Notes from Rim of the World

As I finished up last minute “house” things, I could not believe it when Kris came in to tell me he had driven OVER the tow dolly. Tow dolly lesson #1 – Do NOT try to load your car on a trailer by yourself! We jacked the car up, took the tires off the tow dolly, and got it set up to try again. I could only laugh as the car went right over once again. Tow dolly lesson #2 – Make sure you secure the trailer BEFORE you attempt to load the car onto it!

Finally packed up and ready, we just needed to make a stop at the bank to pick up some cash. “What was that?” I asked as we pulled to a stop. “It’s just the tow dolly braking forward with us,” Kris replied. Not exactly – one of the tow straps had come unhooked. Tow dolly lesson #3 – Make sure your straps are hooked and tightened down as much as possible!!! Wow – it was a good thing we went to the bank – much better than trying to do that on the side of the highway. However, we were much luckier this time and didn’t have to undo the entire tow dolly – we just drove the car backwards and it booped itself right back on the dolly!

Two hours later (and two hours late) we finally made it up to Lancaster. At least there was no line for registration, but now I had no time to get to the hotel and lock myself in to highlight my notes. Instead I sat down in the Lilac Pavilion where tech inspection was going on. Once again, luckily there were only minor things that needed to be taken care of on the car before it could be inspected. Also luckily, there weren’t many people in the pavilion, and I had mostly quiet to work on my notes (except for a nice lady who tried her best not to chat me up).

We DID make it to check in at the hotel before the rally started, but basically only had enough time to bring our bags in and get changed before the driver’s meeting. We accidentally missed the “stock class meeting” – but set everything right with Jon Rood, the CRS Stock Class President. We also had a few minutes to get our test runs on the super special jump in. The new Bilstein struts were awesome – but we did take the first jump a little too fast.

We started the rally with a win on the Super Special – no big surprise given Kris’s awesome rallycross abilities. At the second stage, we had a bit of a delay after one car went off. However, not much later the stage was re-opened, and off we went. The third stage we caught up with Dr. Clark (the second time – the first was at Prescott last year). I knew we would catch him so it was just a matter of time before I was beeping. He pulled over at the very first place he could, and we zoomed by. Not much later, Kris saw a car approaching US from behind. Had Dr. Clark managed to stay with us that whole time? Nope, it was Hakan, the guy our friend at UCI, Jason, was supposed to co-drive for. We pulled aside, and followed him into the finish.

The way FIA timing is set up, the cars basically stay in order until a re-seeding. However, there are competitor relations officers in place to re-seed the cars at every time control if people have passed each other. There was quite a bit of recalculating for the workers who had to change three cars’ times around. I’m sure the confusion abounded for the other competitors as well, and unfortunately caused Hakan to back into us. (Update: The damage caused from his car has been graciously taken care of – displaying the bonds between competitors.) We finished the night 17th overall (out of 34 finishers), and 4th in the Friday CRS Rally and Performance Stock Class.

Unfortunately, we had major suspension failure, and had not brought any spares, which was my suggestion that I felt entirely guilty over. However, once again luck was on our side. After Kris dropped me off at the hotel (leaving the crew to rip the struts off the car and see what damage was fixable), he called to tell me Harry, our crew member only coming up on Saturday, had picked up the phone. He would stop by our apartment (where we’d left the stock struts on the back porch!) and come up an hour earlier than he’d planned – to get the car moving. I was amazed – good thing I’d spent that time actually finishing up my notes and not sleeping!

Saturday we were up early. Kris went to help the strut swap-out, while I reorganized everything for the day. Kris got our timecard, and we headed out at 8:30 as I had guessed we would. I got utterly lost on a very fast section of Del Sur, but we finished strong. At the first Saturday Service, the crew replaced the passenger-side axle, CV boot, and my rally computer pickup. I was somewhat oblivious to this as I stripped out of my racing suit, and went inside to get our new timecard and use the facilities. Off again to the Super Special, where we managed to keep up with the big Blazer we were paired with. Following that were three stages, the first with spectators, and the longest part of the rally. On one stop at the gas station, Dean and Chip stopped to make sure we were ok. Of course we were, and they headed out.

The second Saturday Service went by fast. I once again headed in to get our timecard. I couldn’t find it, but found one for the same time for car #671 (rather than our #761). I did a double-take, however, because our 45-minute service had turned into a 20-minute one! What happened to all our time? Once again, we were in luck, as there wasn’t much our crew needed to work on. Their hard work earlier in the day got us out in time to the third, and final, Super Special.

We finished the next stage strong, and helped Dean and Chip fix their lights. We got going on the final stage, and came around a corner a little too hot. We were nosed in, with no way out, and blocking the road. I ran up the road with a triangle in hand (trying to get it in a triangle shape). The next car was approaching fast. I waved them down frantically to slow down. What goes around comes around – since Chip and Dean were the next car on the road, they asked if we were ok, and if they could help. I said, “Yes, but we are blocking the road.” They jumped out to help Kris get the car straight, and I stayed to slow down the next car. After they passed, I ran back and we were on our way. It was like working in space to get my belts back on, and my cool suit plugged back in. The hardest part was getting the intercom hooked up – both mine and Kris’s. I also somehow managed to find my place in the notes rather quickly, and we were able to finish the stage under the bogey time.

Back on the main road, the transit home, we took off our helmets and stopped to make sure Bristol and Scott were ok. We congratulated Bristol on her first rally finish, and headed off. But the car died. Stuck on the side of the road, only a few miles from the finish, I felt like crying. We’d come all this way only to have the car die during the LAST transit??? We weren’t going down without a fight because we knew if we made it back to the finish, we would have won the USRC Stock Class. Bristol and Scott, who we’d left behind, now pulled up. “Can we help you guys?” they asked. Kris had the tow strap out and ready to go. As we were on the way back, Scott called me on my cell. “Is this the sketchiest thing you’ve ever seen?” he asked. “Tell me about it!” I replied. “We’re gonna hustle and try to get in on our minute,” he told me. Of course Kris and I were down for that too – our minute was only a few before thiers.

After a brief excursion from the road that almost landed us in a ditch (Go Kris for letting the steering wheel lock!!!), we made it to the rally finish. Although we were three minutes late (and accumulated a few road points), the workers told us we had to go inside. “Are you serious?” I asked in disbelief. We had to push the car inside (as it was still dead), but as we got closer, we could hear the cheering and clapping – it was amazing! John, the MC, interviewed us for the Rim Rally Radio. We thanked: our all-volunteer crew for their amazing work, and without whom we would not have even started on Saturday morning; Dean and Chip for pulling us back onto the very last stage; and Bristol and Scott for towing us in on the very last transit. Ray Hocker handed us bottles of champagne and we got to join in on the victory celebration of spraying each other and all the cars with champagne.

The night finished up with pushing the car onto the tow dolly. With a lot of extra help, and some borrowed ramps, we got the car secured and ready to leave after the awards ceremony on Sunday morning. We celebrated our victory with our crew over dinner. On Sunday morning, we received our trophy for First Place in the United States Rally Championship Stock Class. We also celebrated our other finishes – 2nd in the Western States Rally Championship Production Class, and 4th in the Saturday CRS Performance Stock Class. The weekend drama was finally over when we got home and some kind people passing by helped us get the car back off the tow dolly.

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