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Maine Forest

posted in News by Last Ditch Racing


Well, the Last Ditch Racing team had a long week! :-) We travelled to New Hampshire Wednesday night to attend the Team O'Neil liscensing school. We took a wrong turn in New Hampshire and took an hour-and-a-half detour through the State Forest. Beautiful country, but we were ready for dinner and bed!

The school was fantastic! A big thanks to all the instructors for presenting the material in a way we could understand. The mock stage was great as it gave us a good idea of the timing setup.

We arrived in Rumford Thursday night and found our Motel. We then went to the Madison to check was a mob scene! Different accents, the cars, and the excitement of registering for our first was sensory overload. We found John Buffum and the Michelin's he had overnight expressed from the warehouse for us. We watched the team work on Carl Smith's Ford Escort behind the van and were in awe of the level of preparation.
Friday morning, we were at the local Rite Aid pharmacy to develop some pictures to stick in the front of our logbook. Then, it was off to the auto parts store to have the tires mounted. The man went to mount the tire and told us we had 13" rims and 14" tires! Damn. They got on the phone for us and couldn't source any 14" rims locally. A quick call to my wife at home, and she was soon making the rounds of the junk yards and tire dealers in our town. She called back and we were in luck! Tire Warehouse had 4 uni-fit 14" rims. She'd bring them over. A call 20 minutes later told us she had the rims, but only three...we were short....things looked bleak...

We put the 15" rims with the street tires on for Tech inspection. Tech went fine-a big thank you to Don Taylor for all his hard work teching the large field! Pleased that at least something was going our way, we went back into Rumford to park the car in the Parc Expose and watch the start of the race for the National entrants. The cars were fantastic! All the way from the Open class cars to the more modest entries. The town had two ladder fire trucks with their ladders in the shape of a triangle over the starting line-nice-nice touch!

My wife and mother arrived and found that the autoparts store could get four 14" chrome rims in Lewiston. We enticed one of the employees withsome cash to go get them and he was off! We met him back at the store after the start and theymounted the Michelins. The tires fit! We were rolling the old tires and rims to the back of the store for disposal when I suddenly remembered the magnets for the Alpha Pro on the rear wheels! Off they came and back into the store for some silicone. I asked if they had silicone and they pointed me to the aisle. The employee and I must have stared at the display for 10 minutes trying to find the regular silicone. We finally found it and we off to the hotel.

We took the new wheels back to the hotel for mounting and then to take yet another shower. Adjusting the sensors and magnets is not a quick proposition. The wheels were off and on more times than I care to remember. With the heat, and the work, we needed to shower about three times a day. My co-driver, Travis Smith, and I finally went off to do our odometer check at about midnight. We got to the Madison and realized we had forgotten the paper with the measured mileage for the odometer check. Travis went inside to find it on the notice board and I waited in the car. Once back, we headed out, only to have the car die about 100 yards down the road. The car wouldn't start and the starter simply clicked.

A quick call to our crew chief and down he came with the trailer. We pushed Fireball up on and went back to the Motel. I couldn't find anything amiss at the Motel, so we plugged in the battery charger and went to bed-exhausted, hoping for the best.

Saturday morning was race day! The car started! We suited up and headed to the Madison for the mandatory talk for first time racers. We then headed to the start, just a little further down the road. The car ran well, and we shut off the battery disconnect whenever we could. The ClubRally start order hadn't been posted at the Madison, so I sent Travis up to find out what minute we were supposed to start in. 10:40 was our time. We got in line and pulled up. At the MTC, the marshall couldn't help himself noticing our shiny new chrome rimes-"nice wheels!"
He said go and we were off! Wow, finally rallying! All those months of work and the minute was finally at hand! We had to do our odometer check on the way back to the Madison and set the computer clock. We knew we could find our way via the route book to the first ATC. We turned onto route 26 and went about three miles when the car died. The computer went blank as we pulled to the side of the road. A couple of other competitors stopped before we could get our OK sign out(thanks for stopping!) and the sweep truck stopped as well. We told them we'd be fine and to go ahead.

The battery seemed dead again...we were across from a state park entrance and their were hikers getting out of their cars. I asked if anyone could give us a jump, and no one had cables. Shortly after, a nice gent in a Miata pulled up and offered to give us a jump if we could source some cables. Not having the foresight to pack cables into our car, we noticed an older fellow with a walker that had shuffled to the far side of the road. He shouted, "what do ya need?" When we replied jumper cables, he shouted, "I've got 'em." I told Travis to go get the cables and bring them back. It was about as humorous a situation as I could imagine in a rally situation. Travis in his racing suit, following the shuffling man, both travelling at little more than a snail's pace. I thought Travis might pick the man up and carry him back to his car as we both looked at our watches!

The cables finally arrived and the car started right away! Seemed to run well and we were off! We were travelling a bit quick to make a little time and pulled up behind a BMW that was sightseeing. I flashed my high beam lights and the car died again. This time, we knew we were through. The Miata caught us again and he seemed to sense the futility of attempting another jump start. He offered us use of his cell phone, but we were out of reach of the nearest cell. He agreed to call our crew chief with our location. We sat, sweltering in the sun, was quiet...

About 10 minutes later, up pulled our truck and trailer. We pushed the car uphill onto the trailer and reflected on our race. We had one time on the time card...we didn't feel as bad as I thought we would. We learned a lot about car prep, met lots of great folks, and learned what needed fixing on the car. We decided to drive on up the route to see if we could spectate. We came upon a fellow ClubRally entrant who was at the Team O'Neil school with us. They had rolled their Volvo and it caught fire when they righted it. It looked a mess. We took some pictures and went up the stage. After realizing we'd never catch the racers, we turned around and went to the service area. We had lunch and watched as all the cars came in to get their street tires on.

While having lunch, we saw the previously rolled Volvo drive by-damn they're stout! We headed back to Rumford and watched the last Special Stage in town. It was a fantastic weekend, and we're thoroughly exhausted. We've got more work to do before the next rally, and we'll give it another go! Many thanks to John Buffum for getting the tires to us, the Maine Forest workers, and the man in Miata that stopped to offer us help!

Most of all, a big thanks to my wife Sharon, my co-driver Travis Smith, crew chief Nate Dwelley, my mechanic Steve Chatfield and my mother-who has definitely caught the rally bug!

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