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!