Recent Photos
lastditchracing's items Go to lastditchracing's photostream


The road to Maine Forest 2002 was paved with adversity. This event is very important for myself and the team. We consider it our home event and this year was our fourth time at the race. I started rallying after seeing fellow Mainer Carl Merril on ESPN2 and couldn't believe that someone in my state was rallying! As crazy as the thought was at the time, I bought a car and decided to go rallying. My passion for rally has steadily increased. I regret that I never got to meet Carl prior to his untimely death. From what I understand, he was quite a character. I would expect nothing less from a fellow Mainer in a rally car!

We had many obstacles to getting to this year's event. We weren't done building our new rally car, a 1994 1.8L Subaru Impreza AWD sedan. We didn't have our SCCA ProRally licenses. We had just come off a Canadian events two weeks prior.

The Last Ditch Team was up to the challenge. Team is the operative word. For the first time in it's short history, Last Ditch Racing is a TEAM, consisting of, John Cassidy, Maygen McCarty, Eric Wages, Margaret Michaels, Dave Getchell and Matt Robinson. Without the team, there would be no car, no event, no stories. A heartfelt thanks to all of them for helping me realize my dream of becoming a better rally driver and representing Maine in the sport.
After saying goodbye to Fireball, our Honda rally car, we waited for Brent Hatch to bring the Subaru over from Vermont where he had been working on the rollcage for the car. He planned on arriving on Friday night, giving us a full weekend of work the week prior to Maine Forest, but didn't arrive until Sunday AM. He graciously offered to stay and work on the car that week with us prior to the event.

We descended on the car like ants at a picnic. Brake pads, skid plates, wiring, light pod mounting, fluid changes, and all interior work had to be done. The car was scheduled for paint on the following Tuesday, so we would have nearly two days cut out of our work time. When Brent rolled the car off the trailer, we weren't sure we were going to make it. I don't think Brent was sure either! As Brent mounted the seats, we set about working outside of the car. I had to work all week(except the day the car was in the paint shop), so we worked mostly at night. Brent continued to work during the day. Our final push came on Wednesday night when Dave Getchell and myself saw the sunrise and finally went to bed at 6AM on Thursday. We had to leave for Rumford Thursday afternoon after work!

Running around getting the car prepped had kept us from thinking too much about the enormity and importance of the event. This would be our first time in the new car in a US ProRally event and we wanted to do well. We knew we wouldn't win PGT with our little 1.8L, 110bhp motor in our nearly #3,500 pound sedan, but we'd drive as fast as we could. Having completed Tim O'Neil's three day rally school a couple months prior, I felt more confident in my skills and the car.

After arriving in Rumford Thursday night, we found Don Taylor at the D.O.T. garage where he instpected the car and issued a logbook for it. We ate at the Sunday River Brew Pub and chatted a bit with Stewart and the Subaru Canada team. We all desparately wanted to get to bed and travelled up to Sunday River to check in and park the trailer. The trailer lot was filled with some very large car hauler/motorhome combos. Talk about racing in style! We slept like babies.

Friday AM, and we sent Dave for an oil filter and drain pan so we could put AMSOIL in the engine. He also got a set of Michelin tires mounted for us. Eric and Dave had already been up and had traced a faulty wire that was causing a short to our interior accessories. By the time Dave got back, it was time to go register and then go to Parc Expose downtown. We scrambled and got everything buttoned up and Maygen and I hopped in. On the way downtown, we stopped at the Linnel to register and get our routebooks. We found that we had somehow damaged the Alfa-Pro computer, so found Ken Beard and procured a Terratrip unit-thanks Ken!

The cars were all shined up for Parc-Expose and the fans wandered by, often stopping to talk with us. A reporter from a local newspaper stopped to interview us. Meanwhile, the crew worked to get the Terratrip and it's probe in the car. Another challenge for Maygen on top of the stage notes-learn a new rally computer!

The crew left to get set up for service at the Rec Area, and we headed off in our start order, #86/97. SS1 was fun with all the spectators, although it was quite dusty for them. I could tell that the AWD would make the difference for us this year! Into service, and on with the Michelin and off to the first two stages. On the way, we found the left rear tire was rubbing. On what, I didn't know, but we continued and soon the smoke stopped. I radioed to the crew that we'd just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope that it wasn't anything major.

The first two stages went well, but the stage notes were challenging for us. Maygen tended to be behind and I told her to work on it as I drove what I saw. As expected, we started seeing cars on the side of the road, broken or crashed. We caught some very large air over a jump that sent spectators scurrying into the bushes. The DMS soaked up the landing without drama and we continued on. We made it to service and pulled the left rear tire off. The tire had been rubbing on the DMS spring adjusment plates and had actually ground off some metal! There was a 1/4" groove in the sidewall of the tire-we were lucky not to have cut through the thick sidewall!

We put the pod lights on and headed back out for the next stages. The last was a tarmac/gravel combo near town and it seemed very fast! There were a couple of jumps that were unexpected. When we pulled up to the FTC, the Saab crew in front of us pulled away, and there was a puddle of fluid on the ground. We found them down the road with a hole in their gearbox. Their co-driver piled in our back seat(he's very limber!) and we drove back to the MTC at the Linnel to finish for the night. We were pleased as we had moved up quite a few positions and the car didn't require any significant service! Time for food and bed.

We knew that Saturday was going to be a long day, with most stages being near Oquossoc region. The days stages ranged from 10 to 22 miles. It was damp in the AM, keeping the dust down-a welcome relief. We hit the stages as hard as we could, the little engine struggling to get up to speed and me struggling to keep it there. Tim O'Neil had told me I'd have to drive the car with my foot to the floor all the time, and I did on most of the stages. My driving, Maygen and the notes all gelled and we really put in some great feeling stages. The car was back on the Silverstone tires and they were holding up well.

Service consisted of fuel, food and tire and fluid checks. The car was perfect. It was extemely solid. We hit the last two stages, 17 and 22 miles without any thoughts of letting up. We knew that we were ahead of a 2.5RS and just behind Don Kennedy in his 2.2L Impreza and wanted to try and catch him. The hills killed our speed though, and we settled for a finish in between the two. The last two stages saw more automotive carnage on the side of the roads. Luckily, we didn't join them.

We finished a very solid rally in high spirits and then Maygen checked the results. They had assessed time penalties to ALL our Saturday stages. We knew that we didn't have any, so Eric took Maygen and Margaret down to Sunday River to protest the penalties and Dave and I loaded the car up and drove that back. Turns out the fellow running the computer had put the wrong bogey times in for all of the day's stages, causing penalties for all teams that fnished with times greater than his, "guessed," bogey time! Big thanks to Maygen for straightening that out!

We changed for the banquet, expecting to see other teams called to for awards(which we did), but imagine our surprise when they called our names for 1st place in Seed 6! We rose somewhat sheepishly but with much pride and accepted the check from John Buffum. I could hear Tim O'Neil shout, "way to go Johnny!" and L. Mark Stone was cheering for Maygen(thanks guys-couldn't have done it as well without your help!). We ate our fill and once again couldn't resist the call for out beds.

We'd like to thank our sponsors;,, AMSOIL synthetic lubricants and We'd also like to thank our local supporters from Bangor and, as well as those at NESIC for showing their support. Hope to see you all at a rally soon!

Cheers! John Cassidy

Leave a comment