Working out some bank heist planning in order to pay for the next rally car… I need to go fast.
Things started off great! A new rear end installed, new tires, relocated the new battery back behind the seats, and all fluid leaks were fixed. Since shooting a strut up into the hood at Seed 9 Rally in 2010, we had some new super duper strong strut tops, designed by Bret of Yawsports here in Ramona, fabricated and installed. We also installed some longer springs, and stiffened the compression up front. With a fresh alignment, Steve and I were packed up and ready to leave San Diego earlier than planned with no stress!
We arrived in Ridgecrest for our scheduled registration appointment with time to spare… no flat tires or speeding tickets. Blazed right through registration and tech inspection with no issues. We prepped the car in the hotel parking lot and were back in the room going over stage notes by 8:30pm. Things were getting even better… we’d actually get some sleep before race day!
I don’t get an opportunity to drive the rally car between races, so I usually spend the first few stages remembering how to drive with three pedals instead of two. Regardless, the fierce Group 2 battle started immediately on Stage 1. Doganis, Hoche, and I were within 2 seconds of each other after the first stage. The trend continued with three of us posting up very similar times throughout the day. Going into the final two stages, we were behind by quite a bit, but Steve and I had synced up and I was driving faster and turning in earlier than I ever have in the past. It is amazing what a difference a properly setup front end makes!
On stage 7, I hit every corner near perfect and kept the car redlined in 5th gear screaming at top speed for a good deal of the stage… we gained back 9-12 seconds on our competition during just this one stage. The final stage of the day, Stage 8, was amazing… crossing the finish line we had gained another 10 seconds on the competition! The car wanted more horsepower so bad on those straights, that I felt myself pressing the gas pedal harder at times hoping I’d somehow squeeze some more fuel into that stock junkyard motor. When we crossed the finish line, we were 1st in class, 2nd overall, and 45 seconds ahead of the fastest Open 4wd car out there.
Earlier in the day I had made a comment about how I typically lift at the yellow clock sign and how I was going to try and completely ignore those signs and drive the notes through the finishes. I remember saying that I’d just worry about slowing down when I saw people running and diving out of the way, or heard Steve screaming at me. Unfortunately, crossing the finish on the last stage, I made an amateur mistake, and we crashed. In 5th gear, we were moving pretty fast… I lifted, and the rear end started to step out. By the time I got the car sorted, we were light over the crest and sitting way too wide in the corner… the rear passenger tire hit a berm and we were over. We rolled a few times before shooting 10 feet into the air for a few more flips. We finally came to rest on the driver side door, and Steve and I were out of the car in seconds.
At over 80 mph, we wadded up a 20+ year old economy car and walked away from it with no injuries. I can’t say enough about proper safety gear and cages that are built and installed correctly. I bought this car used from Mark Brown and had some updates done to the cage by Doug Nagy at Streewise Motorsports… between the two of them, they saved our lives… and believe me, I had my doubts about walking away from a high speed crash in that little shitbox.
The rolls weren’t so bad… and as soon as the car got weightless, I felt as if my body and head were a part of the car. Once we started going end over end, I closed my eyes, preparing for the worst. I thought at any moment the head trauma was coming and I’d be blacked out… or dead. Neither happened, in fact, I wasn’t even sore the next day… it was the most amazing (and expensive) ride of my life! This was the first rally of 2011 for us… our 8th event since starting last year.
What is next for tm/FM racing? Who knows… robbing banks, winning lotteries, ???… we need to build another car somehow… I was just starting to figure out this driving thing.
Oh, and yes… we do have video from the crash… here is the entire stage with some bonus oh shit moments:
through registration… through tech… car prepped… ready to GO FAST… first or last bitch.
We missed Desert Storm this year (and some much needed points) and have had the itch to get sideways ever since our little fiasco in Nevada last year. This weekend Team TM/FM will be defending their Group 2 title win last year this weekend at the High Desert Trails rally. The car seems to be in good shape with some help from a few friends–we’d love to show you exactly what was done, but it’s a bit top secret at this time. Let’s just say “bullet-proof” is a good term… more to come.
Sooooo….. it’s been a month, but after not finishing another rally, I felt robbed of any motivation to write something here. With that being said, we will be racing in a week. This definitely provides a bit of motivation as the anticipation grows for when we get to go fast again.
Prescott Rally was a great time, but it was tough. We left Rally HQ pretty late… so late that after driving straight through the night, we only got about 45 minutes of sleep before having to get up at 6:00am to go run recce. Steve and I have been trying to get into the habit of utilizing recce to its full potential, so after a very tiring 7 HOURS of recce, we headed straight to registration and tech inspection. Parc expose and drivers meetings were both mandatory, leaving us with only 30 minutes for a quick nap back at the hotel. We were seeded to start in the 11th position out of 22 cars, and I was sitting in the driver seat of the car during parc expose, falling asleep.
The stages were amazing and really fun to drive. On stages 1 & 2 we were fastest in our class and 7th overall, just seconds behind the six-figure Subarus! Pulling into service, I was complaining that the newly rebuilt coilovers felt like shit. We quickly discovered that threads in the housings were gone, along with the locknuts that used to hold the strut rods in place. While we got to work on the car, we were reseeded to the 7th position, which means we lost 4 minutes of our already short, 35 minute service. With some positive reinforcement from our Streetwise Motorsports service neighbor Doug Nagy, we ripped the front suspension out and started digging for new nuts to hold the rods in place. With much urgency, we struggled to compress the struts enough to get the nuts on and stuff the suspension back under the car. We left service late, and had to make up a LOT of time during the 20 mile transit… in that haste, we arrived into time control, and accepted a 1 minute interval instead of the 2 minutes we were supposed to get. With a two minute interval, it was bad, but being only 1 minute behind an AWD car on a night with no wind, was nearly impossible. We had some slow times on stages 3 & 4 which put us back at 10th overall, and second in our class for the first day. We then spent the night pulling the suspension back out to reinforce it, and doing a full reprep of the car.
Steve and I don’t have a lot of time in the car, so we tend to ramp our speed up gradually. After getting the required minimum amount of sleep, we finally had food in our stomachs and were ready to go fast. Stage 5 was 21 miles of very fast flowing roads turning into a steep hill climb of switchback after switchback on the edge of some gnarly cliff drop exposure. We did 1st in our class and 5th overall! We were reseeded to 5th position in the start order as we turned around to run that same stage in the reverse direction, as Stage 6. Steve and I took off into the switchbacks with a lot of confidence… only this time they were downhill. We had a lot of oh shit moments… and one very close call in a left 3 high up on a cliff. Just as we were starting to get into the faster roads, we had a blow out. Steve informed me we were about half way through… 10 miles to go. I don’t know if I made the decision on my own, or if it was a group effort, but we decided to run the flat. I think I kinda knew what was going to happen, but adrenaline is a crazy drug. 2 miles later we had lost the tire, wheel, brakes, and spindle… and were now driving at speed with 3 wheels and no brakes. For 8 miles, Steve and I laughed our asses off while I tried to whip the car through corners without brakes. I think I remember people rushing to get out of the way as we barreled through time control with a large hole in our gas tank, dragging the rear end of the car on the ground. This obviously meant we were done. But it was all worth it.
Steve and I are gearing up for Prescott Rally this weekend. With a lot of help from Doug over at Streetwise Motorsports, the car will be ready to go again after a disheartening defeat at Gorman Ridge Rally. Missing two races and dealing with our first DNF, we are ready to redeem ourselves, GO FAST, and bring home a first place win at Prescott. Keep an eye on this site, as well as http://rallydata.com for live updates. RALLY!
Gorman beat us up pretty good – the jumps were a bit too much for Lil Red… Broke: trans mount, axle, struts, strut bearings… among others!
Steve and I had a long day of recce today… this is the first rally we’ve done without organizer supplied stage notes, so writing our own notes from scratch was a learning experience, but we are pretty confident after doing two passes on each stage.
Gorman Ridge is four stages that are run in both directions, some two or three times… totaling about 60 stage miles. There are some gnarly, rough, twisty stages in this rally… one of them has about ten switchbacks with flat corners and straight cliff drops… no berms to stop us going over this time!
We had a flat on the trailer driving out here last night, and a flat with my Jeep during recce… hopefully this means that we won’t have any issues on stage tomorrow.
Tech inspection starts… now… time to get over there. Keep an eye on http://rallydata.com for LIVE updates during the rally tomorrow!
It’s 2:00am… Steve and I just got done with ANOTHER long night working on the car… but we have some good news…
…let’s recap first though… In the last 3 months, we have:
- Won 2nd place overall in Group 2 regionals at Oregon Trail Rally.
- Won 4th place overall in National 2WD at Oregon Trail Rally.
- Won novice driver/co-driver of the event at Oregon Trail Rally.
- THEN… destroyed a motor.
- Missed North Nevada Rally.
- Pulled a VW motor and tranny for the first time.
- Missed Idaho Rally.
- Dropped in a junkyard long block.
- Struggled to finally get it running.
- Dropped the tranny AGAIN to fix a clutch issue.
…ANNNND we finally had everything back together! Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the thing to run under load.
Now that we are caught up; In order to make Gorman Ridge Rally, we need to have the car tested, prepped, packed and on the road this Thursday. We agreed that today would be our last effort to try and make the race this weekend. It feels like the bad is starting to overshadow the good… not funny, not fun.
Tonight, after FINALLY resolving an issue with a Motronic sensor, we got the thing running GOOD! And after dialing in the motor, I GOT A TASTE… OHHHHHHHhhhhh I forgot what it feels like to get sideways in a little front wheel drive car… incomparable!! My motivation has been replenished.
When this dirty piece of shit got done belching out clouds of black smoke from crap that had built up while sitting outside for over a year, it slowly started to remember how to breathe. I revved the piss out of this thing… 7,000rpm in 5th gear for quite awhile! It tops out MUCH faster than the old “race built” motor and feels like it pulls way harder on both the bottom and top end. It does seem to be lacking mid range torque, which makes it really hard to fight the brakes up front, so I think there is going to be a lot of mid corner downshifting if we get on stage this weekend. Hopefully, we will get to find out!
After getting back from our test drive, we discovered the engine compartment and underside of the car covered in about a half quart of gear oil. It looks like the final drive seal on the passenger side of the transmission is leaking. This is a show stopper. According to the manual, these seals can be replaced without dropping the tranny. Wednesday (now today) is our last day to try and get this leak taken care of. The plan is to see if our friend Charlie @ Charlie’s Garage in Ramona can take care of us… neither of us want to touch this car again until we have helmets and fire suits on. We are about 75% go for this weekend. I’m tired.