Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Q. In what game does 2 beat 4?

A. When John Lane's driving the 2 wheel drive Volvo and the rest of us are chasing him in our AWD thunder machines!

This past weekend was the Olympus International Rally held in beautiful downtown Pomeroy, WA, population 1500+/-. Neat town. I could just see it 100 years ago with a dirt road as main street and wood sidewalks...great people, too!

With my normal driver (if there is such a thing as a normal rally driver) sidelined with such worldly stuff as schoolwork, I teamed up with Dmitri Kishkarev in a 1997 Mitsu Evo4 for this West Coast swing (which will most likely include Oregon Trail next month). Dmitri is on the Matthew Johnson path (several years in a VW Golf and stepping up to AWD and some real power), although Dmitri isn't taking the indirect route through PGT. This Mitsu is an Open Class car all the way. Feels just like Dennis's although maybe a little down on power.

Dmitri is a controlled driver. He's totally aware of both his and his car's limitations, and we didn't put a wheel off all weekend. Since he wants to run three events for the total investment of towing to the Pacific Northwest from New Jersey (how the hell does a rallyist exist in NEW JERSEY?), Olympus, Oregon Trail and Rocky Mountain in BC, he announced he wanted to "take it easy" on all the components.

The stages were reputed to be wicked fast an proved out to be exactly that. Speeds over 110 were experienced by lots of teams. But I wouldn't call this really unsafe. Two of the stages had straights (with multiple crests) of 1.4 and 1.25 miles, so you just mashed the peddle and hung on. There was very little to go wrong. Derek Ringer (WRC Champ with Colin McRae and now co-driving for Travis Pastrana( claimed at the award podium that he had never ridden so fast in his entire rally career. Indeed I don't think any of us has. But it is pretty unforgettable blasting along looking down a the digital speedo on the terratrip read 118!

Rally America in their wisdom and in perfect alignment with their lawyers and insurance carriers have ruled that stages that average over 80mph will be "neutralized" by giving all the cars that accomplish that the same time that would denote 80mph. So many stages were basically 'uncontested'. It's a shame, too, because the roads were spectacular and fun. Good cambering, great spectators, and all around fun.

But back to our rally. Saturday we started off pretty tentative. I'm not sure whether it was getting used to me, or holding back on the car, or what, but we basically held our road position. I felt both Dmitri and the car were capable of better, but it's his car and his wallet!

By the end of the first day we were soundly entrenched in 17th overall place, which was a little move up the ladder (we started 22nd). We had finished 5th in the Regional event (4th Open), and there wasn't a scratch on the car. Overall a good day.

But Sunday, Dmitri must have awakened with a good Russian sneer on his face, because he and the car were in no mood to pussyfoot around. We went out and set 13th fastest time on the first stage, and we were now dicing with John Lane in the BHV (Big Honkin' Volvo) for an overall win in the second Regional event. We discussed some techniques on how to handle the communication of the long straights that worked to perfection and really clicked. There were four stages. Unfortunately the 2nd and the 4th stages were 'neutralized' by the R-A 80mph rule, so the only two that counted were the 1st and 3rd. going into the 3rd, John had us by 5 seconds or so. Dmitri took off with a mission and drove incredibly. The straights topped out at 118 (or better). All the corners were nailed and we were really cooking (we'd beaten John on this stage on the first pas, but now we had to get him by over 5 seconds!). In typical Dmitri 'attack' mode he went for the chicane at the end of the 700 yard straight a little too hot and slid to a stop inches from the chicane barrel (hitting it was 10 seconds), but then killed the engine. When restarted, we were so close to the barrel we had to back up before taking off. ARRRGGHHHH! At the finish control I asked the crew what John's time had been and we STILL BEAT HIM! But only by two seconds. So that's how 2 beats 4. Total differential 3.4 seconds.

We won Open class in the Regional, which Dmitri tells me is the first trophy this car has ever gotten, and stayed entrenched in our 17th overall position in the National.

On a scale of 1-10:

Rally location = 9.5 (hope they build a Holiday Inn Express in Pomeroy! We commuted 35 miles)

Rally roads = 10 AWESOME Great surface and engineering. I had no problem with the speeds

Officials = 10 I never had a watch that differed from a worker's by more than 1/2 second. And it was always in MY FAVOR!!!!

Evo4 = 8 A little down on power requiring some babying that I think cost us several places, but Dmitri is as much fun for me in his as Dennis is in his....tough cars, great drive trains.

Dmitri = 9 Wish we could have pushed it Saturday. A little tentative on Saturday...rusty since no driving since Tall Pines...all that was gone by Sunday, 'tho!

Me = 8.5 A little late on a call or two, lost once or twice in successive 6's, but I'm hearing everybody had those problems.

Humor of the weekend was the Jemba note R3+ 1000. About 1/3 through the 1000 yards with the speedo reading 110 or more, Dmitri implored urgently over the intercom "what's next!!!!!" Knowing we had another 500+ yards I calmly replied "Don't' know. Let me look" that broke up the tension. Dmitri had heard I could be an asshole!

Until Oregon! Or whenever something else neat happens.

Good luck on finals, Heath!!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Wow...it's been a long cold Winter

I'm sworn to secrecy about Heath's and my adventures at 100AW. We consider ourselves spanked and ready to proceed. Heath DID, however, with one small exception, drive an excellent event significantly improving his speed factor, and I DID, however, with one small exception co-drive fairly well. I give the weekend a B+....next on the list for us will be STPR.

But this weekend I'm headed to beautiful downtown Pomeroy, WA to take part in my first Olympus (as a competitor). I last attended this event in 1987 when it was a full works championship event, and it was on the west side of the state near Seattle and Tacoma then (and is now, except for this year). This year it's based out of the Pomeroy on the east side of the state where the locals hold Regional events because road-use permits were not clearing fast enough. It's been REAL WET over on the coast. We're expecting very fast smooth gravel based roads and we have one pass recce with Jemba notes, so "courage" will be the by-word of the day

Since Heath is mired in schoolwork for the next month, I'm at Olympus with Dmitri Kishkarev in his Mitsu Evo. I've watched Dmitri in this car at a few events in the past, and we pal'd around at 100AW a little but he could not find a co-driver for that event. Evos are cool. Dennis Martin and I do well in one and Dmitri doesn't seem to crash much, so I'm looking for a really fun weekend.

I'll have a full report upon my return!!!! Maybe even during if there's any wi-fi in Eastern Washington!