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Maine Forest

posted in News by Last Ditch Racing


What follows is a long synopsis of our weekend. It became a little long winded, so read at your own peril! ;-)

There were rally cars everywhere! Parc Expose was really fun with lots of public coming up and asking about the car and what we had done to it. Rallysport was there with a mobile trailer making up cool t-shirts, and Subaru Canada and USA were selling shirts and giving away posters and stickers. My boys got Maine Forest shirts with other pictures on the front. One got a jet and the other a Nissan Primera. Go figure! Turns out they had a CRX graphic and we had them put that on our other shirts.

The spectator stage on Friday afternoon was fun, with lots of folks able to see the cars up close and personal. With so many cars in the field, the waits to run were long but that provided us all some time to meet new folks and catch up with old acquaintances. Friday night was rough for us at the back of the pack, but we knew it would be. We drove conservatively to finish. SS4 was scrubbed after an Audi caught fire and burnt to the ground(so we heard).

Our car was mechanically okay after Friday and we got to sleep about 12AM! A record for us. We even slept in a bit! :-)
Saturday saw the long transit up to the Rangely/Oquossoc area. We hung out in the DOT lot(service area) and again met some folks. We had moved up considerably from our original 117 start on Friday, so we were feeling pretty good.

SS5 felt great! Lots of left foot braking and the new LSD provided us with some better lines and grip. SS6 was our undoing. Our rally computer went out shortly after the start, frustrating the co-driver. I had a couple of bad turns, and a little excursion into a deep ditch(staring at another car off) and got flustered. I found it hard to settle mentally and we took two hard hits on the driver's front. After the second hit, I knew we had a problem-the strut had popped out of the steering knuckle. I knew this because the same thing happened to us last year! :-(

We pulled over and I got the jack under the front. Got the tire off(which was off the bead and flat). Then, the car fell off the jack! Time to start digging in dirt to try and get the jack back under that side-damn! Starting thinking off past Bill Nye the Science Guy shows and remembered something about leverage. Got a long piece of a birch tree that had been cut and used the tire rim as a fulcrum. Maygen got on the pole and the car came up! Not quite enough to get the jack under, but less digging than I was faced with prior to that....

Got the jack under the front of the car, but couldn't get the strut back into the knuckle. Got it part way and got the tire on. Sweep showed up and wanted to tow us. I told them I'd try and drive it out slowly. Drove about 20 feet and the strut popped out again-no go. Parked it and put out the triangles.

Jumped in the DNF van(nearly full, by the way!), and we had quite a fun time driving out of the stage, wondering what kind of carnage we'd see around the next turn. We picked up Randy Zimmer who had holed his sump on a rock and saw a Subaru on its side in the ditch as well as the Krolikowski's Subaru post roll. We saw the Havas' RX-7 stuffed in the woods(he later got pulled out and continued).

Then, a surreal site. We're in the DNF van, coming out the stage, past the finish, and I see a pickup truck with a silver Audi behind it. We get closer, and I see the hazard lights on both vehicles. I also see that the Audi is on a tow strap. As we pass the car, I think, "That car kinda looks like my wife's car." Then I see my crew chief in it and my kids in the back! What the?!

We had no cellular coverage, so I couldn't call them. I finally got some coverage futher down the road and called our service crew and told them we were out. They yelled, "yeah, allright!" I told them it was the other kind of out-"oh," they said. They told me my wife had put a hole in her oil pan going in to spectate. Nate(crew cheif) had gotten a ride in to the stage with local police, who then had to leave him on the side of the road because they got a call. He thumbed a ride in to where my wife was.

Sharon(my wife) got in to Oquossoc, and we put her car up on the ramps under the tent behind our service truck. We were parked right next to Subaru Canada with Subaru US further down the line. Everyone was looking at us as we went to work feverishly on this car that obviously wasn't in the race. The pan was mortally wounded. A large, jagged gash in the middle, measuring about 1 inch by 4 inches long. The local garage would weld it because of liability concerns. The boat shop across the way told us to fiberglass it.

Finally, I told my wife we had to go back into the stage to retrieve Fireball, our Honda. She was left with the gaping pan to fend for herself and try to keep our two boys(8 and 5) entertained somehow.

We finally found the race car and had it fixed in five minutes. I already have a list of tools that WILL be in the car for the next rally. :-)

Nate drove the ambulance out while Jeff and I took the CRX with tools and ramps back to put Sharon's pan back on. We got there and saw another surreal sight! Sharon's car under the Easy Up tent was the only thing left in what was a bustling service area just an hour ago. It was like the circus had come to Oquossoc for a couple of hours and then pulled up stakes and moved on-well, they did actually! :-)

The blessing of the day came in the form of Subaru Canada's service crew. I'm not sure it was(please let me know if you read this, so I can thank you personally), but someone had watched my wife carrying the pan and finally said, "we'll fix that!" A patch of aluminum with blind rivets and silicon and the repair was made. All this happening while Pat's Subaru was up on stands in the service area!

To say that I am grateful is a gross understatement. We got the pan back on in five minutes. Filled the engine with AMSOIL we had brought for the race car and started it up. It had a nasty tick for a minute, but then pressure came up and it quieted down quite nicely....

We convoyed back to Sunday river, Fireball with an off-camber front wheel, dust -filled ambulance, and resurrected Audi. We were tired and happy to get back...

The banquet followed, and it was amazing to see such a large crowd of rallyists in one spot! We were too tired to eat, and went to sleep shortly after the awards.

A lot of thank yous from me: Thanks to my wife Sharon for supporting my pursuit of rallying. Thanks to Maygen McCarty for a fine job co-driving in her first large event. Nate Dwelley for his rock-solid dependability and maturity in dealing with whatever we throw at him in his position as crew chief! Jeff Whalen and Dave Levasseur for volunteering to crew. They were instrumental in getting us back to Rumford on Saturday. To the other competitors in the rally for being so accessible and giving. Ray Johansen and his team for support and comraderie(and the lightbulbs-I'll get you some!). Anders Green for his sense of humor.

Thanks also to some companies for fine products(I am NOT sponsored by any). Alfa-Pro, AEM, Moroso and Phantom Grip. My mechanic Steve Chatfield and his son Steve Jr. for putting a good car under us.

And a thank you to the workers who endured the dust and long hours on the stages! Without you, we could not do what we love! Thanks again to John Buffum for supporting us Club Rally folks at the Maine Forest rally-I hope he's able to do so in the future in the face of ever increasing numbers of entrants.

The final, MEGA THANK YOU, goes to Subaru Canada for rescuing my wife and two sons at their own expense and time. That is the true spirit of rallying! :-)

Cheers! John

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