A quick recap of our drama filled weekend:
-Loading the car on the trailer takes longer than expected, we’re going to be cutting it close if we plan to make it to Tech Inspection. The plan is to run the practice stage on Friday morning.
-Stop at Fleet Farm to pick up some last minute items on the way out of town. A wheel bearing on the trailer is burning up and we’ve only gone about 10 miles, not good. Quick service in the parking lot an we’re on our way.
-Stop 20 miles later to check the bearings again. Now a different wheel is hot. Another quick service and some McDonalds. Schedule is beyond tight.
-Stop 20 miles later yet another wheel bearing is hot. We’re getting good at this so we service the remaining two. No chance of making tech inspection tonight.
-Arrive in Houghton. Check into cabin and then into town to register.
-Head up to G&J Site Solutions to do some nut and bolting and to bleed the brakes.
-Pull car off the trailer. Find that the coolant started leaking from the thermostat flange while on the trailer. This makes no sense.
-Drain coolant, reset coolant flange, refill. It doesn’t fill completely, there’s a bubble in there. Deal with that later. Nut and bolting done. Drive back to cabin around midnight, planning on being first in line for tech inspection in the morning. Hopefully we can still get some practice in.
7:45 am – At tech inspection 15 minutes early. The place is dark.
8:05 am – call head scrutineer. “Where is everyone?” response: “It’s 8, give them some time to get there, they’re probably in traffic.” WTF (in rally we have to be on time for everything or we get penalties, I guess this doesn’t apply to organizers).
8:15 am – They open the doors and start with Tech Inspection. They start inspecting the cars that show up after us while we sit there.
8:30 am – I have expired belts. I checked them thinking they were good for 3 years a few weeks ago. The rule is 2 years. Poor oversight, bad news.
9:15 am – A Tech inspector is nice enough to make some phone calls. Local guy has used belts that are still good. He takes advantage of us and charges me for new belts. Not cool but we can race.
10:30 am – Pass tech inspection. Practice is over and we missed it. Put the new tires on in the parking lot. Drive to the Phi Kappa Tau house and put on our race suits, meet some of the guys.
11:30 am – Attempt to start the car. Nothing happens. Dave opens up the hood and looks around. Drew turns the key and it starts. WTF2. Nervously drive towards parc expose and do an odometer check.
12:30 pm – Odometer is good, car seems good. At parc expose. Drive by when the news camera’s are rolling, make the evening news. Top off the coolant, still a huge bubble. Mike Merbach nurses it for awhile. Still a bubble but better. Not too worried about that. Chat up some of the other competitors, drivers meeting, line up to start.
Stage 1 – Finally we rally! All that other stuff is behind us, lets race! Proceed to blow the first corner filled with spectators. First time racing with a welded diff. Need to gas it to turn. Crap.
Service 1 – Top off the coolant, say hi to the boys.
Stage 2 – Second run of the first stage, must redeem ourselves. Get through the first turn no problem, we’re ripping! Halfway through, something happens and the car isn’t steering right. Keep the pedal planted. Finish stage taking 12 seconds off the first run. Transit to Stage 3 – Its a long one. Can’t figure out what’s wrong with the car. Steering is easier and pulls to the left, thinking a cv is busted.
Stage 3 – We just need to make it through and to service. This stage is fun and hard to drive slow. Scariest ride ever, car is twitchy and randomly loosing control. Drew’s note calling is good, Dave keeps it on the road, the car is not holding up her end of the deal.
Service 2 – Try to troubleshoot the problem. CV’s are good. Control arm bolt is loose. Tighten it. Top off coolant, dummy light turns off, yay!
Stage 4 – Check the control arm at the start of the stage. There’s still side to side movement +/- 1″. The bolt threads are braking loose from the body. No feeling good about it. Run the stage. Thing feel much better, almost good. Totally screw up the chicane but don’t hit anything.
Stage 5 – It’s dark now. Feeling more confident about the car. This is the same as stage 3 earlier, its going to have more ruts. Ready to run. Things are going well for the first few miles. We pass a car that off to the side, they’re OK. Next turn is a right 3 into left 3/4, the car over steers like crazy, I over correct, we go up an embankment, the car rolls. Crap. We’re both Ok, get out to warn the oncoming cars that were slightly in the road. The car we passed is the FY Racing Team, they blew a motor. They come up to chat with us. We roll the car back over and wait for sweep. Sweep shows up and tows the car back.
Dave steers the car back. No power, steering works, no pedal brake but the hand brake works. Pass tons of fans on the stage, it’s totally dark but I can hear many “Ohhh’s” and “Wow’s”. Feeling gutted. Get towed to the end of the stage and wait for the crew to show with the trailer. We head back to the cabin and hit the sauna and the beer cooler. Upside we’re warm, dry and get to go to bed at a normal hour.
Head out to the Arvon Tower stage to spectate. Spectating is awesome when you’re prepared (EZ-Up, grill, coolers, chairs). We watch the first run and hear the Ken Block crashed down stage. Total carnage, we can relate but that must have been one wild ride. We have a small DNF party with three other competitors that are out as well.
Load up to drive home.
1 hour out of town, blow a trailer tire. Mount up spare.
5 miles from home, hundreds of miles later, blow second trailer tire. Kinda screwed on Sunday night. Call AAA, convince tow truck driver to bring my car home. He does it and delivers it to my garage. Awesome. Unload. Go pick up trailer. Get home, pray that this mess is finally over, sleep.
If you got this far, I hope you enjoyed our story. It was a character builder. Thanks go out to everyone that helped us get there and race. Despite our misfortunes, it was an awesome time. More pictures and videos will be posted. We’ll be back next year. POR!