Posted Saturday, July 14, 2012 at 2:36am
It was a fight to get out of Maine with a Super Production podium finish at the New England Forest Rally. We battled for first and second in the category for two-thirds of the rally before a major problem threatened everything on Special Stage 9 of the 11 in the event.
In short, we were pushing as hard as we could when the car drifted about six inches too far on a fast right hand bend. In those six inches was a boulder buried in the grass. That boulder all but ripped off the car’s left rear suspension and could have capsized the car, the stage, the rally and the season. We were able to limp into service and to the end of the event but falling to third kept us from claiming the Super Production championship with one event left in the season in September. Olympus is a great event in Washington but it would have been great to go with a championship in hand rather than going with the championship still in doubt.
Our closest competitor for the title, last year’s champions Travis and Terry Hanson, left NEFR early on Friday. Oregon winner David Sterckx wasn’t a factor at New England early but David and his co-driver Karen Jankowski came on strong and, after our problem, managed to finish ahead of us on the podium leaving their title hopes still a distant hope. Sterckx and Jankowski won SP in Oregon in May.
After NEFR we still lead the points standings over Sterckx and Hanson. But the points are so close we could end up tied several different ways. It’s even unclear how we’d emerge from the various tie breakers. We have two wins. They have two wins. We have the same number of seconds. It could come down to who ever finishes in front at Olympus. Maybe that’s the way a championship should be decided but it sure would have been nice to close it in Maine. Now we have to go to Washington wearing an entirely different hat.
Murphy’s Law number 1612! All we had to do was drive through the stage but we found that rock. We have to thank John Buffum who made it possible for us to get to the end with some parts we managed to configure during service.
Australian 2WD competitor Will Orders was following us on the stage and said he kept seeing a trail of parts. He said later he expected to see a car parked by the side at the end of that trail. It’s like the story: “…somewhere in here there’s a pony.” But that’s rallying.
Even after we got the suspension worked out, the damage affected the turbo inlet pipe. The car was super slow those last two stages. ON SS8 we were fourth fastest overall. Then on SS9 we fell back to 21st after hitting the rock. Then on SS10 and SS11 we were 31st and 24th respectively. We got to the end and that, too, is rallying. Structurally the car’s just fine. But that was a wild ride. We were probably going about 60 MPH when we hit the rock.
It just shows you that the rocks in New England aren’t a problem until you veer off the road. Then, be prepared for anything. More later…