Roshambo Racing

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Oregon Trail Rally Update

The Oregon Trail Rally was May 14-16.  This is our home rally, based in Portland, but we haven't competed in it since 2005.  So, we were very happy to join the entry list for this year.

For us, the event started on Thursday at Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland.  There's a big fan appreciation day there, with about 20 cars on display, as well as lots of vendors and giveaways.

After the fan fest, we headed over to the press stage at Portland International Raceway.  Dan and I both drove two times through the stage, which offered a nice warmup for the rally.  We were also interviewed by KATU, and helped with a skit for another local news reporter.  Fun stuff.  The KATU interview was aired on Saturday morning and I think again on Saturday night.  Good coverage for both the rally and our sponsors!

We set up our service area with Mark Mager, the other RalliTEK-sponsored car.  We had a very cool setup and I think the team looked very sharp.  Dan and I signed LOTS of autographs and talked with hundreds of people.  We had a little drama during scrutineering-  They use a long, articulated tool to inspect the turbo restrictor.  When they put the tool into our restrictor, it got stuck!  It wouldn't come out.  We thought we might have to disassemble the car.  But luckily, the chief Rally America scrutineer, Mike Hurst, had experienced this before and knew that we just had to let the car cool off-  The metal would shrink a little bit and it would pop out.  This did happen after about an hour - luckily!

The rally stages began Friday night.  There were four stages at PIR.  I got driving honors- which was cool because I know those stages very well, having chaired the Friday night event for 4 years.  I drove at a moderate pace - enough to put on a good show, but not enough to crash.  The stages are too short to gain a lot of time on anyone, but they're definitely long enough to hit something hard and end the rally early.  Unfortunately, the only tires we had to run were brand new gravel tires.  These were not the ideal for stages that were 70% tarmac, but these were the only tires we had mounted.  The tarmac definitely contributed to premature wear.  There were 3-4 great places on the stages to try the hydraulic handbrake, but I didn't have confidence in this on tarmac and decided to wait until we were on dirt to give it a yank.

Here's a Video shot by Dan Alexander.  Thanks, Dan!

The last two stages were in the dark.  We were very lucky to have just finished installing our new PIAA light pod.  We have two HID's and two hi/lo H4 lamps up front.  With the lights on, it really seemed like daylight!

Another video from Dan...

At the end of the night, we were in 6th place overall, just 2.7 seconds out of 4th.  Our teammate, Mark Mager was in first place!

We finished racing at 10 pm, and by the time we packed up and got on the road, it was past 11pm.  Then it was time for a quick car wash and 90 minute drive to The Dalles where Day 2 would start.  Luckily, we didn't have to report to Parc Expose until 10am.

On Saturday, Dan got to drive.  I was a little anxious about this because I'd gotten carsick at Olympus.  However, I think that may have been a result of using some outdated motion sickness medicine.  I wear a patch called Transderm Scopalomine behind my ear.  It gets put in place the night before, and normally I wake up feeling cruddy- Drymouth, yucky sinus, etc.  At Olympus, I didn't really feel those symptoms, but at Oregon Trail, I felt extra cruddy.  So, the drugs were working just fine.  Sunday would have 7 stages for 66 miles.

The first stage of the day was an 8 miler called Catch 'um.  A bit more anxiety for me-  I broke my street car while driving on this road last year.  It's INCREDIBLY rough.  It was good that Dan was driving, because I would have gone a lot slower than he did.  The stage starts out very smooth and fast, and then it crosses a cattle crossing where is apparently becomes unmaintained.  We were skipping right over softball size rocks and blasting across washouts.  At one point, we encountered triangles and came upon the badly rolled car of Dave Mirra.  Dan did a great job getting us through this stage.

The next stage was Fir Mountain, a stage that we know fairly well from previous rallies.  Dan was driving very well.  At the end of the stage, we passed Matt Weaver in our old RX-7 on the side of the road with a broken axle.  Our friend Bill Kostich (who helped build the new WRX) was co-driving for Matt.

We made it back to service with little drama.  I wasn't feeling great, but I think that was due to heat and a little dehydration.  After some food and water, I felt a lot better.

The next two stages were repeats of the first two.  However, the Catch'um stage was canceled because the very first car- Ken Block, encountered a local driving on the stage.  Nobody knows how this guy got on the stage, but we're all very lucky that he wasn't hit by a rally car moving at 100+ mph.  I wasn't too heartbroken either, since the stage was so rough.

On the next running of Fir Mountain, Ken Block rolled his car.  Dan was driving well again.  I was trying to keep up in the notes- It's a pretty busy stage.  On a fast, downhill "left 4", we went a little wide and started to go into the ditch.  This wouldn't have been so bad, except this ditch was full of trees.  I though for sure that we were going to hit a big tree head-on.  However, Dan surprised me by pinning the throttle.  The car bucked and bounced- We did hit some smaller trees, and nailed a huge rock or stump under the car, which pitched us back onto the stage road.  We were both a little shaken, but Dan kept powering through the stage and we knocked off 28 seconds from our first run through.

We then took on the new-to-us Starveout stage.  This stage was different in character from the first two.  It was more desert- wide open, dirt- dusty.  There was a fun long-downhill into hard right turn in front of spectators on this stage.

Here's a video from that spectator area - Dan Driving:

Back in service, we checked out the damage:  We knocked off the side view mirror, broke the rear taillight, broke the wing, scraped the rear bumper, and smashed the skidplate a bit.  We got away lucky, since we can pretty much just bolt new stuff on.  The car was still driving perfectly.

There were two more stages, with little drama.  We finished another day of rally!!  We finished 7th on stage times. BUT, a very rare penalty put us down to 11th overall.  This penalty was the result of exceeding the organizer's speed limit on a transit.  This was a road that would normally be 45 mph, but the organizers wanted us to do 15mph there in order to keep down dust and noise for a residence there.  I missed the note in the routebook, and we got busted. This was a big bummer, but we learned from our mistake and won't do this again!

At the end of the day, we hit the big party in the campground/service area.  The folks in Dufur sure know how to party!

On Sunday, I got to drive again.  There would be 5 stages for about 42 miles.  The stages were again open, desert style stages.  The organizers had to put some chicanes in place to slow down speeds a bit.  These are not generally ideal rally stages, but some of the chicanes were put in neat places- Dropping from the main road onto a driveway, and then following a hairpin turn to get back to the main road.  I pulled the handbrake for the first time ever at one of these chicanes- And the car rotated!!  This became an immediate addiction-  I'm glad we installed the "fun lever".

We set some good stage times-  6th fastest on the first two, then 3rd fastest, then 5th fastest on the last two.

On Saturday, we had the check-engine light come on once.  The car fell into "limp mode" on transit.  Sean from RalliTEK quickly diagnosed this and cleared the code, but the final fix would require a trip to the shop.  So, on Sunday, we had to stop a couple of times to reset the ECU.  This really isn't difficult, but it can be distracting, and as a result we missed a turn on a transit, arriving late to the start of a stage.  This resulted in a 1:10 penalty! Neither Dan or I have had any kind of penalty in 5 years, so to get two in a weekend was really disappointing.

Here's a vid from a Sunday spectator area-  A tough transition from loose dirt onto asphalt.  The handbrake worked great here!

Still, at the end of the day we finished 6th overall.  We would have been 4th if not for the penalty- and less then 30 seconds behind the 2nd place of Mark Mager.

We're happy with our results- We're steadily gaining speed in the new car.  It won't be long before we are battling it out for podium positions.

We were joined in service for this one by Patrick.  Patrick has been out to a few rallies and helped before, but he's never crew-chiefed.  He did an awesome job and we're hoping he'll come back out with us. We also had plenty of help from the RalliTEK crew.  We're very lucky to have all the help that we do.

In the end, Oregon Trail was one of our most exciting rallies in a while.  We had some minor dramas, we narrowly managed to avoid big damage to the car, and we finished all three days of rally.  I'm definitely looking forward to the next one!

We must thank RalliTEK for all of their support!  We could not do this without them.  We're also lucky to be running AMSOIL lubricants in the car- especially at this race where it was really hot and dusty.  And for Friday night, we got to try out our new PIAA lights, which are awesome. 

Our next rally is currently planned for October- The Mt. Hood Rally.  Hope to see you there!

(Note- all videos can also be found here in my Favorites section - In case they are slow to load from here. )

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Olympus Results

The Olympus Rally was April 24-25.  The rally was based in Ocean Shores, Washington.

This rally was a Rally America National Championship event, so there were teams there from around the country and Canada.  The fastest cars were there, including Travis Pastrana, Ken Block, Antoine L'Estage, and Patrick Richard.

Luckily, those fast guys were competing in the National rally, while we entered in the regional rally.  Our new car is fantastic, but still worth 25% what those cars are worth.  One cool thing about national rallies is that they offer "stage notes" which describe ever turn in the rally, and this rally also included recce, which gave us a chance to see all the stages in advance.

Dan drove on Saturday.  This was his first time driving the rally car in competition, after having driven the car maybe 10 total miles before that.  His goal was very simple:  Finish the rally and learn the car.  He drove slowly for the first few stages.  His goal to finish was challenged by some really rough twisty, and sloppy first few stages.  Dan did very, very well for his first time in the car.  After 64 stage miles, he finished 4th in Open class, and 10th overall in the Regional rally.  He tried left-foot braking a little bit, and got used to the traction of the new car.  He said that he felt like it was much more stable in all conditions than our old car.

Despite Dan's moderate pace, I got carsick during the 4th stage, Crane Creek.  This stage was very, very twisty and rough.  I never barfed, but it was close.  For the last three stages, Terry Hanson kindly agreed to navigate for Dan.  Terry normally navigates for his son, Travis, but they had crashed out of the rally earlier in the day.

There were no problems with the car all day and the most that our crew did was fuel the car and check fluids.

On Sunday, I drove.  The stages on Sunday were ones that I'd just driven at the Doo Wops rally in March, so I felt very comfortable on them.  We pushed on a at a moderate pace while I continued to learn the car, get more comfortable with left-foot braking, and learn to listen to the stage notes.  In the end, we finished 4th in Open Class and 5th overall in the Regional.  We were just 8 seconds behind 4th place.

We were joined by a crew from RalliTEK, who helped service the car and took lots of video over the weekend.  HUGE THANKS to RalliTEK for their support of our efforts. 

We also were joined by Bill Kostich, Bryce Nash, and Jessica Sutton in the service area.

Here are some pictures and video from the race:

This one is one the first stage, Wreck Creek.  Cool view of the ocean in the background.

Here's what we saw rounding a corner at the very beginning of the first stage: Two cars crashed.  Luckily, we didn't join them!

Here's Dan negotiating a mud pit.  I think this is the Crane Creek stage.

Here's Doug on the Brooklyn Stage.

Here's another awesome video put together by Sean Sexton of RalliTEK:

Our next race is the Oregon Trail Rally, April 15-17.  The rally is based in Portland, but has stages as far away as The Dalles and Dufur, in the Columbia River Gorge.  Hope to see you there.