday before the event to pick up my "stuff" and head to Hillsboro, OR (a suburb of Portland) where this year's edition of the Oregon Trail Performance Rally was to be held. He arrived Wednesday night and checked in to our hotel and everything was just going swimmingly. Curt Faigle from the 100AW committee and I jumped on our Southwest Airlines flight the next morning and got into PDX right on schedule Thursday afternoon. Justin got to his hotel at the airport (because it was right down near where registration and tech were going to be the next morning) about midnight. All was in place.

Friday morning we went through scrutineering and got all our other paperwork taken care of and headed out to Portland International Raceway where the organizers run some short "public relations" stages from 3:00 to 9:00 or so. It was fun, but not real rallying.

And that's where the problems began...let me start the list!

1. Our super-duper Peltor Communications system failed. Would not work. Period. We borrowed a portable version from ACP's co-driver, Marc Goldfarb for the duration of the event.

2. We had to run the PIR racetrack on worn out gravel tires, 'cuz it didn't make much sense to buy $1000 worth of tires for 2 miles of racing....but just about everybody else had some from somewhere. Even at that, Justin's track experience kept us in the hunt losing only about 6 seconds on those stages.

3. L3+ rocks outside. We got past that, but in the next R3, we clipped a rock and tore a lot of the right rear off the car. Body work, bumper cover and bent the rear control arm. Which meant we had to limp around to the FTC and get a bad time....AND....figure out a way to fix it in 35 minutes before we ran two more stages. Thanks to the team of Mennig and Schnell (local rallyists with big hearts and GREAT air tools, and Jonathon Bottoms who had the parts, we got it all patched up for the last two stages....which actually went very well. At least something went well!

4. By the second stage on Saturday we had jumped a little hard into a ditch on the left coming out of a right hander and caused something in the transmission to make it take away 2nd gear. Now THAT's annoying. We cam into service at the Vernonia School where George (the aforementioned George) and Lew Bailen (my old friend from the 100AW committee who'd moved to the PNW to be nears his daughters and thier families) were awaiting an easy service. Mostly all we could do was change the tranny fluid and hope.

5. Driving compromised by the missing 2nd gear, we drove quite well on several more stages until 3rd gear disappeared....than shortly 4th gear. We drove most of a 17 mile stage on 1st and 5th gear alone! UGLY! Cost us about 8 minutes we guess. We had a spare transmission, but no skills to get it swapped......hmmmm

6. Upon exiting that last stage and facing a 30 miles transit back to Hillsboro, we were fairly sure the 5th gear would take us that far. WRONG! We hardly got out of the FTC before the car pretty well just refused to travel any further. The 00 car of Bruce Davis and Jimmy Brandt agreed to two us back to Hillsboro (allowed) so we could check into the last control of the day and get to work on the car. 50mph up US26 and something shifts in the transmission and all the wheels on the Subie lock up for a few feet.....then let go. We decide to put the car on the trailer (George is by now following us back to Hillsboro). I get into text messaging with Matthew (Johnson, PGT God and knower of everything Subaru/PGT) and ask if he and his crew would like a little practice on a tranny Saturday night. True to Matthews unbridled enthusiasm he texted me back "bring it on!".

7. Thinking we're "just" swapping a tranny, we pulled into the Holiday Inn Express garage (which looked like a full rally prep shop.....4 cars on jackstands, rock/rap music rupturing the concrete and a dozen guys buzzing around Matthew's car (trans went on that one too), Otis Dimiter's car, Pat Moro's car and Matt Iorio's car. A quick inspection reveals the little highway adventure has shattered three of the four drive shafts and Otis's crew jumps in. Unbelievably 3 1/2 hours later the car drives out ready to go again Sunday morning. THANK YOU MATTHEW, JOHN, OTIS, JEREMY, and ANY GUYS WHO'S LEGS WERE STICKING OUT FROM UNDER THE CAR WHO'S NAMES I DO NOT KNOW. YOU WERE INCREDIBLE!

8. There's a little difference between the transmission we removed and the one we replaced it with. The first box had "diffs"....limited slip differentials front to rear and in front. This one was a stock box with open diffs there. The limited slip Kaaz diff was still in the rear, but as we transited to the first stage (35 miles) it was making some very "screaming" noises. So driving this car on Sunday was going to be a lot different than driving it Friday or Saturday.

9. We ALMOST ran one full clean stage....but Justin and I got confused at a "T" intersection and he went left when we wanted to go right. Postings on Specialstage.com indicate we were not alone in that silliness. We ran VERY well on that stage...things were looking up and we were hoping to make a run at Subiegal Janie Thomas and Pat Moro who was only 4 seconds ahead of her.

10. R3+ into L4. Justin got a little too high on the crown in the L4, and it was over in a flash. Full chat in 3rd gear we slid off sideways into a bank fortunately impacting evenly from the front bumper to the missing rear bumper (on my side, of course), and laying on the co-driver's side. We had seen Mike Goodwin in EXACTLY this position yesterday....including the turbo fire that ensued. We emptied two extinguishers efficiently on the turbo trying to cool it so it would not keep igniting the oil that was dripping on it....and ran out. THANK YOU Kyle Sarasin for stopping and lending us yours...it did the trick and we prevented a red cross situation AND a completely lost car.

11. Sweep got us turned over. We replaced the flat right front tire and got towed out to Timber Junction on Rt. 26 where George and Lew were awaiting us. We had no real reason to go back to Hillsboro, so we decided to head to Lew's beautiful estate in Camas Washington (just across the river from Portland) where we were going to spend the night. Burgers and beers were in order. The actual body damage was over-comeable. a couple of doors, a rear bumper cover and some juscious tapping/bondo/and vinyl and we were good to go for Olympus. Then Justin looked under the hood. The wiring harness looked like burned spaghetti....along with some tubular noodles that used to be hoses. The turbo fire had taken it's toll.

So Lew took Justin to the airport (he left at midnight to work Monday) and the rest of us headed for bed. George (CHANGE OF PLANS, GEORGE) left the next morning and we'll see everybody at STPR in June.

We were but one of the sad tales of the weekend. It appears fully 50% of the starters failed to finish. The roads were incredible. I'm really going to miss running Olympus....I've never had the pleasure.

Nuthin' you can say, but "that's racin'."

You can go see the Driver's point of view here.

Friday, March 2, 2007

100 Acre Wood Post Mortem

And I thought Winnie-the-Pooh was a friend of mine!

The 100 Acre Wood this past weekend was the best of all the 13 that have ever been conducted. Awesome congratulations to Tom vonHatten and his entire committee for what could end up to be Rally of the Year!!!

Now to our woes.

First many thanks to Carl Meyer at Webster Groves Subaru for having faith in us and sponsoring us for this event. We did a dealership promotion at his store in Webster Groves on Wednesday afternoon/evening and turned a lot of heads (and a few people who actually came in to chat!)

I swear the sun came up an hour too early Thursday morning. Tom and the intrepid crew tackled the concept of a pre-event Notes Familiarization Pass (NFP). It gave those of us with the ability to attend an opportunity to see all the stages with our stage notes in hand for editing. This is only the second time this has been done in Rally-America/SCCA history (it has been done over on the NASA side before) and it was extremely well received. I'm afraid the 100AW crew has put other committees under pressure to offer the same.

Friday morning was sorta wasted tinkering with the alignment on the #28. We opted not to go do the shakedown stage as we were aware of it's inconsistency with the real stage roads....there was really nothing to learn.

By Noon we were in the Parc Expose at the Salem Wal-Mart lot. It was cramped, but adequate and I understand the committee had a hard time securing even that much space. But it served well for Friday's stages.

Off to the real racing. We were kinda pokey on the first and second stage, but the third stage we felt pretty good...several places higher on the ranking for Scotia Valley S-N! Then we sorta slipped back into mediocre again. I'm getting used to notes (edited notes at that) and Justin's getting used to it being OK that the car slides!!!! By the end of Friday's racing we were in fourth position in PGT. Matthew Johnson and Stephan Verdier (yeah, the RETIRED Stephan Verdier) were defining how to drive PGT while the Hansons, Kenny Bartram, Pat Moro and us were tightly bunched trying out for third. Good racing!

Oh. did i tell you it had been "Chamber of Commerce weather" Thursday and Friday? We obviously pissed someone off at the C of C, cuz the weather went all to Hell the next day. Absolute CONSTANT rain ALL day. But that didn't bother us too much, 'cuz we didn't run all day. On the first stage (Southern Loop) at the long low water bridge after Billy Mead's house we hit the water too hard and momentarily shoved the radiator back. That cracked a mounting arm, which ended up putting a 1/4" hole in the radiator. The car immediately started to steam up. Justin was sliding farther and farther down in his seat to be able to see out the bottom of the windshield! then we passed Matthew...pretty much wrapped around a tree, but displaying the OK sign. This sucks! Our chief competitor has gone and done something stupid and we're not going to finish the stage, 'cuz we're overheating like crazy. Two miles later we pulled over and spent the next hour displaying the OK sign in a thunderstorm.

Steve Lauer our absolutely fantastic crew of the week came and got us (following Rob Wright's fabulous service route instructions....thanks, Rob!) and using a latex glove and a bumper mount device had us running and driving back to Salem in no time. Justin offered him the right seat on the spot!

We caught up with MJ at the local Chinese Buffet and just sort of chilled the rest of the afternoon. None of us felt much like watching rally cars. We'd all seen plenty.

MJ says he's got another shell and 7 weeks to get ready for Oregon. We're trying to put that trip together, 'cuz the tow out's good for two events (Oregon Trail in April and Olympus in May).

Oh, just to add to the PGT misery, Hanson's totalled their PGT car while running in second position I think on the second to last stage. PGT stands for Pushing you Guts To win!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Upcoming 100 Acre Wood

Wow! How do I talk about this one coming up? Shortly after I first moved to St. Louis in the early '70's I put together an interpid band of people who almost understood what rallying was. In 1977 the St. Louis group ran the first "Rally in the 100 Acre Wood" based out of Rolla, MO and running mostly in Dent and Crawford Counties.

Here it is 30 years later and for the first time....I'm going to be a competitor! First I have to thank the committee for letting me off the hook. Second I need to thank my wife who is doing what she and I TOGETHER did for the past years. I'm not allowed to know anything about the course. Although I am assisting in printing ID badges for the workers.

But it's a very weird feeling. I'm the guy who can walk in and out of commissioners offices in Dent, Crawford, Iron and Washington Counties....and in a good year, sometimes Reynolds County! Now my succession team is doing that. I have all the faith in the world in this team.

And it's going to be the biggest and best ever....over 60 entries and the cream of the crop!

We will be running what's called one-pass recce on Thursday. They're going to let us see the roads with the notes so we can supposedly go safer through the woods on Friday and Saturday. Mostly we'll go faster. But it's overdue. Jemba notes are OK, but tweeking them make life so much better.

Justin will be bringing the car over to St. Louis on Wednesday when we will have a Subaru Dealer promotional day at Webster Groves Subaru on Big Bend in Webster Groves, MO. Justin doesn't have a single mile of gravel thrashing in this car and the 100 Acre Wood is ALL gravel. So we're desperately trying to find a place to get maybe an hour on gravel...just so Justin can get into his head what this car will do when he pitches it sideways at 70 miles per hour. We may be doing that as late as Friday morning as it appears now. There's a closed area on a Bison Ranch in Potosi that we can rent. We'll have to see.

Anyway, the weather is scheduled to be warm with moisture in the air, so dust should not be a problem.

Justin and I are on a quest to improve everything. His understanding of what the4 car does as an extension of his butt: my staying on top of the notes and getting used to the differences between him and Matthew (last year's driver); and the crystal clear communication between teammates that just makes this stuff click. We're aware this will not occur overnight. It took Johnson and I a couple of events...but he was patient and talented enough to make it work, and Justin and I finished third in PGT at Sno*Drift, his first snow rally in AWD, so I have every belief that we will stay within ourselves and improve greatly as the weekend progresses.

We have new competition in PGT, 'tho. Stephan Verdier who we've not seen in a couple of years has re-surfaced with Scott Crouch (Tanner Fousts Co-Driver from last season) in PGT. They will be very tough to beat...Matthew will set the pace, and Pat Moro and Travis Hansen will round out the top five. I expect the entire season to see these five vying for class wins every event.

It's going to be a very exciting PGT race this year.

HEY!!!! Congrats to Jermey Wimpey (oh, yeah, his brother the driver, Josh) at Sandblast this weekend. 7th overall! 1st in M2. And this guy's going for a Ph.D.? When does he study? We're racing him next weekend in Missouri. CONGRATS, JEREMY!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sno*Drift 2007

After worrying that there wouldn't be any snow for Sno*Drift, Mother Nature accomodated the rally community nicely. Except that there was never enough cushion in the ditches, it was absolutely perfect weather for this Winter Classic. Single digit temps when we arrived Thursday night, and on-and-off snow all weekend.

This, of course, made tire choice a nightmare.....do we go on Nokian RSI's which will stick (sorta) on ice, or a more open tread which will shed snow. There seemed to be no right choice. Most stages had both conditions, so you picked on tire and tip-toed through the stage when conditions weren't right....or slid off! The RSI's were the "curve of best fit for us and when we could stay in the icy groove worked excellently. Staying out of the soft stuff was the challenge of the weekend.

Justin was cautious and on a steep learning curve. We went out on the shakedown stage and ran the first miles on the car early Friday morning. There's a vast difference between how Matthew (my '06 driver) learns to do things and how Justin (my '07 driver) learns. Matthew is all trial and error....Justin is calculating and making minor adjustments. Matthew is "over-commit and recover", Justin is "drive within the limits and stretch the limits." An awful lot of the rally "Swedish flick" technique wasn't working here....too icy. you might get the car rotated before the turn, but then you'd sale through the turn into the outside bank. So the "slow is fast" method seemed to save a lot of body damage. It also didn't look very spectacular, but no one's going to apologize to the spectators.

Attrition was at a minimum, too. We were running back about 17th on the road and hardly saw anyone off. Borowicz had a big wreck in his "For Sale" open car (there was always a bad feeling when a race car showed up at a track with "for sale" written on it!), and a few slipped off and got back on, but all-in-all it should leave the entry field pretty much in tact for 100 Acre Wood.

Pat Moro was flat kickin' ass from the start in PGT...several top ten stage times. I suspect his setup worked well for the strange conditions, and Mike Rossey was his usual spot on with the notes. An 8-9 minute off relegated them back to fourth. Too bad, it was going to be a great run. Matthew was having the same difficulties we were...slipping off and understeering. his issues were later resolved as his crew discovered more toe-out than needed. He then got in the groove and gave the crowds the bank thumping excitement they were looking for.

The PGT drive of the day goes to the father-son team of Travis and Terry Hanson. Travis spent some time at Team O'Neill and it showed. They were consistenly fast and right at the edge (as evidenced by several small offs) all weekend. Maybe if they find some HID lights they can be even faster after dark!

But I'm here mostly to talk about Justin. He showed up with ZERO miles on this car. ZERO miles in AWD, and just a couple of snow rallies on his VW Golf and Austin Mini. It was like going to driver's school. We made three passes of the three-mile shakedown stage and that was it. Started the rally. It was interesting watching him get used to 3 turns lock-to-lock! This Formula driver is more used to 30 degrees lock-to-lock! So there was a lot of exaggerated steering efforts for awhile. Then a lot of over-correcting. He was actually laughing while sliding around some of the corners. But by Saturday, that was all under control. We actually took the sixth fastest time on one stage.

So. Put a great driver in an average car and give him 100 miles to learn about it and bingo! You've got a third place podium finish. An added plus is the minimal damage compared to our fellow PGT racers!

What did we learn? That we'll have Yokohamas next year. That we're still sorting out car setup and it will be totally different for 100AW. That the VSS signal feeding the Terratrip is random at best and we actually don't need an odometer! That REAL cold PGT cars running on 100+ octane fuel don't start when it's 0 degrees fahrenheit. That the food at the Lewsiton Lodge is still terrific! That Justin will be in the hunt and will be giving PGT regulars fits all year!

Friday, January 5, 2007

GREAT video from Targa Newfoundland

I've just GOT to do this one of these years.....hey Justin!!!!!! Don't EVER sell the mini!

Read the neat Hemmings article....

or take a ride!