The first few months of 2019 are in the books and with them, the first two Rallies in Missouri are complete. You can read about our Missouri Ozark Rally experience here (link) and the 100 Acre Wood Rally was run over St. Patrick’s Day weekend last month. They were both full of challenges for our team and each embodied the Rally mentality of “Press On Regardless” to make it to the finish line.
Most of the largest U.S. Rallies have switched over sanctioning bodies from Rally America in previous years, to the American Rally Association this year. That means the return of major factory teams to the woods of the Ozarks and with them all of the fans and media presence that follow. The Rally in the 100 Acre Wood had a record number of entries in 2019. Seventy-five cars started the first stage of the event! I have never seen as many people at a Parc Expose as were there on Friday in Potosi.
Since we did not have a “speed factor” for Rally America with the new car yet, we started much lower down in the field than I had hoped for. We wanted to quickly make up some time so that at the first re-seed opportunity we could be properly seeded in the order. The advantages of this are two-fold. With the longer stages of this Rally, we would be less likely to encounter another car on-stage. Secondly, with fewer cars in front of us, it means fewer opportunities for cars in front of us to potentially become course obstacles.
Unfortunately we were pushing a bit too hard too early. On the second stage, went wide on a left hand corner and impacted the outside banking with our right rear wheel. This caused some major vibration and stability issues with the car. We managed to finish the last 2 miles of the stage and the 3 mile transit to the third stage. We tried to assess the issue in between the stages but with no obvious solution at hand, we decided to try to complete the first loop and make it back to service. There was nothing we could have done, though, as the axle and hub were too badly damaged and the wheel came off around 5 miles into the third stage.
Thanks to the generous assistance of a few fellow competitors, we soon had both spare parts to fix the damage and a garage bay to work in. A few hours later we drove the car out of the garage and back to the hotel to get some rest for Saturday’s stages. The ARA rules caused the previously split regional events to become a single combined two day event. This meant we didn’t have much to gain in terms of points for the weekend after missing so many stages on Friday, but we still had the opportunity to gain a more accurate speed factor as well as seat time and continued evaluation of the new car. Saturday’s stages are tighter and rougher than Friday’s so it would be interesting to see how the proper suspension handled the terrain.
Saturday started off with an unfamiliar section of road, and it was clear that something was not exactly the same with the repaired parts. Our first stage time of the day was less than impressive. We made some adjustments, got the feel for the car back and we set some very good times the rest of the day. On stage 14 (the fourth stage of Saturday) we actually ran the fastest overall time for the regional rally! Just taking Saturday’s times into account, we would have been 3rd overall regionally at the end of the day. We have some good feedback of what the car is capable of, and a good idea of the car’s limits.
After struggling with the turbo studs and nuts over the first couple events with the car, I think we finally found a good solution! The nuts to the manifold were tight until the very last stage, when the gasket began to fail. We will continue to use the clock-type lock nuts and treat the gasket as a regular maintenance item. We will put on some new brake rotors and EBC Yellowstuff pads to replace the damaged components, We will also upgrade to aluminum Mk4 Calipers to shave a few more pounds of weight and make future pad changes easier. There are a few weeks until the Southern Ohio Forest Rally! and we can’t wait to tear up the Ohio mountains!