So I've come to realize that the most interesting stories to come out of racing are those of failed attempts and not those of quality finishes. Maybe I should have known that going in but I got a great reminder of this fact this past weekend. Bottom line result at Black River Stages 2012 for the NISMO Stuff Racing, bodyarmoroutlet.com team?? DNF. The truck's first DNF in seven events and was bound to happen eventually. On the positive side it was not due to mechanical failure or the vehicle's fault in any way. Pure driver error and lack of talent/experience.
To be honest the weekend was a shit show from near the beginning and not being fully focused is likely a contributing cause to the end result.
And away we go...
Failing to have the Nissan Frontier in my possession due to needing an alignment done in the last few days before leaving meant picking it up the Friday morning I was to leave and proceeding to pack it at that point with my gear and tools. Nothing out of the ordinary and not so bad. Just about ready to leave when I get a call from my codriver saying we now need to wait to leave an extra hour and a half so we can pick up a race volunteer in Springfield on our way. Again no biggie, just meant getting a bit later than anticipated.
Then things start to fall apart.
Arriving at the Charlton, MA rest area at about 1:30 to meet my codriver and put the truck on his trailer I proceeded to lock the key to the race truck inside it with no spare, windows rolled up and no obvious access or tools on hand. By happenstance my codriver had just picked up some new brake line tubing for a car he is working on and was carrying it with him. First we tried the passenger side hole in the firewall, then the passenger side hole in the floor of the cab, then the passenger side rear of the cab window which could be pried back. All failed. So we moved to the driver's side where there is no hole in the firewall. The hole in the floor failed, the attempt from the rear of the cab window failed. We then tried going into the top of the driver's door and failed. By now the brake line looked about as twisted as a hill climb road. One full hour later we were able to push the lock mechanism open with the brakeline by attempting again through the cab's rear window that could be pried back enough to fit our arm into a little ways.
So we got the truck on the trailer and proceeded to Springfield feeling we had gotten our bad luck out of the way. We picked up the volunteer at WNEC (engineering student of course) without problem and headed out to upstate NY. Dinner and driving was fine until we got heading North from Utica. First the rain starts rolling in, making driving interesting and then we get rearended at a light by a small car. No damage to the trailer but enough for us to get out and get wet to inspect it. Moving on we got to our cabin we were to share with Don Kennedy and his son for the weekend, unloaded our gear and watch the pumper trucks go back and forth on the little road we were located on for a while as they raced to save (failing) a cabin just a quarter of a mile further up the road that was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.
Up the next morning, grabbed some donuts, registered, got tech'd and things are looking good. Gabbed a bunch with fellow racers, took a quick nap, listened to some tunes and off to the service park to set up any gear we had. More walking around and chatting fellow racers up. In the middle of this I notice a small, scrawny, dirty, white cat that is limping around. The poor thing was trying to beg whatever food it could and wasn't more than a few weeks old, obviously abandoned. With a big soft spot for stray cats I knew what I had to do immediately. I picked her up and proceeded to call my parents who were going to be spectating for the day to find a cardboard box and some cat food to house and feed the cat for the day while I was racing. The crew for a partner team agreed to look after the poor thing till I got back.
Feeling good about rescuing a poor animal who would have survived another week in all likelihood we were soon strapped into our vehicle and ready to go. First stage of the day felt very sloppy and loose with my tire pressures being way too high for the road conditions. Felt like I was driving on ice. Dropping the air pressure improved things dramatically but still felt like I was fighting myself all day. As the race rolled into the darkness our speeds felt faster but the times didn't show it as the nighttime slowed our times a bit more. With all the carnage of the AWD vehicles which saw numerous early DNFs we had moved up to 12th overall in the event out of 27 starters. Then came the last stage of the day.
A very short stage at only a little over three miles the Tidd Rd. stage should have been the cap on a decent day of racing. It would turn into a long night and longer following day.
About half way into the stage was a short watery section where the road divided two beaver pond/swamps with a bit of water flowing over the road from one side to the other. With no cautions in the route book we took the straight road at full speed with my foot on the floor. At some point I made the error of getting my wide front driver's side tire just over the edge of the road. When this occurred the tire began heading down the sharp berm that fell off the road into the water. You can imagine the road like a built up railroad bed that sloped off sharply on either side into the pond.
With one tire off the edge the truck was completely sucked down into the water and off the road in a blindingly fast fashion (to be honest I don't really remember it). Turning the truck sideways and down, a huge sheet of water came up over the hood and the truck started to roll over toward the passenger side. The truck settled down in the water, floating to a stop and water began to pour into the cab through the doorsills and floorpan. Coming to a stop the engine was off but electronics were on. I hit the kill switch and began exiting the vehicle along with my codriver.
Opening the doors the pond water rushed in and filled the cab up to the gear shifter. Stepping down into the cold swamp water up to my waist and being handed the OK sign by David Dennis, my brave codriver I began to head down the road with a triangle to try and warn others so that they didn't clip the rear of my truck which still jutted out onto the side of the road. Eventually all the cars behind us passed by (there was no hope of ANYONE pulling us out) and we awaited the sweep vehicle to arrive. A bit later it did arrive but we were to discover that it was only 2WD and though it gave it a brief try, could not budge our truck. The sweep had to head to the next stage so that it could be run for the other racers and thus we were left to wait for a friend of the sweep driver to arrive and give us a lift back to service where we would gather Dave's truck.
Unfortunately the sweep's friend had only a regular cab truck with which to transport us with and already had a passenger. So, soaked to the bone and in 40 degree weather we rode in the bed of the truck some 20 miles back to service down the highway. Cold is a bit of an understatement. Back at service I found my new cat in fine condition as we jumped into Dave's truck, cranked the heat and headed back out to the stuck race vehicle to see what we could manage at near midnight. Powered by the Dodge Magnum V10 we certainly had some power on hand but were only able to drag the race vehicle a few feet along the berm. Extraction would not be possible this evening.
Asleep by 1AM and then back at the truck by 8AM we tried and tried to get it out. Pulling one way, then another, snapping a tow strap, digging tires out, jumping into the water to change the location of the attachment point. After about 4 hours, at about noon and with the assistance of another truck pulling in tandem with David's Dodge, the Nissan Frontier was finally yanked from the pond. As water poured out we assessed the damage. Cosmetically it looked OK. A few torn sections in the areas where the fender liners are riveted to the fenders and the fiberglass in the front seems to have been popped forward from being tucked under the headlights--but all in all not bad. Electric system still seems to work and it looks like it landed softly in the mud not damaging any suspension components.
The big issue is that when we looked at the air intake the air filter was wet and there was some water that had gotten to the throttle body. Not daring to try and start the truck it would have to wait till I can pull the plugs and do it at home to see what damage may have been done. So the truck got on the trailer and soon enough we headed home.
Oh, did I mention that we ran out of gas on the way home, 1/2 mile from the service area in Lee, MA on the Pike?? And that arriving at the service area after walking there I was informed that it is now illegal to fill a portable gas container on the Mass Pike? And did I mention that after buying a Poland Spring bottle, dumping it out, drying it in the bathroom, filling it up with gas, walking back with it to the truck, using a cut up Gatorade bottle as a funnel that the police showed up at the exact moment we were getting back into the truck?
Luckily the cop was nice to us and let us go without any further delay though he could have ticketed or whatever us for illegal gas refueling on the Mass Pike.
Arriving home the race truck was rolled off the trailer and pushed into the garage where it now sits, awaiting its plugs to be pulled. The cat (as yet unnamed) is in good shape after a visit to the vet where it was found it had fleas, ringworm, an upper respiratory infection and a broken growth plate in its left front leg. It now has a nice, warm, dry and loving home. Which is the best news to come out of the weekend as the DNF put the team out of the running for the 2012 ARC championship and unable to compete at Charlevoix in a month from now. The offseason prep work begins now with lots of lessons learned and hopes for a great '13 season to come.