Tuesday, October 18, 2011

2011 Lake Superior Performance Rally Report

There's a reason why it's called the "oldest, meanest, toughest rally in North America".  And all anyone had to do was see the conditions on Day 1 for proof.  The rain started Thursday, turning to driving sheets of cold soaking rain driven by 50MPH gusts off Lake Superior and never let up until Sat.  At any other rally, I'm pretty sure a couple of the stages would have been cancelled.  Not here.

At one point late Fri night, Tim & I were going down a stage in the Med-Sweep Rally Wabbit and looking at the 8 inch deep ruts in front of us, I couldn't tell if we were driving through deep snow or deep mud!   9 cars went out on the last stage of the night around 1AM.   Many of the crews and workers didn't get back to Houghton until 4AM.

The weekend started for us on Wednesday morning in Newberry as we tried to finish up the car.  Although Tim got a massive amount of work completed in the 3 weeks since we purchased the GTI, there were still lots of things to get done before the car was ready for the rally.  We finished up around midnight and backed the car out of the garage for its very first shakedown run.  We managed to move about 3 feet, when a loud noise brought us to a dead stop, both with panicked looks on our faces.  What first seemed to be a clutch or gearbox problem turned out to be the front tires rubbing on the struts.  We thought that was the end, but managed to raise the ride height a bit more to eek out just enough clearance.

Then it was off to the nearest gravel road for a quick shakedown and to align the driving lights. It was a bonzai run down a dark gravel road with no seat belts installed and no roll bar padding ... and no confidence that the car would actually run! But everything seemed OK, so we loaded the car up and headed to Houghton Thursday AM.

There was more to finish on the car at the hotel on Thursday and Friday morning (working in the driving rain and cold of course), enough time since the 1st stage wasn't until around 1PM.  But with Stage 1 fast approaching, we still didn't have a working rally computer.  We finally took the car out on the odometer check route so I could calibrate the computer.  But as soon as we started moving, the odometer wasn't counting at all!  It worked on the shakedown run Weds night, WTF?   Great, let's try to do a rally with a non-functional odometer .....  we eventually traced the problem to the drive gear in the speedometer sensor and cobbled up a quick fix with less the 30 minutes to go.

Having never used this rally computer before, we entered the Super Special Stage at the gravel pit in heavy rain.  By the time we got to the first corner, the wheel spin through the muddy gravel had already added 2/10ths to the odometer, completely throwing off the notes.  And I had no clue how to add/subtract mileage from the computer!  The stage was too short to do much manual adjustment and Tim was basically forced to drive it alone.

A few pics and more on the rally later: