Saturday, November 8, 2008

IRNY '08

I admit it. I was a Rally New York virgin. I’ve heard numerous stories of “Ivan” rallies, but had to come out and see for myself.

Eric Hansen, you see, is spoiled. We ran his first rallies in Maine last July and we won Prod in both events. So, naturally, he decided to engage me for IRNY. And we had our hands full. First, there would be a lot more competition here than at Maine in the 2WD Production class. And second, the car was feeling a little ‘

abused’ and developed some push back to show us before it would let us have any fun!

I flew into Newark on Wednesday and proceeded up to the Villa Roma resort in Calicoon to meet up with Eric and the AWD team of Scott Wilburn and Constantine Mantopoulos. We would be sharing crew this weekend. Scott’s bride Carrie was to co-drive for Fintan Seeley, but he was a no-show due to a sprained knee on his clutch leg. So Carrie would serve as the brains on the crew...and Super Woman.

First, we supposedly had multiple pass recce (not two pass or one pass or three pass, we just had x time on each stage and we could use it at our discretion). This turned out to be kind of a fantasy, as it was barely enough time to do two passes under ideal conditions, and the instructions for traversing between recce areas was pretty ridiculous. Short times, bad maps, etc. contributed to sharp navigators being VERY valuable. We made all the recce slots and got two pass on almost everything except the first ones (we were a half hour late getting started….make a note….leave a half hour EARLY next time), and we wanted to get some shakedown in before Eric and I had to be back in Calicoon for Bernie Obry’s novice seminar. All in all it was a total scramble 12 hour day from leaving at 7:00AM to parking in the Parc Exposé at 7:00 at night and hanging around for the ceremonial start.

Carrie and I both arrived at the same conclusion mid-day on Thursday that the crew would have to bring the car down to the end of recce so we would even have a chance to run shakedown….it’s SO nice to have a co-driver on the crew!!!!! They were driving the Neon down when it sprung a fuel leak in the feed line from the tank to the injection system. I’m not sure where they went to work on it, but Damien Treanor (Guido) apparently figured out how to fix it and in the confusion we were headed back to Calicoon to work on the car when it was headed down to shakedown. Ahhhhhhhh…coordination!

But that’s OK. We didn’t get any shakedown at Maine either….and that worked out just fine. Eric and I headed off for the Bernie Obry show and were about the only ones to attend even ‘tho there were supposed to be 4 teams there. I’m SO glad we busted our ass to get there. Well, Bernie was worth it, but shakedown probably would have been more valuable!

The car went into Parc Exposé and we sat there for about an hour with 100 of our best friends including Radio Robert!

Radio Robert is one of the best stories of 2008. It seems Robert Cella, AC2RC, read the article that Eric had written up in a local paper about his exploits at Maine in July and got in touch with him and offered to contribute some sponsorship to his entry at IRNY. Then he offered 3 more sponsorship deals to other struggling rallyists. In all he had four entries in the event, and all four finished!!!!! I’d take those odds at any casino…not very likely! But sponsorship breeds a strong desire to finish! THANKS ROBERT!!

Friday morning dawned WAY too early and we headed out to the stages. The first ones served as our ‘shakedown’ as they did at Maine. It’s a good thing to get the cobwebs worked out. We were careful and prudent and didn’t do anything rash. The afternoon stages, however reminded me of racing on washboards! These were extremely rough and potentially very fast. Although it took considerable skill to be both at the same time. Eric was doing a fantastic job when suddenly the poor abused rally car cried ‘uncle’ and just quit. Dead. Nada. No lights. No engine. No nuthin’. I expected some catastrophic but simple electrical failure, like a ground strap or a main B+ line, but in the dark we couldn’t find it and the sweep jeep towed us to the finish.

One of the HAM guys at the finish went looking for the problem in an obvious place (at the positive terminal of the battery) and discovered a loose ignition wire. A nut had vibrated off allowing this little bugger to fall off. So a little judicious wire moving and we were running again, albeit about 25 minutes late.

But 25 minutes is NOT 30 minutes (which is Maximum Permitted Lateness), so we raced down to the next start control and talked our way into a starting time. Since a sweep crew had already entered the stage we were asked to go ‘fast transit’ and not race the stage at speed…which we did.

Back in service we looked the situation over and declared the repairs made out in the field to be adequate and went back out to tackled the same stages again. This time, within 100 yards of the last incident, a clip fell off some tranny linkage which gave Eric a limp noodle for a shift lever. And we were dead in the water again. Jeep. Sweep. Back into service where we engineered a fix for the clip and called it a night. The Bermuda Triangle of Neons had done us in.

Friday night was Halloween. And the bar at the Villa Roma did not disappoint. It seem Super Woman showed up to kick some Co-Driver ass!

But for all the problems we had on Thursday and Friday (fuel leak, electrical, transmission linkage) Saturday would prove to be mostly the opposite. GOD I love those stages! We ran a 4 ½ mile road four times each way and it was the perfect training ground for a new driver. Yeah, we had a flat at a spectator point (that’s a thing with me. Bryan Short and I did that at Colorado, too, but this time we ran the remainder of the stage on the flat….all good lessons for new drivers). And we had to deal with another fuel feed leak (dropping ¼ tank in 20 miles!), but we really attacked these 8 stages.

In an underpowered Production 2WD car, it’s all about carrying speed, since if you lift off the throttle it takes forEVER to get that speed back. So Eric and I worked the whole day on COMMITMENT! Spectators at the ‘bridge’ on the last run of the day will attest to Eric’s commitment at that sweeping L4 flat out with the Neon’s ass hanging out. As a matter of fact we had the fastest 2WD time on BOTH the last two stages.

The hoopin’ and hollerin’ in the car as we blasted across the finish line on that last stage was some of the most jubilant I’ve experienced. I asked a lot from Eric to get him faster and faster this weekend and he met the challenge each and every time. It takes a lot for a driver of a low horsepower, relatively heavy car to take his co-driver’s word for it and not lift over blind crest after blind crest, but he did it and we won stages.

I guess we ended up 2nd Prod 2WD on the Saturday Rally and the USRC Rally in general (thanks to Super Rally rules). But I have no problems finishing second to the Marciniaks who drove a helluva rally, smooth and fast and stayed out of trouble….and won the USRC Prod 2WD Championship. Congrats!

General impressions of IRNY are positive. Roads are incredible (even the rough ones) and the workers are phenomenal. Ivan has limited roads to work with, but gains permission to use them for long periods of time. Which gives the situation I really enjoy...the ability to take multiple shots at roads and work with the driver (like Justin and I did at RWV two years ago). The recce schedule seemed to lack attention as it was almost impossible to make on schedule and the instructions and maps needed a little more attention. And then there was the scoring. Scoring took until well after midnight and was grievously erroneous when finally published. In this day whan we've been doing this for umpteen years, there's really no reason why we're still experimenting with scoring programs....especially at the USRC championship weekend. A disappointing end to an otherwise fantastic weekend. It'll get worked out. IRNY is on my list to play in next year.

OK…It’s the off-season. Dmitri and I had talked about doing Tall Pines, but I have a scheduling problem and he has no compression in the #3 cylinder, so it looks like I (and Dmitri) have wrapped up the season (unless I somehow end up at Paris over Thanksgiving).