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 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....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 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, 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 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!