2011 High Desert Trails Rally… holy shit!

by on Apr.14, 2011, under Photos, Rally, Video

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:

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