Friday, October 24, 2008

L.S.P.R. (nee: P.O.R.)

I usually think of LSPR (which is the final round of the Rally-America National series) as the office Christmas party of rally. Everyone find new partners…if only for a night! And some slip off never to be seen!

Ringer’s out, Buffum’s in

Hurst is in, Hurst is out.

DeMotte’s out, Hanson’s in

Swann’s out, DeMotte’s in

Brady/Beavis/MacAlaster’s out, Dolan(?)’s in

Parps is on his umpteenth ride of the year

Wagner is chasing the G5/2WD dream with Dougie.

….and the 510’s out (sniff).

Andy’s out

Tanner’s out

Matthew’s out

Stephan’s out

Kenny’s out

Amy’s out

Christopher’s out

What a strange weekend.

But the weather was AWESOME!

Heath had borrowed Travis’s ECU for the successful run at Ojibwe, and since he’d missed a bunch of events decided we didn’t really have a record going for ’08 and returned the favor by inviting Travis to co-drive at LSPR for him.

After the fantasized Mike Hurst entry died (and that would have been a real adventure), and Piotr lined up the new guy, Dmitri emailed me that Mal Swann was not going to be available. Phew! I finally had an excuse to go!

Rolled into Houghton about 4:00 Thursday and since Dmitri wasn’t going to get in ‘til 8:00 or later, I headed out to the shakedown stage with the St. Louis crew (Joe, Curt, Rob, Ron, and Matt). That’s when I saw Derek hanging out in jeans and Buffum co-driving for Travis. I hear it was a Travis request. He just wanted to have John do the ride along, what with the Championship all sewed up and all. The thought was that he wanted to pick Johns brain some (as John had kicked his ass at the McRae Stages), but there simply wasn’t going to be any time

for that at Travis’s speeds!

Snagged a ride on the shakedown stage with Chris Greenhouse. Chris had driven over to Central Illinois from Ohio a couple of years back to rallycross this car, and it’s been fun watching him progress. It also got me a shot at some notes before I had to jump in with Dmitri. Aside from not penduluming a L2-, I thought Chris’s run was terrific. Thanks for the ride, Chris!

We were to team for crewing purposes with Jim Scray and Colin Vickman in my old Datsun 510 that I sold them in a basket about this time last year. But alas, it was not to be. At a final tuning before leaving Green Bay, the engine guy reported a timing chain guide let loose and piece of ‘stuff’ flew everywhere, rendering the powerplant useless. They brought the beautiful little girl down for Hurst to issue a logbook anyway, and it sat in the parking lot of the Franklin Square wondering why it wasn’t racing with all the other pretty cars. Sad.

So that left the Brothers Scray (Jim and ol’ one-eye, Curt…it was a kitten falling out of a tree…honest) and Colin (and Marissa and the incredible cookies and Modava…just so we had umbrella girls), oh yeah….and Dennis Martin who blew in with the wind Friday before Parc Exposé ended joined us as well. ‘Twas a fun crew!

Dmitri and I have a ton of fun….we’re on the same wavelength. Now to get the Mitsu on that wavelength, too! This is a very well (Murray Thomas) built Evo4. For some reason or other in residence at HavSpeed, it developed a miss that seemed to be attributable to some sensor somewhere (God knows there are enough of them!). But it all seemed worked out and the on again, off again Kishkarev/DeMotte entry was on again.

Friday morning was kinda laid back…..Dmitri ran off with the car to air up tires, we fueled and cleaned and adjusted belts and all that other nervous stuff until it was time to roll over to the Parc Exposé. When Dmitri fired up the Evo, the mis-fire was back with a vengeance. It was virtually impossible to create enough torque to drive the car. Pissing just about everybody on Shelden Street getting over to the Parc Exposé by stopping, starting, lurching, backfiring, etc., we even pulled away from the entrance and discussed not even entering (hey maybe we can get some money back). But the decision was to go ahead and enter and work on the problem.

With maybe 4 minutes to go before we had to pull out (another decision point, because I’d already negotiated with the organizers that if we didn’t clear the first MTC Out we were not officially starting), Scray, Scray and possibly Martin got the car running cleanly by cleaning every contact they could get to and zip-tying everything down tight. The car ran. We started.

Got through the first 1 ½ mile spectator stage in great shape. It occurred to me that the car had much more power than it did at Olympus or Oregon, and Dmitri was pretty aggressive. Maybe this was all going to be OK after all!

The first two honest stages were GODAWFUL fast! There was nothing in the notes for the first 3 ½ miles but 5’s and 6’s. Dmitri was a little less aggressive on these than the spectator stage (perhaps it was those trees whizzing by!), but still ran great respectable times. And then we transited the VERY LONG transit down to our first real service at Kenton (nice to have a town named after you, huh!).

It was in here we lost Piotr who deftly removed a corner’s worth of suspension and parked it for the night. The intrepid Piotr, however would muster up the resources to be back on the road Saturday night.

Service in Kenton went great. Hot Dogs, Hamburgers and the World’s Greatest Chocolate Chip Cookies greeted us and we went about all the standard business.

We left and ran Passmore (the stage that HATES Dennis). The Evo did sputter a little as we departed, but cleaned up and apparently ran fine for the next 2 stages. It was getting slippy for some reason. Far point seemed even more of a challenge. It was in here that ACP swapped sponsors from NOS Energy Drink to SON….at least that’s what it read on the back end of his car when I lat saw it off to the side on it’s roof. It seems he’d dropped a cylinder back on the 2nd or 3rd stage and was rallying on using only the 3 left. That meant carrying a LOT of speed into corners and not having any torque left to rescue a wrong slot. He didn’t rescue one of them and rolled the car onto it’s back in a truly submissive posture. Just Dents can fix the body it right up. The engine will still take some work, however.

It seemed like Dmitri was struggling a little to keep the car going fast and in a straight line on these two stages. The times showed it. But it was back in to Kenton for another short service and then back out to these last 2 stage for another run. This time the car sputtered a lot leaving the MTC….and never cleaned up. Dmitri drove on up the highway past the entrance to Passmore trying to get it to run right. No luck. We turned it around and on the way back it began to run on only 3 cylinders. When we pulled back into the service area and the guys pulled the plugs, the #3 cylinder was full of oil. Zero compression. We were done.

Another serious decision had to be made. It was a long way back to Houghton and the bars MIGHT be closing by the time we got back. There’s a bar right there on Main Street. So we and ACP’s crew co-mingled with the Sarah Palin hunting crowd at the pub in Kenton and then leisurely drove back to Houghton. The good news is that we decided we did NOT need to get up in time for the Parc Exposé in Calumet at 9:30!

Saturday was spectating day for us. Not my favorite thing to do, but the weather was beautiful, and we could get to 3 spots over the day and the service area in Copper Harbor. So off we went. The turn onto pavement on Burma was pretty cool. The best part of that was Dave Cizmas being towed at 50 mph around that corner and waving as his car was being whipped around! There’s already a youtube video of that!

Copper Harbor Service didn’t yield much new data, but then we discovered a way to get up on Brockway for the 2nd run and hiked on up. The R2> ½ mile in on the hillclimb is a complete BLAST to spectate. Then we schlepped back down and scooted over to the finish of Gratiot Lake. I’d worked this spectator marshal position in the past and was quite familiar with its topography. Fun place to watch.

That’s it for LSPR. I will be co-driving for Eric Hansen (of Maine fame in an earlier post) the weekend of October 31st, Nov. 1st), and have been asked to co-drive again for Dmitri at Tall Pines, but the car status is in question there.

Oh, Heath pretty much kicked ass with Travis. Travis has the distinction of being the only Rally-America license holder to finish in the top ten overall as both a driver AND a co-driver this year! After 120+ racing miles they were a little over a minute down on Pat Moro, but finished a strong 2nd in PGT and 7th O/A! CONGRATS!

Until my report from International Rally New York….keep the wheels down!

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