Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lac-aux-Sables Rallye 2013 Results...

 Once again, its been a few weeks since the event and I'm just now getting around to recapping it.  Its not that I wanted to avoid writing about it, its a combination of wanting (hoping?) some more photos and video might come out of the event and also just trying to let it all sink in.  Honestly when I get back from a rally it takes me a bit to decompress and figure out the good and bad.

For Lac-aux-Sables 2013 I would be partnering with a new co-driver, one Anthony Burden who I had come to know through other rally events.  Traditionally a driver only, Lac-aux-Sables would be a new experience for Anthony as well who was looking to see things from the silly seat side of things.

The truck was in great shape having actually taken it out for an extended shakedown just one week prior to the event and all systems seemed to be operating as normal.  We actually got a good start on the trip mid morning on Friday, go the truck loaded and were on our way.  The rain New England had been seeing for about a week tapered off as we headed north and Anthony's big Ford van towed everything with ease.  We arrived in the early evening in the tiny town where tech and the start of the event would take place (several hours North of the St. Lawrence seaway and way out in the middle of nowhere), got tech'd with no problem and then headed off for our "hotel".

Our "hotel" (graciously set up for us by the organize of Lac-aux-Sables) turned out to be someones house which had been turned into a bed & breakfast of sorts.  Beds (or should I say "bed") were provided while breakfast was not.  Fortunately the hardwood floor of the bedroom was clean for Anthony to lie upon (as were the sheets where I, the driver!!, slept) and the hosts were friendly.  Still, it was a bit odd for me--we rally people are generally smelly, dirty, and prone to drip vehicle fluids wherever we go--staying in a place with doilies on the bureau and a decor like my grandmother's.

Race day dawned bright and pleasant and we scrounged up some food at a local grocery store (one thing I think my co-drivers have come to realize is that on race day I generally live on a meager amount of food consisting of a couple granola bars and that's about it beyond a one gallon jug of water) and we were off for recce.  I've come to wish more and more for a second vehicle in which to do recce as I hate using the race truck for "practice" on race day--gods forbid something goes wrong to a perfectly running vehicle while we're just trundling around making notes, but we completed the run through and prepared to begin.

Of the 32 entries in the event we were relegated toward the back given my relative slow finishes at the first two events of the year.  This doesn't have much impact on us as we're not concerned about debris being stirred up or anyone needing to "sweep" the road in front of us.  It was evident early on that this event would suit the NISMO Stuff Frontier more so than the prior two events in '13 with two vehicles dropping out on the first stage and a third on the second stage--in fact (though we didn't know this at the time) the first three cars to DNF on the day were all ahead of us in the standings for the year).

Vehicles continued to drop out all day long with 2WD cars taking an especially hard beating.  We offered assistance where we could, spotting a vehicle on fire at the end of one stage and Anthony leaped into action using both of our vehicle's fire extinguishers to put it out (no one was hurt fortunately) and coped well with the roughest terrain I've seen so far in the Quebec series (I love it!!!).  Some sections reminded me of a Baja style goat trail with lots of softball size rocks littering the course and a section where the cars had to route around a particularly rough area while we just pinned it and straightlined it up the hill.  Perhaps not my favorite "roads" thus far in Quebec, but by far my favorite terrain.

This is not to say we escaped unscathed.  On that particular rough section, one of the aforementioned rocks is thought to have been kicked up and clipped the right, rear brake line.  I would have thought the stainless steel braided line to be able to fend off such a blow but I was soon smelling what we first thought was an overheating engine.  Shortly we realized that we would only smell this odor immediately after pressing on the brakes and theorized that a line was squirting the brake fluid onto the hot rear brake area where it was being cooked off.  A full push on the brakes confirmed that we had lost pressure and would be challenged to bring the truck to a reasonable stop.

Finishing the stage at about 70% normal speed I was generally comfortable with pumping the brakes multiple times to create pressure as a similar experience when a banjo fitting had come loose at Rally West Virgina had prepared me.  This time however we (Anthony really) was able to cobble together a solution via some borrowed vice grips and some zip ties by which he pinched off the line and mounted the grips securely underneath the truck.  We would have three points of brakes for the remainder of the event but at least we were still running!

We also ran into some timing issues of our own creation that would turn out to bite us harder than we would have first imagined.  Suffering two minutes of penalties by the end of the event due to checking in early on one stage in combination with becoming lost in our notes and running most of the stages for long sections without their benefit didn't keep us from finishing but did keep us from finishing on the podium.

Perhaps the most unique stages of the event came right at the end of the day were, as dusk is rushing on, the event runs a kind of "super special" down a fast, two mile section of road with multiple train track crossings at which the whole town seemingly turns out to watch the vehicles jump.  Having spectators this close to the race course was a new experience and hard to ignore.  I am not sure the tracks were abrupt enough, nor the speeds obtained, high enough to overcome the trucks near 18"s of suspension travel but we sure did try!

The NISMO Stuff Racing Frontier, sponsored by BodyArmorOutlet.com would finish the event in 19th position of 32 entries and finished 4th of nine in the John Nichols Cup class.  Third place and our first podium of the year eluded us by only 32 seconds, far less than our two minutes in penalties (the team ahead of us had none).  We were so close.

Regardless, we had a good run, put in some good work and finished yet ANOTHER rally.  Most notably is that with this respectable finish and 4th place points the team moves up into a tie for third overall on the year in the John Nichols Cup standings with one event remaining in October.  Consistency is always my friend running this truck.  So in the end it was as most rallies are--a bit of good, a bit of bad, a bit of what might have been.  But when you bring the vehicle home in one piece, you had a good time and you experienced a bit of adventure that is so absent from modern life one can't really complain...

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