The team started the 2007 Laughlin International Rally and Motorsports Festival last weekend with hopes of doing well in a regional class and to secure a runner up spot in the United States Rally Championship Production Two Wheel Drive Class. In an unbelievable twist with a rule in the 2007 USRC regulations the team was completely unaware of, the event was scored high enough so that they would have a shot at winning the championship.
Early in the rally on Friday the team passed their competition, a Ford SVT Focus driven by Hampton Bridwell & Josh Katinger. They were stopped on SS3 and forced to retire after losing a timing belt. At this point, if the Rallynotes team finished the rally they would have enough points to win, but simply finishing this event would prove to be a dramatic challenge.
Friday night the extra protection from plastic skidplates added to the rear of the car for this event started to overheat the gas tank. Driver Kristopher Marciniak explains: “All I could smell was fuel. We pulled over on the transit back to service and I opened the fuel cap and got the expected ‘woosh’ of over-pressurized fumes. Later that night my Crew Chief Harry Bushling made some adjustments with a battery powered jig saw.”
Saturday is considered the roughest day of the rally and the team found themselves checking over the car and pounding out dents in the wheels after every stage. Particularly rough was the last two miles of Diamond Creek into the Grand Canyon. “We made up some time in the beginning where we could, but we were taking it real easy over the finish. We passed a lot of cars going in and out of there,” said Co-Driver Christine Marciniak.
Sunday would prove to be the most dramatic day. The team had its sights set on a fast finish in order to change up the regional standings for the year. They set faster and faster times on three runs of the SuperStage ultimately putting them .01 hundredth of a minute ahead of their P-Stock competition, Chrissie Beavis & Terry Stonecipher. Kris explains the rest: “We like to support the FormulaRallyX rallycross and we had entered into that event as well. We wanted to do all four SuperStage runs, but we would be holding the rallycross up if we didn’t head over there. So we went over – drove a few runs – and broke the car…”
The driver’s side axle had broken and needed to be replaced. As all the service crew was over watching (and participating in) the rallycross, immediately all hands were on the car. They sourced a replacement axle and swapped it from a donor Neon in an amazing fifteen minutes. “We had a crowd at the rallycross – everyone was pitching in to hand us tools and jacks, etc. We put the car back on the ground and it wouldn’t start. I’m just about to lose my mind when Christine explains that all we have to do is push the car across the line, we’ll receive the max time for the run and we’ll finish the rally.”
The crew pushes then tows the car to the start line for its final run. The clock ticks down and Kris & Christine push the car over the line for a very dramatic, much unplanned way of finishing the 10th annual Laughlin International Rally. It was only later at the awards ceremony that the Rallynotes team discovered that the East Coast teams drop a score for entering the rally, as they have six events on their coast, while the West Coast teams add the score from the Laughlin Rally with only 3 events on their coast. Finishing here allowed the team to get enough points to win the 2007 United States Rally Championship in Production 2WD!
The team would like to thank the following people for without whom this win would not have been possible: Harry Bushling, Kaiser Chen, Dan Green, Kevin Patterson, Danielle Patterson, Jake Walters, John Black, and Michael Taylor. “We would like to thank all the organizers, volunteers and workers for all the rallies this year. Without dedicated people, we could not go out there and have this much fun. See you next year!” – Kris & Christine