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September 2008 Archives

Test Hangover

posted in News by Last Ditch Racing


One thing that we don't talk about much is what it feels like after a rally. This struck me this morning as I woke and unfolded myself to start the day.

My hands are stiff and swollen and my neck and shoulders are a bit angry. We often refer to the, "rally hangover," that we feel after events, but it's not because we drink. It's because of the punishment that our bodies take in the car. It can take us anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to feel ourselves.

Granted, Dave and I are not 21 anymore(not that we'd necessarily want to be)! :-)

Test day was great. With a large complement of crew and photographers, we headed into the Maine Forest and spent about 6 hours making runs on a 3.5 mile stage and adjusting suspension settings.

Some of you may not be aware that co-driver Dave is a talented driver as well. He campaigned our second Subaru for a couple of seasons and also instructs at the Team O'Neil rally school from time-to-time.

He was a valuable asset on test day and when we'd complete a run after making changes, he'd hold his thoughts until I told him what I thought. It was amazing that our assessments were almost the same every time.

Mark got some pics in a controlled environment(thanks to Bronson and our ham radio system) and no wildlife were harmed. It was a good day.

Thanks to all who came out: Drew, Ken, Bronson, Rob, Nate, Ryan, the other Ryan, Mark, Stan and Dave.

We did have a radiator fan break, but we found that the second, high-performance fan kept the car cool. We'll still replace the other for insurance. We also had a brake line rupture at the end of the last run. We'll be replacing both as a precautionary measure.

Look for pics on Mark's pixyblog site. The first is already up!

Cheers! John


So, tomorrow is our first proper test of our rally car!

I know those that know us are saying, "Isn't nine years more than enough time to test a friggin' rally car?!" Um, yes and know.

There are certain words in rally that have specific meanings. "Off," "Crash," and, "test" are just a few.

Testing is a controlled setting in which to change settings on the car and see if they make a positive, negative or perhaps neutral effect on the car's performance.

We've actually never done a proper test. I'm as incredulous as the rest of you-believe me! :-)

So, what's going to happen? Good question.

We're going into the forest at our uber secure and stealthy test location for about 6 hours. We'll take a couple different sets of tires and try each of those out.

We also might test out a new, LDR exclusive, GPS locating system for the rally car.

Primary focus will be on our RS+SP gravel suspension. Adjustable until the cows come home, we've never changed the settings. NEVER! I know, I know, I can see the shaking heads now....

Anyway, we've gotten quicker over the past couple of years and we really need to know which way to twiddle the adjustment knobs on the damn things to make the car handle better.

Tonight in the shop, we'll be making notes about current ride height at all four corners. We'll then make note of all current strut settings. We'll run the test road until we're comfortable and then make changes in one direction, then back to the starting point, then perhaps in some other direction.

At the end of the day, my plan is to have the crew give me one of the settings that I've decided makes me drive like Marcus Gronholm, then see if it actually is faster. Of course, they'll not be telling me which setting they're choosing. Double-blind and all that.

Now, the road and tires will change with time during the test, so it won't be a perfect test. Rally is not a perfect sport. Perfectly awesome perhaps, but it's not the same corner a thousand times during a race.

Mark Fleming, star photog will also be there snapping pics of us in. Having us in a semi-controlled environment is a dream come true for him. Perhaps he'll have an easier time making a couple of old(er) gentleman racers look sexy enough for the cover of Men's Health! ;-)

Beyond that, we'll also be looking to make sure that our new pedal assembly gives me full throttle. The pedal ratio is different than stock, resulting in more throw. I have to work a bit harder, but my legs could use more definition anyway....

Speaking of legs, I went back to an RPM class at the gym this AM. If you checked out my debrief from the first attempt, you may not have stopped laughing yet. Well, I got my cycling shoes unclipped all by myself and didn't pass out, so I'm making progress!

As always, thanks for following the team! Please check out the YouTube vids and please rate them and leave comments.

Cheers! John


We think about racing! Duh! ;-)

Seriously, we're always thinking about the next event and planning the logistics and the upgrade/repair path for the rally car.

Currently, we're planning a test day for the car this weekend in the Maine forest. This will give us an opportunity to make sure the car is solid and that the new pedal assembly we installed prior to Rallye Defi allows us full throttle of the car.

We've decided that we're going to step outside our usual cast of events and travel to the Lake Superior Performance Rally in Michigan in October. This will be a 1,200 mile tow for the team and we'll plan to do it over two days. Three would be ideal and we might have to stretch it out. We'll leave a little breathing room en route.

LSPR will be a good event for a number of reasons. The first is that it's near the hometown of Jeff Moyle, a fellow competitor who recently passed away in a non-rally related accident. We really only met him at the New England Forest Rally, but found him to be a great guy who always had a smile on his face. I got to meet his wife and their beautiful daughter at the recent X-Games in LA. Jeff had quite the cheering crowd in the stands! He'll be missed.

LSPR will also give us an opportunity to see the event, should we have the opportunity to revisit it in 2009. You never know what the future will bring.

We're also making sure our passports are in order. For what, I'm not at liberty to say, but it involves cars and travel-what better combo is there than that?!

We'll post some pictures and videos of the weekends' test and let you all know how it went. We'll make sure we ONLY put fuel in the tank this time! ;-)

Cheers! John


For Immediate Release

September 11, 2008

Bangor, Maine USA

Last Ditch Racing headed to the beautiful Laurentian region North of Montreal for round 4 of the Canadian Rally Championship, Rallye Defi-St. Agathe.

Driver/owner John Cassidy was joined by co-driver Dr. Jennifer Daly for this event. Recce went smoothly, and Friday's smooth, short stages were seeing the crew get used to each other and some recent modifications to the car.

It all went pear shaped when the team refueled the car prior to embarking on the last few stages of the evening. Shortly after exiting the refuel area, the car died. Cassidy attempted to trouble shoot, but other than cranking the car and popping the hood to look for loose wires, there wasn't much to do.

Being just outside the service area, the crew opted to get pushed back in for repairs/troubleshooting and take a penalty for illegal servicing. Hoping to get back to the parc expose in downtown Ste. Agathe on time, members of several rally teams swarmed over the car. It was determined that the the recent fueling was to blame and the fuel tank was drained, showing a large amount of water in the fuel. A new fuel filter was sourced from the Subaru Canada support truck and the team was on their way to expose. The team had filled some fuel jugs from a half full barrel back at the shop, and the only explanation was that rain water found it's way into the drum.

Unfortunately for the team, although they had arrived at parc expose 22 minutes prior to their assigned out time, they had accrued maximum permitted lateness for the entire event. The Stewards informed the team that they would not be able to restart the second and final portion of the event on Saturday.

Said Cassidy, "Fielding a rally team is a huge endeavor on many levels for all competitors. Crew had flown in for the event from opposite ends of the continent, 100's of hours of car prep had gone into making sure the car was perfect. Te be struck down by something that was essentially non-rally related was heart wrenching for me as a team principal. Telling the team we were out was one of the most difficult announcements I've made to them in some time. We loaded a car that was ready to race back on the trailer and headed out for a late dinner. There was no other alternative, and at the end of the day, that's rally."

Not a team to dwell on the negative, the LDR service crew volunteered to fettle the Washpa Rally Team's Toyota MR2 for Saturday's stages. Cassidy hit the stages with pro photographer Mark Fleming and found out how difficult it is to catch rally cars in action-especially on a rainy day!

Last Ditch Racing would like to thank Jen Daly for strapping in the right seat and bringing chocolate chip cookies! We'd also like to thank Iain from Planet Motorsport, Karl Sprongl and Steward Ho from CanJam Motorsports for their help in the service park Friday night. We'd also like to thank crew on hand for the event: Duncan Matlack, Dave Getchell and Ken Anctil.

The team's next event will be Rally of the Tall Pines and possibly the LSPR rally in the UP of Michigan in October.

Last Ditch Racing would like to thank their 2008 Partners for their support:

Triple Caution, LLC,
Hydra EMS,
Team O'Neil Rally School,
Mark Fleming,

For more information on Last Ditch Racing, please visit:
To Purchase Last Ditch Racing Gear, please visit:
For more information on the Rallye Defi-St. Agathe, please visit:


Rally is a fickle mistress....

Started the light day of Rallye Defi today and had two stages that we ran multiple times.

All were fairly smooth, but very fun. The latest iteration of T-4 was squirrelly on the first stage and I was sure that something was wrong until I heard other drivers complaining of similar handling issues.

Jennifer Daly, latest addition to the LDR co-driving roster, was doing a fantastic job of calling the notes and the LDR crew was doing their usual job of swarming on T-4 at service along with the help of Tim Chevallier and Nate Sockalexis. Duncan, Ken, Alex and Nigel all worked their derrieres off to keep us on the road.

Prior to the third stage, the first run through the awesome Palomino stage near town, we fueled up. As we exited the fueling area, the car died and wouldn't fire. I had no idea what I could have done to cause the car to die. We raised the crew on the radio and I got out and popped the hood.

Some fellow competitors suggested that we take the penalty for illegal service and get the car back in to the service area and sussed out. Iain from Planet Motorsport and Stewart Ho from CanJam came over and they quickly suspected a fuel issue.

The fuel line was taken off the filter and the pump cycled. Out came some sort of Quebecois Frappe that bore no resemblance to 109 octane race fuel. :-(

I had wanted to bring some extra fuel to the race as the car had been thirsty at the recent New England Forest Rally. We filled a few jugs with fuel from some half full drums that we had around. It was clear that water had somehow found their way into the drums.

After draining the fuel tank and replacing the filter, the crew got some fresh fuel in T-4 and she fired right up.

We were late. How close to max lateness, we didn't know. All the other cars were in Parc Expose downtown Ste. Agathe. We knew they'd still be there and decided we'd head down and check in to the control and continue on in the rally.

Arriving at Parc Expose, we found no control in place and Jen discussed our case with a couple of event officials. She was told that we were probably max late. Despite this, we decided we'd continue on according to the rally structure and discuss the issue with event stewards after the last stage.

Unfortunately, the event is not broken up into separate regional events, rather a national and regional event that span both days. We had exceeded permitted lateness and therefore were listed as DNF in both events and deemed unable to start Saturday's portion of the event.

Once again having to stare our old friend Force Majeure in the face, we were gutted. I explained the situation to the crew, who were working hard preparing the car for Saturday's stages. Once the shock wore off, we did what we always did and packed the service rig and headed out for dinner.

Some well deserved food and good company found us in better spirits.

So, what does a rally team with a perfectly good car do when there's a rally going on without them!? Well, some of the crew will be helping to provide service for the WASHPA racing team and I'll be heading out to the stages with photog Mark Fleming and uber-tanned friend Ryan.

It's possible that we may have to engage in the ancient rally tradition of displaying our own version of astronomical bodies to passing competitors, but that depends an awful lot on the weather and the density of biting insects! ;-)

Thanks to all who have wished us well for this event. A special thanks to Jennifer Daly for strapping into the right seat and doing a great job on recce and on the stages in the beast known as T-4. :-)

We're sorry that we couldn't complete the event and will not get a chance to experience Elmit, Lac Barbiche, Mulgrave or some of the other gnarly stages tomorrow.

As always, we'll regroup and be out on the stages again soon, pitting ourselves against the elements, our competitors and ourselves in this awesome sport we simply call rally.

Thanks to B. Gilles LaCroix for organizing a fantastic event.

Cheeers! John