Thursday, August 2, 2012

Rally West Virginia 2012

So I had held off on this report until now, hoping that some more and better pictures would come out of the event.

No such luck.  I'm not sure if there were any professional photogs covering the event--but there should have been.

Rally West Virginia 2012 was a fantastic event in an amazing area of the country on some great roads.  In my short rally career I have not raced in a smoother running event.  Only one stage was cancelled and this was because the "0" car used to check and open the stages, broke down unexpectedly on stage, blocking the road and causing a delay.  Fortunately this was on one of the shortest stages of the event and otherwise everything ran like clockwork with well over 100 miles of racing.

This was also the first event for me where I experienced some true difficulty.

On day one of the event there was a 24 mile night stage.  This is the longest night stage in North America and I had never raced over about 12 miles at a single time previously.  As could be expected I was fine through the first half of this stage but began making errors in the second half.  I was able to quickly recover from the first two errors (too fast into one corner, stopping the truck just prior to going off and one completely blown corner where we went careening off into a field) but could not recover from the third.

Coming downhill in muddy conditions into a right hand turn we saw the triangles out indicating a broken/crashed vehicle ahead.  Seeing the driver out with the OK sign I felt little reason to slow.  Unfortunately I was going too fast for the conditions and the corner and by the time I realized it and applied the brakes there was little to do but hold on and wait for the inevitable.

Off the road we went by about six feet and the front of the truck dropped down an embankment impacting a large rock on the front driver's side wheel.  With only 2WD at my disposal and the rear tires planted on mud we were immediately stuck.  David Dennis my co-driver quickly got out, prepared the tow strap and hoped for help.  A number of cars passed by and I don't blame them...pulling a 4000 pound truck out of a ditch is not a task taken lightly.

Finally the #73 Mazda Protege of all cars stops and after a number of progressively harder tugs, is able to assist in our extraction.  Finishing the rest of the stage we finished three minutes over the "bogey" time and when we went to check in at the end of the evening we declared out time to be appropriate for the "bogey" time and not our "race" time, thus showing that we had checked in early, resulting in a three minute penalty.  Losing at least nine minutes to being stuck and then another three minutes to the penalty crushed any hopes for a high finish in the standings for the weekend--but we were still running which we were very thankful for.

Day 2 started off in the rain and while it tamped down the dust it brought back the worries of slick conditions.  Running fairly well on the first stage of the day we were still concered about the "off" we had taken the night before that ended up bending an inner tie rod that was adjusted that morning straightening out the track of the vehicle though not the steering wheel.  With a clean first stage of day 2 complete we felt good--until we realized we had lost nearly all our breaking ability.

My foot would go to the floor with little to no response from the breaking system.  This could be a major problem on single track roads taken at over highway speeds.  Out of the truck Dennis goes at the beginning of the next stage and he discovers a banjo fitting on a rear caliper that had somehow backed off a tad and resulted in the dumping of nearly all brake fluid into the dirt.  Tightening up the fitting which showed no damage stopped the leak but with no brake fluid on board the ability to slow the truck was still compromised so we crossed the next stage at "transit" or lower speed.

By the end of that stage however, I had learned that if I pumped the brake sufficiently I could get enough feel in it to slow the truck down some coming into a corner.  While not ideal by any means, at least I had some control so we picked up the pace.  That is until we came across the #22 Mitsubishi Mighty Max of Michael Hall who had stuck himself in a ditch.  Rally karma demanded that we help him out so help we did, tugging him free to run the remainder of the stage.  We carried on after this extraction only to almost immediately encounter the #73 Protege that had helped pull us out of a ditch the night before--only this time, the Mazda was almost perpendicular to the road and completely broken.

Coming to a complete stop we could not get around the vehicle without seemingly driving into the river that followed the railroad bed we were traversing.  Fortunately one of the Mazda's crew came running up and was able to safely guide our large vehicle around the broken #73 without getting us stuck or going for a watery excursion.

On we went for the day and we would encounter some great sections of the event that would put us at nearly 80mph along forest shelf roads and screaming up Snowshoe Mountain as the event also included  running a "hillclimb" section twice.  The lack of HP in the truck was evident in this race, particularly in the hillclimb section but we would finish the event without furrther issue and were psyched to have perservered.

Final results show the NISMO Stuff Racing Frontier in 17th place of 26 entries.  Not the greatest but not a DNF either.  This result moves the team back to 5th overall in the 2012 Atlantic Rally Cup standings with two events to go.  We will continue to press on and see what Black River and Charlevoix have to bring with hopes of a podium finish for the 2012 ARC season within reach.  We do have video of this event and will hopefully be posting it soon.  If any more photos come out of this event of our vehicle we will post those here as well.

Oh, yeah...and then there was of the RallyMoto guys running into a deer on his last run up the mountain to finish the event.  Amazingly...both the deer and driver were just fine.  Rally Moto driver picked himself and his bike up and finished the race...2nd on time for this stage...amazing...

As always thanks go to, Dube's Customs, Nissan Motorsports, and my codriver David Dennis.  I couldn't do it without all of you!

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