Sunday, June 29, 2008

A new temporary gig

Well, Heath's motor is not feeling well, so we're opting out of NEFR. Somehow he thinks we "scuffed" pistons at STPR. Not sure how that happens, but it certainly acted like it. Over heated, slumped quickly in power and finally expired.

Anyway, that aside for the time being and hoping it's all OK by Ojibwe, I got a call from Andrew Havas to see if I'd consider breaking a newbie, Eric Hansen. Eric, it seems has purchased Brian Goss's venerable Neon (I'm told 23 events and 21 finishes. No mechanical dnf's. Pretty impressive record!!). The Havas shop is upgrading the cage in this car (along with jumping in and helping rebuild one unfortunate MR2 from STPR AND crewing the Wilburn PGT effort) and tweaking some other stuff. A deal was struck and I'll be at NEFR in a P Neon and getting yet another youngster addicted to this sport.

Eric has rallycrossed and knows the physical dynamics of throwing a car around, and we'll be able to use notes since I have enough experience as a co-driver to qualify for that. So we will get the notes and run recce and start to understand how to communicate. This will be a great exercise for both of us. Eric, because he's never done this before and won't know what to expect. And me, because I'll be looking for confidence and maturity in a person who's been let loose on a road with no rules! Havas has me expecting to be pleased!!!!

I thoroughly enjoy the role of bringing new drivers up to speed. This is a game where often, then role of the co-driver with a new driver is underestimated. In many cultures, fathers take their sons to professional prostitutes so they can experience a quality "first experience". While many teams progress well from roommates to building a car to rallying together, most discover the rallying experience lacking. Not so when the newbie finds a veteran to "break him (or her) in." There will never be another "first time" and I intend for this on to be a memorable experience for Eric and one that snags his ass in this sport for a lifetime!

Friday, June 13, 2008

What's Big Brown and Nunnemonster RallySport got in common?

When Big Brown got out of the gate at the Belmont Stakes last weekend, the crowd was hoping for the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

When the Nunnemonster team set off on the stages at STPR last weekend to avenge their “issues” at 100AW, the team was hoping for some real good seat time, flashes of brilliance (from both sides of the car) and even a possible PGT podium since Stephan Verdier was not in attendance.

Thursday recce went well and Heath and I got a lot of good data into the notes for us to use. We were introduced to the new stage at STPR, Waste Management I (and it’s turn around evil twin, Waste Management II). For 9+ miles this stage has everything. Some of the tightest twistiest roughest stuff since Echo Lake on LSPR (picture first gear RallyCross stuff) high speed smooth stuff (rev limiter in 5th), high speed rutted stuff (throwing your car every which way), jumps (which we chose not to jump and for good reason….cars dnf’d on these jumps!).

Thursday night we took the 686 car out to the shakedown stage and discovered we had a nicely running normally aspirated rally car. For some reason the turbo decided to take a holiday. Back in town we consulted a few local Subie geniuses and got the whole thing worked out. We would start with plenty of boost.

On Friday morning, while we were set up in the service area at the Fairgrounds, Heidi Niday (JB’s wife and a steward at this event) approached me to see if I knew of any co-drivers available. Seems Don Conley’s Co-driver flunked a breathalyzer test at the Novice School and they threw him out. Well now….It also seems that Heath’s Mom has about 8 or 9 “notes” events under her belt, so the hookup was made. Oh….a true co-driver, Heidi (Nunnemacher, not Niday) showed up with helmet and suit so she was ready to go!!! I LOVE IT when things fall into place!

Our pass on Waste Management I was less than stellar, but we were one of a very few cars not changing a tire in the turnaround. We discussed why the relatively slow time and decided we had not attacked the slow stuff hard enough. In 15 mph competitive sections, 18 mph is a 20% increase…or 12 seconds per mile….so we had to take the slow stuff more seriously. It’s a math/co-driver thing, but it’s real. Getting an extra mile per hour at 15 MPH is much more critical than getting it at 115 MPH. On Waste Management II (WM I in reverse) we turned a very respectable time and boosted our finishing position 10 slots. Felt good.

Then on to the Fairgrounds and the Subaru Spectator Stage. This was actually kinda fun. A walk through revealed the surface (which was on land fill) was strewn with all kinds of metal chards, but they never seemed to cause a problem. The rally ended up running this twice and I only remember seeing one flat. We actually turned the fastest PGT time on this stage. Unfortunately the Conley/Nunnemacher car discovered some weak linkage issues with their G2 VW and dnf’d the stage, but the rules allowed for that and they were only penalized 1:00 and allowed to restart the next morning.

So home to bed and up for the Parc Exposé on the square in Wellsboro the next AM.

There was a little excitement as Crew Chief Chris Lowe was forced into the Parc Exposé by an official before we had an opportunity to refuel. So a quick chat with steward Steve Gingras got us the opportunity to fuel on the way out of town at Crew member John King’s abandoned gas station…worked out well. But having killed 5-6 minutes refueling, we had to scoot to get to the next stage, the iconic Asaph stage with the great R2+ over bridge with 1000’s of spectators. We made it there with time to spare, but as we checked in it was obvious there was a “hold-up”. Seems Pastrana had turned his new ’08 STi into a VW Beetle about 4 miles in and a red cross had been (justifiably, since his co-driver, Derek Ringer had been hurt and needed medical attention) thrown. So we transit Asaph. RATS!

Now here’s where Big Brown comes in. We started the next stage all full of piss and vinegar. Heath was driving quite aggressively and I was on the notes….and about 3 miles in the car just started to “back down”, Big Brown style. By 4.8 miles we pulled it off to the side with very little power, LOTS of temperature, and she finally died. Fortunately Big Brown didn’t die, but the 686 car certainly did.

The Conley/Nunnemacher G2 car, however did finish and took second in G2.....great run!!! They ran the final Subaru Spectator Stage in true "Never-Say-Die" fashion unable to get the car into any gear but 4th!!!!!!

So that’s the story. I know. That’s racing. But I want the world to see what a talented young driver Heath is. We kicked some PGT ass at 100AW and were set to repeat here.

The prognosis on the engine is, at this printing, unknown. So NEFR is a maybe. Ojibwe will be the next certain event for Nunnemonster RallySport.

Many thanks go to a marvelous crew....Chris, Karen, John, Eric, Nick, and Heidi even 'tho she ended up co-driving for someone else. I'm sure that was a helluva lot more fun than bumming around service and cooking burgers!!!!