Apogee Part V: NEFR Strikes Back!

With the next Star wars movie on the way, why not bring a little intergalactic flavor into the Apogee mix? After all, pod racing seems to be pretty similar to rally anyway.  This article is about hope, crushing setback, and a new hope, as in I am hoping I will not be getting a cease and desist letter from Lucasfilm. Seriously, I have car parts to buy. Anyway, onto the main story. A Long time ago, well not that long ago, but a few months ago we were hot off completing our first event at Mt Washington Climb to the Clouds when we set off to one of our favorite events, New England Forest Rally. Going into this event, we had been having a relatively good season considering we had three events within a month and a half. We knew we would be working out some bugs this season after changing out our entire wiring, motor, and transmission, among other upgrades.

Sliding our way up Mt Washington. Our little M42 gave us its all at that event. We were really happy with the upgrades to the car.

We were pleasantly surprised at how well the upgrades were performing. Our ECU, tune from ACE Performance, and lightweight flywheel made a massive difference in how the motor responded and performed overall. The weight reduction and refinement in the cockpit also made a noticeable difference in how the car behaved. We came in 1st in class at STPR on the first day – we won’t talk about the second day. We were really impressed with the car at Mt Washington as well. There were a few smaller issues involving the MAP sensor connector and a coolant line issue at that event, but both were fixed during the service periods. We had great runs up the hill.

We were not the fastest, but never the less the car did great. If we had a few more hill climbs under our belt (or any hill climbs for that matter) we would have pushed a bit harder and could have trimmed off more time, but the car did its part fully. Going into NEFR, we had already completed the big events we wanted to do for the season. We had a few more on the list, but the “Must Do’s” were completed. We wanted to push ourselves a little more this time around, now that we started to get a feel for the car with the new changes.

We set off on the first day and the pesky MAP sensor connector issue returned to us as we headed towards the first stage. The car developed a slight sputter at around 2500rpms; by the time we got to the first stage it had become a more significant issue. Regardless, we set out on the first stage. We had a solid time; we had shaved 38s off our time from the year before on a stage that is about 5.5mi long. During transit to run that stage for the second time, the MAP sensor issue was getting worse and the car stalled a couple of times while getting ready to go. We still managed to run the stage nine seconds faster than our first run, and that was including an excursion through a culvert on the side of the road that ripped our exhaust off. We got back to service, “fixed” the MAP connector with electrical tape, and were able to finish the day. Our overall times were good, but we did get a penalty for hitting a cone in a chicane. That added quite a bit of time, unfortunately.

We were having a few minor issues that were becoming a little more significant at NEFR. Despite these issues, we still had a pretty solid first day

The second day was a rough one. The day started with a red cross thrown on the first stage; a local team out for the first time in their new car had gone off the road at a high rate of speed, and the co-driver was seriously injured. That was very concerning and obviously was a scary way to start the day. As we transited to the second stage jitters were a little higher, at least for me. I had a feeling that this day would not go as smoothly, but I did not have any real insight as to why, so I didn’t mention it. We set off on the second stage of the day. Pretty shortly into the stage – roughly one mile – we entered a relatively wide right turn, but the car slid out over to the outside edge and we brushed through some bushes. That did not feel right, as the turn looked smooth and relatively dry. We figured it was just more torn up than it looked from the other cars going over it.

We continued on at about the same rate of pace. The car still seemed a little squirrely and unpredictable a few miles further in. It felt like Adam dialed it back a bit, but we still wanted to push as much as we could. That was our goal in this race, in particular. We crossed over the super sketchy logging bridge and just a few more turns in, we approached a damp looking turn. We slowed down a bit, entered the turn, the rear end stepped out, Adam corrected, the rear end then snapped back and we were heading towards the trees. It was at this moment, we knew we messed up. The car left the 8-10’ high drop off on the side of the road, landed and hit a tree head on.

Our second day did not go as well. We went off the road, down a 8-10ft bank and into a tree.

That would not have been so bad, but the tree hit dead center on the right side frame rail, pushing the firewall about 3 inches back to my co-driver foot rest. We were bummed, but that was also our first major crash. Nobody wants to crash, but we knew at some point we would get our turn, and that day had come. We got a tow back onto the road by the always awesome NEFR Sweep crew – thanks guys! – drove our crab-walking ti back to service, then back to Sunday River. Not the day we were hoping for, but aside from some minor aches the next morning, we were completely fine. The car, not so much.

We decided to retire our ti from the Apogee team. It has served us well over the years, and if we can get the frame fixed, it might serve as a good RallyCross car for the next person. So that left us in the market for a new car. But what to buy? Should we go with something newer? BRZ/FRS perhaps? Nope, too broke, at least too broke to make that happen for next year, so that puts us in an older market. We wanted to stick with RWD because Adam is most comfortable with RWD, and it tends to be a little cheaper than AWD to fix, given less moving things to break. So RWD, older/cheaper, and preferably a hatch, since they seem to have more usable space for rally purposes. Since we were comfortable mechanically with BMWs, that left us with few choices.  We got a new 318ti! Rally 318ti 2.0 build has already started. Now that you are caught up on our end of season/beginning of new build, check out our next article covering the initial build and overview of our plans on Part VI “Return of the ti”.

While the damage did not look that bad on the outside. we hit directly on the right side frame rail. that pushed the whole frame rail back and moved the firewall back 3″.

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