Hello, everyone! I know I haven’t done a blog in a while, but clearly I’m better at this than I am at video editing. Anyway, we had quite the eventful rally!
For the first time, I had Rally Takeover’s own Dusty Ventures as my codriver. Long story short, we took a 1st place on the rankings, but it was certainly no easy task getting there.
For those unaware, ARA effectively runs two separate rallies each weekend. When registering, we can decide to be “National” or “Regional”. I registered as National for a whopping $50 extra (thanks Subaru discount!), mainly for the extra points. I now have a two point lead in the ARA Eastern Limited 2WD Championship! Only one other team registered national and they didn’t hear the podium announcement, so that’s why we were left standing up there solo. After everything we went through, the champagne still tasted fantastic.
New for this year, we were allowed two passes of recce for the stages. Dusty and I spent Wednesday and Thursday going through the stages, but we managed to get two passes of everything. Next, the rally officially started with parc expose Thursday night in Wellsboro. It seemed to be a better turnout than the usual Friday morning parc expose. I always enjoy meeting the fans, and also doing burnouts at the ceremonial start.
Friday morning, the competitors met in the absolute swamp of a service park to begin the rally. Waste Management had cleared a new area at their property for service, but the recent rain had made it a mud pit. We got ourselves sorted out, and at the designated time we started the hour transit to the first stage. Having not been here since 2016, I was a bit nervous as to how the stages would be. In 2016 it was dry and dusty and I was a much slower driver. The rain had made the road slick, but I started hot since the car felt great. It was all good until I hit a slick spot over a crest and had a bit of a tank slapper. Still, we made it through with a class win.
I was not prepared for what would happen on the next stage, though. We were moving at a good pace, when I slightly cut a fast right hand corner. We hit two HUGE rocks. The one on the right gave us a flat tire, but the one on the left BENT MY SKID PLATE SUPPORT, TORE A TWO FOOT HOLE IN MY FLOOR, AND SHEARED SOME OF THE BOLTS HOLDING MY SEAT IN! It felt like the car got hit with a sledgehammer (turns out that was just my ass).
I drove on the flat for a few miles until it started to disintegrate, then we finally got out and changed it. All in all we lost about six minutes.
Next up was stage 3, which we managed to make it through with only one moment (not a great average at this point). We made it back to service and while we were assessing the damage, one of the ARA officials (walking by to inspect a car who hit a tree) saw the daylight through our floor and told us we would need to get it all sorted to get back in the race. My crew chief Erik seemed bummed, until I said “Fire up the welder!” He managed to put a tack on the sheared bolts, grind a slot into it, and remove them with a screwdriver. While this was going on, I sprinted over to our friends at Thompson Racing Fabrication to use a vice and a hammer to straighten the seat bracket. It was a mad scramble, but we managed to get everything done in a 30 minute service without any late penalties!
Alas, this was far from the last of our problems. We had a short pass through the new Waste Management arena before another loop of forest stages. There was a ton of standing water and mud in corners, but we pushed through at a decent pace. I discovered halfway through the next forest stage that we had completely caked the radiator and the oil cooler in thick mud.
Thankfully, my friend at Racing Tech who installed the dashboard programmed in temperature warnings. We backed off, but I still saw 253 F oil temperature and 235 F coolant temperature. I had been hoping to use the data to evaluate our new Race Louvers, but the rally had other ideas. We still managed to win stage 5 and get close on the next two.
After the forest run, we went back to service where we managed to wash some of the mud out of the radiator. We then had two runs of the long Waste Management stage with a short forest stage in the middle. I sent it big over the jump the first time, which may have been why my exhaust started falling off.
We spent all the time before the next two stages using whatever we could to get the exhaust off the ground. We burst out laughing when we passed a whole exhaust sitting in the middle of stage 9, which may have cost us the 0.2s to the stage win. Worth it.
After a long wait to turn around the waste management stage, we made it through another pass and finally finished the day (albeit with the exhaust hanging off). We trailered it back to the rental house where we fired up the welder and zapped it in place. We were in bed by 1am, so certainly not the latest night we’ve had.
Saturday morning was a stop at the coin wash to hose out the mud (mainly from the radiator) before parc expose. It was a little damp, but still good to meet fans and catch up with rally friends. Once that was all done, we drove out to the Asaph stage north of Wellsboro. The conditions were damp and slippy, but I felt amazingly comfortable in the car and had a brilliant drive. We were the third fastest of all the 2WD cars, only 20 seconds off two drivers who I greatly respect in very fast cars in the Open 2WD class.
Sadly, there was a red cross on the next stage when one of the top cars hit a tree and injured the codriver (they are recovering well). We had to skip stages 12 and 13. We had another fantastic drive on stage 14, coming 3rd again of all the 2WD cars.
We had a service before the final stage, another pass through Waste Management. I was really hoping to beat the crews that were leading L2wd in the regional category, so I decided to take my spare tire out and drive it faster than I had all weekend. I tried to push hard where I could, dodging holes and bumps while trying to maintain speed.
We managed to make it to the end. I was so happy to have survived the weekend. Just like Summer Sno*Drift, I felt like this was the fastest I had ever driven. While we were not able to catch the other L2 drivers, we still slotted into 3rd in the combined results by just a few seconds. Had we been able to run the other two forest stages, I’m sure we could have made up even more time.
Next up, we’ll be at the Lake Superior Performance Rally with our trusty codriver RJ. Hoping to finish the year strong!
I want to say a massive thanks to my partners for keeping me going strong. Team Illuminata Motorsport/Braid Wheels USA, Racing Tech, Race Louvers, and our latest partner, Recaro Automotive Seating who’s helping me replace my seat after that large impact.