Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Grand Finale

The ninth and final round of the Detroit SCCA Rallycross Championship, presented by Team Illuminata Motorsport, was held at an old favourite site, Fowlerville Fairgrounds. Going into the final round of the PA championship, Alba Rallysport had a large enough points lead that allowed the freedom to have more fun than usual. However, with a field of 8 cars the outcome could have been quite different. It was a bitterly cold day as we jumped out of the car to register. We were there to battle it out for 2007 PA (Prepared AWD) class bragging rights with regular RS twins Dmitriy (#42) and Jennifer (#64). Fowlerville isn’t one of Dmitriy’s favourite events with a history of vehicle carnage and bad luck so needless to say he remained somewhat restrained. The rest of the class comprised of long lost faces Micah (#88), James (#3) and Todd (#33) and rallycross newcomers Billy (#555) and Brandon (#1555). The recent arctic temperatures had reduced the track to conditions that resembled a snow-covered ice field but the day was to reveal constantly changing driving surfaces. Our favoured multi-lap format was the order of the day with 5 runs, 2 laps each. On the road trip to the event we had decided it was all or nothing. I wanted to go out with a bang and we were on the hunt for FTD and the Primitive Rally $25! I did, however, try to take it easy on the first run. Much of the snow had been swept away by the modified cars so we searched for traction on the polished ice. We didn’t find much but did find about 10 cones. Although it wasn’t a good start I felt we’d found the best turn in points so on run 2 we kept the car tight to the inside and crossed the finish line with a fast clean time. The secret in rally driving is to set the car up for each corner and turn in early. This is particularly important when faced with a sequence of tight turns. It’s a similar technique taught in ski racing where rhythm is crucial. We lost that rhythm on the first lap of run 3 where we tore down the back straight carrying far too much speed. Not finding enough grip on the icy, muddy slush to slow the car for the series of chicanes we lost it and went off course picking up 12 cones on the way. Despite having to stop and get back on course our raw time was still fast so we knew FTD was in our grasp. For now, Doug Harvey held the honours. After a short break, a well-earned sandwich and a wee chuckle at Billy Connolly talking about childhood holidays by the beach we headed out for the final two runs of the day. The course was reversed and the surface was quite different to the morning, hard packed with only a smidgen of ice. Naturally, we attacked. It was a quick run but I felt we’d slowed at two points on the course that I just didn’t have to lift for. This was it, the final run of the day and the 2007 rallycross season. Nick the starter waved us off and we literally pinned the right pedal into the carpet all the way around the first series of turns, Tammy shouted at me to slow it up as we approached a tricky chicane. We made it through clean. As we ripped down the straight I didn’t lift as we entered the long left sweeper at the end. YEEEE HAAAAA! The WRX was popping off the limiter as I balanced the car around the corner, my left foot dabbing the brake as the surface changed from sand to ice to sand to ice again. One last icy jog to the right and we nailed the throttle over the finish line struggling to slow the car down in time for turning off the course and through the timing truck gate. Our run was clean, and ridiculously fast, but while we had plenty of safety run off after the finish we missed the gate at the timing truck, which landed us with a time penalty. Aaaarg! FTD had eluded us and was taken by Steve Baumbach in the PF class, an impressive drive. We’ve had fantastic fun, both on the day and throughout the season. Congratulations to Jennifer (#64) for taking the PA class win. Impressively consistent times and very little cone carnage! Dmitriy, as always had a clean day of driving but perhaps those gremlins were in the back of his mind all day. Micah is one to watch for 2008 so hopefully we’ll see him out on a regular basis. Thanks to all the organizers, workers, land owners and competitors for a great year. We’re looking forward to the 2008 season and hope to see the regulars and more newbs out there sliding around on the gravel/mud/sand/grass/snow/ice! Photos by Alba Rallysport and Chris Amos http://www.chrisamosphotography.com/

Monday, November 19, 2007

The penultimate round

The eighth round of the Detroit SCCA Rallycross Championship, presented by Team Illuminata Motorsport, was held at Bob’s Family Raceway in Clarksville. With eight Subaru drivers in the Prepared AWD class the Alba Rallysport team had some challenging competition. It was a chilly, overcast midday as we headed out on the short drive to Bob’s. Team co-driver Tammy was taking the day off due to illness and in her place was a friend of ours from Kampala, Uganda who was more used to seeing rally greats like Kankunen and Waldergard speeding through East Africa. As we cruised along I-96 a bank of flashing lights appeared in my rear view mirror, the unmistakable Subaru rallycross stars from Chicagoland. After refusing to ‘street race’ a crudely modified Chevy Cavalier the four rallycross prepped AWD cars turned off towards Clarksville to begin our day of proper competition. With a 2pm start eight runs were planned for the day, three of those being after dark. The course had some tighter sections than usual which demanded a shift in driving pace as well as some well-chosen gear changes. The weather brightened by the afternoon and we were ready for the first run. I took it easy but still managed to pick up two cone penalties. Rob (#86) turned in virtually the same time but with only one cone penalty. On run 2 we dropped our time dramatically but sill picked up a cone penalty. This wasn’t quite going to plan. I knew with Dmitriy (#42) snapping at my heels at every event, and in terms of championship points, I had to keep clean. The third run was ugly. I missed a gear change at the forest chicane and clipped a cone with the very back of the WRX as we sped down the slalom on the sand drag. Rob turned in a fast, clean run. Unfortunately for the #42 driver, although smooth and clean as always, the Impreza RS just didn’t have the power to keep up with the WRX and Sti. With the pressure on, Dmitriy made a rare mistake on run 4 and gained two cone penalties; the only two of the day I might add! I clipped a cone also but Rob was clean and with a blistering time, FTD up to this point. I pushed harder on run 5 and Rob started to feel the pressure picking up ten cone penalties (How did you manage that Rob?). I hit the same cone, not managing one single clean run all day. After a short pizza break we went into the night portion of the event. We fitted the new Hella lamps to front of the Alba Rallysport WRX and prepared for after dark battle. With some slight modifications to the course we prepared for run 6. Bam! A clean run but Rob had a clean run too and two thousandths of a minute faster. That’s 0.12 seconds! Run 7 saw the mist sink into the dips on the course creating a stage rally atmosphere. Pushing to get below the 0.9 min. mark that same cone on the back section of the course interfered with my rear bumper again. By this point I had my eye on FTD and the $25 Primitive Racing prize money. I was trying to gauge the speed of the M4 class cars that were laying down consistently faster times. Last run of the night and a time of 0.889 minutes, clean, no cones. Fantastic, that will do it I thought, until Scott Harvey Jr (#13) turned in the same time on his last run. We later found out that Ryan (#92) took FTD with a clean run and 0.887 minutes, and the overall M4 class win. FTD wasn’t to be, however, my Ugandan co-driver and I took the PA class win and 20 championship points, barely 10 seconds faster than the #42 Impreza RS that gave us a very close race. The driver of the #86 Sti will be one to watch at future events.
The final round will be held at Fowlerville on December 8th followed by an end of season gathering. See you there!
Photos by Chris Amos,
http://www.chrisamosphotography.com/

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

LSPR 2007

In 2005, Tammy and I spectated at LSPR. It was her first rally and she was so very bored. On the way home we vowed never to go back to that rally unless we entered. Fast forward to October 26th 2007 and with some help from rally friends we found ourselves sitting in car 525, a yellow G2 Golf GTi about to check out of the first MTC.
We left Grand Rapids early on Thursday morning with a borrowed truck, trailer and rally car. Corey, one of our crew rode with us while Mark and Sharon left later that morning. The ten-hour tow up to Houghton in Michigan’s UP was uneventful (thankfully) and beautiful. The colours of the trees and the wonder of the lakeshore never cease to amaze me and to top it off it was a blue-sky day. We arrived at the motel and set about unloading the rally car and truck then made our way to registration. Rally to me has always been about ‘family’, ever since I was a wee lad when my dad first took me to see Group B cars competing in the Lombard RAC rally (now Rally GB) near our home in Edinburgh. When we walked into registration that evening we were greeted by the familiar, welcoming faces of Mary and Jerry Shiloff, two of the rally family. Registration went smoothly thanks to meticulous preparation by Tammy and we retired to the luxury of the motel for some sleep.
A crisp Friday morning dawned and the crew headed down to tech with the car while we attended rally school. The novice school was taught by Mark Williams, a well-known name in US rallying, and was highly beneficial to us as newcomers. Mark confirmed that we were on the right track and not completely clueless about what we were doing. Back at the motel the crew reported a couple issues with tech. Small oversights on my part but it they were resolved and we headed out to Parc Expose to meet many familiar faces and a few new ones.

We were warned about stage 1, Green Acres. It was as rough as everyone said. About a tenth of a mile in I wished we were in a Land Rover. The rocks looked big enough to disintegrate the wee Volkswagen. We took it easy, we didn’t break anything and we finished the stage. A quick ten-minute service and we were off to Herman.
Stage 2, Herman, was going very well until we hit a water splash just over half way in. We were in fifth gear at the time and the car didn’t like it. It spluttered to the end of the stage in third. We checked into the FTC and the engine died. After we jumped started it out of the control zone I opened the hood and poured water out of the distributor cap. A swab from the first aid kit helped dry up the remaining moisture (remember a shop rag next time!) and we fired it up and took off towards stage 3, Bob Lake; which ended up being cancelled due to safety concerns.
Stage 4, Echo Lake, was a little rough. No, wait. It was ridiculously rough! Never have I spent so much time in the air in a car since racing Land Rovers across the Scottish hills! It was hard on the car so we made sure to slow down for the major jumps and holes remembering that our main goal for the weekend was to finish.
Stage 5, Passmore, was the polar opposite of Echo Lake, smoother and faster. Quite obviously there were some competitors that were pushing the limits as we passed one car submerged in a small pond. On most of the straights we topped out in fifth gear. The higher speeds will take us some time to get used to but what a fun stage. We headed back to service in Kenton where our crew had hot pasties and beverages waiting. Excellent! A quick check over the car, wheel nuts tightened and we were off to Bob Lake again.
The first pass through Bob Lake was a transit (we treated it like a recce!) so having the opportunity to run it a second time, as stage 6, was great. By this time Tammy and I had found our rhythm and the in-car nerves and tension had eased. I should re-phrase that and say, I had relaxed a little, kept my month shut and let Tammy focus on co-driving, which she did an excellent job of. What a fun stage.
We were back to Echo Lake for stage 6 and it was even rougher than the first time through. Made worst by the persistent rain and one of the disadvantages of running at the back! Perhaps we had too much fun on Bob Lake 2 because we started hearing unhealthy knocking noises from the rear suspension. After one large jump followed by a waterhole the wee Golf stopped complaining so we pushed on towards stage 8, Passmore2.
I guess we like running at night. We were exactly 18 seconds faster on Passmore 2, flying by three stranded cars and a limping Neon (with most of the back end missing) co-driven by Tammy’s rally hero, Bob Martin.
Back at service the crew were happy to see us and we them. We loaded up and hit the road for the long drive back to Houghton and well earned sleep.
We were up early on Saturday. The air was clear and fresh. It was going to be a beautiful sunny day. Our crew had already filled the car up with gas and given it the once over but had bad news. Remember that clattering noise on Echo Lake? Well, it turns out the right rear strut had pulled itself clean out the top mount (hence the noise) then punched through the turret sheet metal and lodged itself solid (hence no more noise!). We had driven all 17 miles of Passmore 2 and the 40+ mile transit back to Houghton like this. We were very lucky. Without hesitation we jumped in the car and headed up to Parc Expose in Calumet to avoid late penalties while Corey ‘procured’ top mount rubbers (thanks Chad and Jay!). The next hour was spent on the main street of Calumet hammering and re-locating the rear strut back into its rightful place. Our out time came around and after a few autographs (no joke, kids who know no better!) we took off towards the infamous Gratiot Lake stage.
I was a little nervous at the start of stage 9, Gratiot Lake. I’d heard stories of car destruction. The stage was wet so we avoided waterholes for fear of killing the engine. My nerves were unwarranted however. Gratiot was fantastic and one of my favourite stages of the whole rally. I love tight, twisty tests. Nearing the end of the stage we came around a corner to see Carl and Ben in their Golf who had a brush with the scenery. They allowed us through after almost swapping wing mirrors and followed closely behind for the rest of the stage amused at the way the 525 GTi was hopping and skipping through the woods. Half a mile into stage 10, Delaware, we realized that perhaps we hadn’t avoided all the water on Gratiot. We were stuck at 3500rpm in fifth gear, about 55mph. With the top boys doing well over 100mph this wasn’t the stage to suffer a lack of power. Due to my frustration we came into the infamous Delaware Delta much to fast and over rotated, missing the tight left. We got it together and finished the stage but we weren’t happy with our performance. We would have likely been faster in Tammy’s Forester with a couple bikes on the roof!
While waiting at the start of stage 11, Burma, we dried out the distributor again. Burma is such a great stage and Tammy called out the tulip notes with military precision. It was spot on. Enough said. We headed into Copper Harbor for service where it was announced that there had been an accident on Brockway Mountain so stages 12 & 13 were cancelled. I like tarmac stages but I was quietly relieved, as the GTi is a little skittish on a sealed surface with gravel tyres.
After a long service and a brief five-minute hailstorm we headed out to stage 14, Burma 2. This is a driver’s stage. It’s tight and twisty and has a great rhythm to it. Although the sun had not yet set apparently there were a few full moons along the way. We didn’t see a thing.
Arriving at stage 15, Delaware 2, we saw a few people frantically trying to get the ‘Subaru Guy’s’ car 536 ready. The glass we saw on Burma 2 was a result of their roll and they needed to fit a window net before being allowed to start. They managed in time and we entered the ATC ready for Delaware. 3,2,1 and we took off, moving up through the gears the wee 16v engine screaming. Delaware is almost straight and the road is so smooth and wide. What catches you out is the Delta, which goes against the whole character of the rest of the stage. Again we entered too fast, this time in forth gear, the car over rotated and we spun. Slow is definitely faster, something I should know from rallycrossing. During the spin we clipped a rock in a ditch and once we got up to speed it felt like we were loosing air out of the rear tyre. Knowing we still had Gratiot Lake 2 to run, which was probably very rough by now, we took it easy. As it turns out the tyre was ok and frustrated that I’d slowed down so much we pressed on to the final stage of the rally, which turned out to be cancelled due to a rolled vehicle. We transited stage 16 and thankfully so. It was very wet and very rough. We met our service crew for a quick once over the car then made our way briskly back to Houghton for the final MTC in. Our rally was over. We had made it through one of the toughest rallies in North America. We had no major offs, no punctures and bonded in only a way that husband and wife can bond in a rally car. We finished 17th out of 32 on Friday and 20th out of 29 on Saturday. It was a great weekend. Thanks to the whole RCM gang for their support. Thanks to all the marshals, workers and spectators and of course Rally America for organizing a great event. We hope to be back next year!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We missed you!

Due to business commitments the Alba Rallysport team unfortunately had to miss the seventh round of the Detroit Region SCCA Rallycross Championship held at Fowlerville Fairgrounds on October 13th.
In addition to the regional championship this event was also part of the Great Lakes Divisional Championship which meant contingency money. We were a little disappointed that we didn’t have the chance to fight for a portion of the considerable amount of cash put forward by Subaru and other manufacturers; this, on top of contingencies arranged by Paul at Team Illuminata.
PA class had only 4 competitors, two of which shared car #88 owned and run by Orion Fairman of the Ohio region. Sadly, Detroit region’s own Dmitriy (#42) had mechanical issues that led to him dropping out. I’m sure it would have been a good fight to the end. Orion took the PA class win followed by Jennifer (#188) and Mark (#117) in 2nd and 3rd place respectively.
Well done to all and see you on November 10th.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Chalk one up for the McRaes

The sixth round of the Detroit SCCA Rallycross Championship, presented by Team Illuminata Motorsport, was held at Lenawee Fairgrounds in Adrian. It’s not over until it’s over and with a class field of 4 and a tight, tricky course the Alba Rallysport team had to keep the pressure on from the start to gain vital championship points.
It was an unusually warm sunny day for the end of September. We’ve competed at this venue before and we didn’t fair too well so getting the first run of the day over with was our first priority. It was a very well groomed oval dirt track, sandier than Fowlerville or Bob’s so in the wet there is actually more grip than when dry. The run format was similar to the previous event in August in that we competed in 4 sets of 2.5 laps. Not only did this provide a great deal of seat time but was made all the more challenging by course designer Scott Harvey Jr.
The first half of the course was open and fast, the second half tight and twisty. This called for a high degree of driver restraint. It was all too easy to enter the chicanes with too much speed and pick up several cone penalties, something we managed during the afternoon. It was good to see Dmitriy (#42) back having missed the last event and having won here in April he wasn’t going to give us an easy time. Jennifer (#64) and Rob (#86) were the other two contenders, the smooth, power demanding course suiting the #86 Sti.
Run 1, let’s keep it clean my co-driver told me, 3…2…1 GO! We were off, a 90 degree right turn, into a wide slalom, a long sweeping right hander and into the back straight which was followed by some incredibly tight turns as we came around to the start again. Having recently sorted some of our fueling issues this tighter section felt better than on previous courses, the WRX pulling well in 2nd gear even at low RPMs. This was good. Another lap and a half and the first run was complete with only 1 cone penalty. We were happy with that for the first one of the day. Dmitriy (#42) as ever, drove a clean run. This wasn’t going to be easy and we couldn’t afford to pick up cone penalties with him racking off quick, clean times. Jennifer (#64) was also driving a clean race. Run 2, we were more focused. The advantage of running more than one lap at a time is that you get to feel out where to make speed and where to take it easy. This time we kept it clean and laid down the FTD challenge for the morning. Alas, it didn’t hold up thanks to Harvey Jr.! Dmitriy kept it clean, again and although Rob (#86) was fast in the Sti he was eating cones for lunch. He’ll be one to watch though and it’s only a matter of time before he’s racking up fast, clean runs. video
Runs 3 and 4 were on a reversed course and it evened up the times in PA class drastically. The afternoon course was a completely different animal and we just couldn’t nail the tighter section in a smooth manner. The WRX was overly tail-happy in the loose sandy surface, which made for a lot of fun but also a great deal of cone destruction. We took out 3 and 4 cones respectively.
I put it down to a little luck, or perhaps Colin an Johnny McRae were looking down on us that day but we took the PA class win and 20 points towards the championship. With only 3 more events in the season we’ll take it where we can get it!

Monday, September 17, 2007

End of an era

On Saturday 15th of September I lost my rally hero.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Keep it up

The fifth round of the Detroit SCCA Rallycross Championship, presented by Team Illuminata Motorsport, took place at Bob’s Family Raceway in Clarksville. Having taken the PA class win at round four the Alba Rallysport team aimed to keep up the pace and build on championship points. Recently returning from a successful stage rally debut in Canada the team’s co-driving star Tammy Allan was unable to attend the event due to work commitments overseas. Driver, David Allan, was let off the leash (a dangerous prospect) and as this was the season halfway mark the final standings were far from decided. Anything could happen.
It was a sunny but cool day, which made a change from the heat wave of recent weeks. Dust was going to be an issue without a doubt. PA class was looking desperately sparse as I stood on the start line awaiting the M4 class cars to finish tearing up the twisty track. There were only four cars entered, Jennifer Glass (#64) and I were the regulars. Mark Bates (#4) moved up from SA class in his WRX wagon and returning competitor Rob Backis (#7) in the Subaru Sti had driven all the way from Illinois. True dedication.
I like the track at Bob’s. Not just because we’ve won there in the past, which undoubtedly gives a psychological edge that should not be underestimated, but it’s very close to Alba Rallysport HQ! It’s the only event where we don’t have to get up before 8am to make registration and I like that. There was a new format to this event and one that turned out to work very well; 3 runs, 5 laps each. Run 1 was clean and it was nice to be back behind the wheel of the AWD Subaru WRX. There wasn’t much of a gap between runs to compare times but I had to step it up, as dark horse Backis (#7) in the Sti was only 0.005min off the pace and snapping at my heels. I rolled up to the start line for run 2 with only one goal in mind; forge a large enough gap that couldn’t be recoverable. This is why I like the 3 run format. It’s all or nothing from the start. You can’t afford to spend time warming up; the pressure is there immediately. I made the choice to take the corners wider and faster staying in 2nd gear rather than slowing down to shift. It paid off and resulted in FTD. We went into the lunch break knowing that there was only one run left that could make or break it but I would have rather been chasing than leading. There was everything to lose in the championship point race. The final run was somewhat sloppy. The dusty conditions had called for the watering truck although there was a little more water dumped on the course than we bargained for. With a marginal lead over 2nd place contender Rob Backis (#7) I took off from the start line hoping the gravel tyres would give me the advantage I needed.
The first lap was slippery and I took out a cone on a left hairpin as I tried to keep to the driest, tightest line. We fought it out over the remaining 5 laps and incredibly finished with exactly the same time, 2.856min. and 1 cone penalty each! A mere 11.8sec. separated 1st and 2nd place overall after 15 laps, remarkable considering the Sti is shod with wide 17” snow tyres. Jennifer (#64) achieved a well deserved 3rd place having struggled with less than ideal gear ratios on the tight track and Mark (#4) finished with a respectable time in 4th place on his first outing in PA class. With luck we’ll see more of the regular PA competitors at the next event in September. See you on the gravel! Photo by Team Illuminata Motorsport.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Special Stage Success

August 11th was an unforgettable day for the Alba Rallysport team. On the build up to their stage rally debut a great amount of effort was focused on simply finishing the Galway-Cavendish Forest Rally organized by the Peterborough Motor Sports Club, in Ontario, Canada. Little did the team know, they would do more than just finish the event. We had been recommended this event by many long time rallyists and it made good sense. Round four of the Ontario rally championship consisted of a single 5 mile road, 6 stages during the day and a 2 pass recce. It was the perfect first rally. Our three goals for this event were simple; Learn, have fun and FINISH!
Tammy (co-driver, team CFO, DJ and my beloved soul mate), Mark (rally car owner and crew chief) and I set out early Friday morning for the 500+ mile tow over to Peterborough, Ontario. Upon arrival we met up with Jeff and Deb Secor who were also crewing for us. Saturday morning was an early start as we headed up to rally
HQ in Catchacoma. We had prepared all we could. The car had been tested, broken and the axle rebuilt by Brian Burroughs a week earlier. Tammy had learnt all the stage rally co-driving skills she could in a classroom environment and I had been brushing up on keeping the car on the road at local rallycross events. We just needed (read, wanted!) to race...right NOW!
There were 18 cars entered on the day and we were Car #15 on the road in the 3 strong Group 2 class. The well built Golf Gti passed tech without problems, the crew meeting was short and sweet and recce was complete. Suddenly we were in the car driving through our first MTC to begin the event. We were both a little nervous. Jeff, Deb and Mark wished us good luck and we were checked out onto the short transit towards the first stage. Due to the nature of this single road stage rally there were two turn around points at either end of the closed road creating two stages. Each stage would be run three times with a service after Stage 4. We checked into the ATC on our calculated minute and were sitting in line for the start behind Car #14, a Mazda 323. It was hot. Temperatures were in the high 80’s but it felt hotter in what Tammy describes as one-piece oven mitts. Due to the huge amount of dust, we were separated by 2 minute intervals and the clock ticked by quickly. We checked harnesses, helmets and intercoms. Everything was as it should be. Car #14 took off, leaving a plume of dust. We slowly rolled up to the start line and presented our time card to the starter. The 1 minute countdown began…30 seconds…10 seconds…5, 4…I had a brief flashback of all the advice I had been given from various seasoned rally drivers. Keep it smooth and steady and don’t drive at 100%...3, 2, 1, GO! We took off up a short hill into our first corner, the 1.8 16v engine pulled magnificently in 3rd and 4th gear into a long straight with 3 consecutive jumps…brilliant! I could hear yelps and giggling through the intercom. The nervousness was gone and we were having fun. The stage was a beautiful winding road with cambered corners and Tammy was calling the notes right on cue. About half way through the stage we came into a Left 3 Uphill corner when we saw frantic waving hands and Car #14 stopped at the side of the road, spoiler hanging off the roof.
The car was damaged. We slowed down and then stopped alongside the car to ensure the crew was ok. We got the thumbs up so took off again on our way to the end of our first rally stage. The exhilaration was incredible and we couldn’t believe we actually made it through without incident. The surface was very loose gravel but after a few passes this would quickly change. For the first two stages we had planned to hold back a little until I was comfortable with the feel of the car at higher speeds. The VW Golf handled wonderfully. Over-steer was extremely predictable and the Quaife diff pulled us out of corners and up hills with ease.
On Stage 3 we pushed a little harder finding a good rhythm that was just comfortably within our skill level. We passed stranded Car #3 of 2006 winners Vanos & Ockwell who sadly went out later in the day with electrical problems. We were half way through the rally heading into Stage 4 and what a stage it was, clocking our fastest time of the day and 11th position, close behind Group 2 Car #11, another Golf Gti. It was going to be all out for the last two stages but first, back to service. We left the stage and headed along the road to Catchacoma, helmets off, suits open and windows down. Unfortunately we later discovered that we miscalculated our arrival time and entered the MTC a minute too early resulting in a 1-minute penalty. It’s a learning process we told ourselves. C’est la vie! Mark and Jeff dusted off the car, checked the tyres and filled it with fuel. Not that we needed it! Off to Stage 5 and anything could happen. We were flat out through the stage, a little too flat out. The problem with running a stage more than once or twice is that you begin to think you know it. We could see the dust from Car #18 and in places visibility was pretty limited. At one point Tammy asked me if I could actually see where I was going. Politely translated, NO was the answer and I relied on her notes to keep us on the road. It was only a matter of time and towards the end we went far too fast into a Right 3 Over Crest, the car over rotated and we barely kept it out of the trees. We backed up and kept going, although noticeably a little slower. To our relief there was no mechanical damage and we looked forward to the final stage of the rally. Stage 6 was a blast. At one point we hit an uncovered rock with the left front wheel and feared a puncture but thankfully it wasn’t so. We weren’t quite as fast as we were on Stage 4 but after passing Car #18, a BMW 2002 that went out with a bent control arm, we took it as a sign and eased off for the last kilometer to ensure we came out of the stage in one piece. We crossed the finish line laughing and yelling our heads off. We had our time card marked and made our way quickly back to service. A rally isn’t over until you are through th
e final MTC and I was going to feel much better once I saw the car on the trailer in the service park! Tammy calculated our final in-time and requested it as she handed our timecard in. We were finished! It was a brilliant feeling. We finished 14th overall and brought home the 2nd place trophy for both Group 2 and the Classic Division. The result was totally unexpected but a perfect finish to a superb day of rallying. Thanks must go to Peter Watt and all the other Peterborough Motor Sport Club organizers and competitors for putting on a great event. We certainly hope to go back to Ontario in the future. All images courtesy of Performance Rally Images.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The shakedown shookout

In preparation for their up and coming North American stage rally debut the Alba Rallysport team took to the dirt in a Golf Gti rally car. Driver David Allan, along with co-driver Tammy Allan, describe their day.
The goal of this shakedown test was two fold; 1) Evaluate the mechanical condition of the car under rally conditions and 2) Re-learn how to drive a fwd car after 7 years behind the wheel of awd cars. The car in question is a 1987 VW Golf Gti 16v Group 2 rally car and although it is a very well built machine it has not seen competitive rally action in several months. We therefore felt that is was sensible to shake out any old cobwebs and identify potential mechanical issues before we get into the forest. This will hopefully save time, money and a lot of frustration. We really want to finish our first event! Recently back from a successful Pikes Peak hill climb race, car owner Mark Buskirk and PPIHC driver Colin McCleery joined us for shakedown. Once we were fitted to our seats and belts and given a brief introduction to the car we headed out of the pits.
Session 1 - After a few easy laps we stepped up the pace and found the car just handled brilliantly in the dirt. It is incredibly well balanced and I could throw it into corners without worry. This is an extremely predictable car, just what we want for our first forest rally. Towards the end of the session we noticed the water temperature creeping up but this was more than likely due to the relatively slow course and high ambient temperature. Having been in 110% attack mode on the rallycross circuit for the last two years was obviously noticeable to the on looking crew. Colin greeted me as I took my helmet off wisely reminding me that forest stages are much longer and that I had to pace myself and drive at 85-90%, not flat out. The old adage, “To finish first, first you must finish” is highly apt at this point and this is something I’ll need to remind myself at the start of each stage. The fact that I am driving someone else’s car helps this cause greatly!
Session 2 – Again, we eased into the course, this time taking wider lines and smoothing the turns out, trying to replicate a forest stage, albeit a tight one. We seemed to be just as quick but without the drama and physical effort required to sustain a 110% attack mode driving style. Forest rallies last for hours so it can be as physically demanding as it is mentally. Pacing yourself and the car is great advice. As we came out of a long left turn I felt a shudder from the front wheels. Going into a tight left it got worse so I slowed the car down and took it off the course. As I pulled up to the pits I first thought I had steering issues until I slowly drove away and BANG, no drive. We had destroyed the left CV joint.
That was the end of our shakedown. The car went on the trailer and we’ll need to order new axle assemblies but we achieved what we set out to. We found the weak link and now we have two weeks to rebuild before we head out to Ontario. This is why we test. Look out for our event review from the 2007 Galway Cavendish Forest Rally on August 11th.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Finally!

The fourth round of the Detroit SCCA Rallycross Championship, presented by Team Illuminata Motorsport, had been long anticipated. Sitting in fourth place in the championship the Alba Rallysport team was desperately needing points to move up the standings and it was on June 23rd that the team was awarded their first PA class win of the season, finally!
The 2007 season has been a tough battle so far and I can’t imagine that it’s going to get much easier what with the level of talent in the rally prepared AWD class. This is a class owned by Subaru and despite Sti drivers Justin (#77) and Dan (#177) being absent on the day Jennifer (#64) and Dmitriy (#42) were up for a fight to the bitter end. It was a warm, sunny day and the track had recently been graded with new gravel. With 8 runs and arguably the best course Scott Harvey Jr. has designed to date we were hungry for points and, plenty of sideways action. Run 1 felt great. I’m still trying to figure out where the 0.199 penalty came from but it had been a long, rough week and even at 11am I wasn’t quite awake. The Impreza RS twins of Jennifer and Dmitriy had clean runs. We clearly had to get our act together, and fast. We improved on run 2 but picked up a cone penalty. Car #42 caught a couple of cones also so we were in good shape. Lucky. Come on, take it easy and keep it clean my co-driver reminded me. Run 3 felt fantastic, clean and it was to be the fastest time of the morning session. Run 4, we just got down to business. Our times weren’t ideal but were becoming consistent, our primary goal this season. We went into the lunch break somewhat relieved. The course was reversed for the afternoon session where we had the option to go either left or right at the final hairpin. We spent some time watching the first cars out and argued the merits of each direction until finally the co-driver won suggesting we stay left to carry maximum speed into the turn. Drivers, always listen to your co-driver! We went flat out, pushing every bit of the way with run 5 matching the time to the thousandth of the previous run. Incredible. Dmitriy had an unlucky off, which resulted in a DNF, a 150% time penalty, and a battle scarred Impreza. On run 6 we almost had a major incident when we entered the infield section of the course far too fast and as the car over rotated for a moment I thought we were going to catch a rut on the left side and put it up on two wheels. Amazingly we kept the rubber side down and missed every single cone, managing a quick 360 to make it back through the gate. Our time was slower but clean. We were very lucky! The last two runs of the day were smooth and clean and oh so enjoyable! Run 8 was to be our fastest of the day at 0.899m and netted us the Primitive FTD Challenge win in addition to 20 championship points that moves us into 2nd place. Brilliant!
Considering the wide, open course favoured the turbo power of the Alba Rallysport WRX over the normally aspirated cars it was a great competition were everyone drove 110%. What more could you ask for?
Photos by Team Illuminata Motorsport

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Pre-summer testing

With nearly a 2-month break between events 3 & 4 the Alba Rallysport team were getting restless.
As with any motorsport it’s important to keep practicing. The key is seat time and some more seat time and when you think you’ve had enough, more seat time. There are very few things more important. To this end we headed to a local undisclosed location, owned by rally friend Mark Buskirk, where we carved out a short course for some training. The course was similar in length to what we’re used to but with a rough, grassy surface, similar to Coultard’s Farm for those who have competed there. We combined straights, long sweeping turns, slaloms and a hairpin that was extremely challenging; particularly for one vehicle that evening, a Jeep Cherokee that popped a tyre off the rim!

All in all it was a beneficial exercise with the added pleasure of receiving a few tips from stage rally driver Colin McCleery as he rode along with us.
Colin will be competing in the 2007 Pikes Peak International Hillclimb next mo
nth sporting new colours in his freshly re-built Ford XR8. John Atsma will be in the silly seat carrying out co-driving duties.
In addition to the driver training we also tested some new parts that were provided by Paul at Team Illuminata Motorsports. The anodized red aluminum Group A rear sway bar links not only look great but held up to the abuse of the bumpy twisty course providing improved rear end rotation compared to the stock plastic units.
See you on the gravel at Fowlerville!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bring on the speed

We had planned that the third round of the Detroit SCCA Rallycross Championship, presented by Team Illuminata Motorsport, was to be our turning point in terms of class point standings. We needed a first or second place finish, preferably first and 20 points. Like many situations in life, things don’t always go to plan.
The April 21st event was to be held at a new venue, Lenawee Fairgrounds in Adrian. Due to geographical location the Alba Rallysport co-driver wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of leaving before 6am on a Saturday morning. As a result, we prepared and packed the car on Friday night for the drive over to the east side of Michigan and stayed in a small hotel, just minutes from the event. With a few absentees, PA class was down to 6 entrants although this didn’t make the competition any easier. The weather was warm and dry. The new track was smooth but with a very loose gravel surface. The course also appeared to flow well on the walk through however the large amount of strategically placed cones meant that high penalty points may be the decider at the end of the day. 7 runs were planned, starting off with 4 in the morning.
Sitting on the start line we were mentally ready to take the win. The car had been running well and we’d had shown good speed at past events. Just keep it clean and this would be our day we told ourselves. 3, 2, 1, GO! We were off and through the first slalom and into a long sweeping right hander where the WRX laid down the power in a beautiful drift. The back straight slalom was fast, very fast and as we crossed the line our time was a good couple seconds faster than our closest rival, Garant #177. The timing official stepped up to our window, “You missed a gate”. I couldn’t believe it, my co-driver confirmed, we had indeed missed a slalom gate on the back straight, which accounted for it being so fast. Luckily for us the #177 car also missed the same gate taking the 10-second penalty. We couldn’t believe our luck. Run 2, a clean run and the fastest in class, although Kollien #77 had electrical throttle issues and his Sti went into safe mode. We were back in the game and in 2nd place behind Martynov in car #42. Just keep it together my co-driver told me. Run 3 was faster still but one cone penalty kept us in 2nd so on run 4 we went for it; a little too much. Clean through the slalom into the sweeping right hander we were too fast, much too fast. The car over rotated and although I held it from spinning we passed on the inside of two gates much to the disgust of the expletive shouting co-driver on my right. We were nailed with a 20-second penalty for two missed gates and an additional 2 seconds for a cone, just for good measure. This moved us down to last place. Lunch was tasteless to say the least and it wasn't just the soggy sandwich.
We did the calculations, worked out a plan and prepared for the afternoon. 4th place was within our reach, IF we kept it
clean and kept the speed up to the level of the morning runs. It was a tall order but we always seem to achieve better results when we have nothing to loose. Run 5, WHAM, fastest run in class and clean. Run 6, KA-POW, fastest again, and clean. Run7, KA-BOOM, “Did we just pull FTD?” Confirmed, fastest time of the day and clean. Not only did we crawl back up to 4th place but also brought home $25 thanks to Primitive Rally. Martynov #42 took the win, proving power and speed are not always the answer rather, cone free consistency. Following car #42 were Kollien #77 and Garant #177.
As previously mentioned, many situations in life don’t always go to plan but sometimes those are the most fun and rewarding days.
Photos by Richard Worden

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Down to business

The second round of the Detroit SCCA Rallycross Championship, presented by Team Illuminata Motorsport, couldn’t come soon enough for the Alba Rallysport team. It had been 6 weeks since the last event due to a weather induced postponement and the team was eager to get back on the dirt and fight for points. The weather forecast did not look promising for Fowlerville Fairgrounds, MI on Saturday March 31st. Luckily, nothing came of the 30% chance of afternoon rain on the day and the competitors welcomed the dry, dusty and very fast conditions after the snow and ice the previous month. We went into the event hopeful of collecting badly needed championship points but it wasn’t going to be easy. PA class again had a record number of entries, 10 in all, and it was great to see some new faces join us in the fun. 7 runs were planned for the day with 3 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. We had no option but maximum attack. After a brisk course walk there were a couple of chicanes that we took note of but after the first run of the day we realized just how fast the course actually was.
We came out of the start gate like a bat out of hell and once the times were in we realized how fast we were! Even though we took a cone penalty it was a good start. We just had to keep it together and fend off the Sti of Kollien and Garant. We calmed the speed a little on the second run to reduce the risk of over driving but the first run must have woken the two Sti drivers who were almost neck and neck, a good 4 seconds faster than us due to our cone penalty. We had to act and on run 3 we stole some time from the #177 car but it wasn’t enough and we went into the lunch break in 3rd place. On run 4 after lunch we came out fighting, perhaps a little too hard, taking our third cone penalty and a good 3 seconds off the pace of Kollien who was increasingly faster. Run 5 was clean and quick…it felt quick; as we came across the finish line more than a little sideways we were laughing our heads off. We were having a lot of fun and that run put a good dent in the gap between us, and the #177 car of Garant, who picked up a cone penalty. We gained 4 seconds back but it wasn’t enough to catch the #77 car driven by Kollien who was on fire. Not literally.
We made a small error on run 6, just clipping our fourth cone, although still 1/3 of a second quicker than the #177 car. 1st place was untouchable; we had to fight for 2nd. Kollien pulled more time out of nowhere to take FTD (fastest time of the day) beating us by just 0.72 seconds on the final run. We made it, 2nd place and badly needed 15 points. There were just 1.26 seconds separating Garant and us overall in one heck of a 7 run rallycross battle.

Photos by Nate VanderVeen

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Choose your rubber

Selecting the right tire can be tricky. Not only are they expensive, they also don’t seem to last long on the Alba Rallysport WRX. Here is a breakdown of the tires we use for various events.

Surface – snow
Event – winter rallycross/TSD
Tire – Winterforce

A softer compound rubber than a summer or gravel tire they bite well in a straight line and under braking. For rallycross events this winter we found that we had to groove the tire a little to give a more aggressive tread for deeper snow. This tire is a compromise. It doesn’t perform fantastically well on ice nor in deep snow but for all round winter driving it can’t be beat on price. With a 205 width we’d prefer a narrower tire for deep snow so next season we plan on using a 185 wide snow tire.

Surface - tarmac

Event - autocross/track days/tarmac stage rally
Tire – Falken

These 225/45/17 monsters are incredible on dry tarmac. The intermediate tread copes with damp conditions but can be overwhelmed in heavy rain. They can withstand a lot of abrasion and perform very well in high ambient temperatures. We ran an autocross in temperatures of 30-40deg and they were slippery to say the least but we did take the STX class win on them! We are looking forward to getting out on the track with these Falkens again in the spring.

Surface – gravel
Event - rallycross/TSD/gravel stage rally
Tire – Falken & Pirelli

The RS-01D tire is unfortunately no longer available in the US. These tires have proven themselves to us in rallycross and TSD events such as POR. Although they are fantastic on loose gravel they excel in mud and wet grass and are our choice over the Pirellis for that reason. Although a softer compound rubber we prefer to keep the Pirellis for gravel roads.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Slip Sliding Away

The Detroit SCCA rallycross season opener, presented by Team Illuminata Motorsport, didn’t go quite as planned for the husband and wife Alba Rallysport team.
An overcast, snowy day didn’t dim our spirits for the first event of the season. The twisty course at Bob’s Family Raceway in Clarksville, MI was one we were familiar with, having competed there twice and won once. With that record we were confident that we could be competitive with the Sti of #177 and #77.

With 10 competitors in the PA (rally prepared AWD) class and 6 runs planned for the day, this was the largest PA field since early 2006. A quick course walk revealed hard packed snow with thick ice below the surface. Experience told us the snow wouldn’t last long and we’d soon be slip sliding away on the ice. We went into the event with high hopes of a podium position but close competition from cars #42, #17 and #23 forced us to step up the pace a little resulting in an off course excursion into a snow bank on run 3 due to ice induced driver error. For the record, my co-driver did warn me!
Luckily, several other PA competitors made the same mistake and this evened the field somewhat but meant we had to step up the pace in the afternoon yet keep the runs clean. On run 4 the stars were aligned and it felt fantastic. We were back in the running but on runs 5 and 6 we took cone penalties, which pushed us into a final position of 6th place and 4th in the Detroit SCCA rallycross championship with 10 points.
The next event is on March 17th in Fowlerville, a course we are more than familiar with. Let’s just hope the snow and ice melts and we can put the power down on some gravel!

Photos by Nate VanderVeen

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

2007 Team Dynamics Challenge

With the first event of the Detroit Region SCCA 2007 Rallycross Championship in three days it was about time to sticker up the car. As part of the championship the 2007 Team Dynamics Challenge will allow competitors in each class to rally for the chance to win a set of Team Dynamics race proven wheels at the end of the season. A win in each class can net you up to four opportunities per event. The Alba Rallysport team will be proudly sporting Team Dynamics wheels and logos during the 2007 rallycross season.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Snowcross

Saturday’s SVR rallycross at Crystal Speedway was a great opener to the 2007 season. As it wasn’t part of the Detroit Region Championship there was no points pressure on the Alba Rallysport team of one (the co-driver took the day off!). The goal was to test tires and suspension setup for the following event. The large site with fast sweeping turns was fantastic and the deep snow proved a challenge to many of the 2WD entries early on. With a field of 7 in the Rally Prepared class it quickly became evident that the #75 Alba Rallysport WRX was going to have a battle with the #77 & #177 WRX Sti, again.
After the second run I was already in 3rd place but the third run was flawless, 2nd fastest, and I was back up with the times run by the WRX Sti. On the forth and final run of the morning I was joined by a fellow countryman; the owner of Team Illuminata Motorsports. This didn’t prove at all helpful as I spun on turn three resulting in a time of 67.31. This would be impossible to gain back with only four runs remaining. It was clear after the morning session that a new face to the rallycross scene was one to be reckoned with; car #42.
The afternoon session again consisted of four runs. The course was run in reverse and the conditions had changed dramatically. Grass was now visible but after walking the course we all discovered that the surface was variable. Some areas were wet and soft, some areas s
heet ice. It was going to be an unpredictable afternoon. Run five was not a good start, 5th. I had to pick the pace up considerably and runs six and seven showed that. Run eight was flawless and I posted the fastest time in class for the day, 46.084 but it was just too late. With the final positions declared, The Alba Rallysport team finished in 4th place in PA class behind the #77 WRX Sti, #177 WRX Sti and #42 Impreza RS.
I walked away with lessons learnt. The goal for the 2007 season is to build on consistency and repeatability. On such short courses with only 6-8 runs in a day it’s the only way to be competitive. The car has proved that it can compete with the WRX Sti, now the driver just has to prove it!
See you at the Detroit Region SCCA season opener when the Alba Rallysport team will be two again!
Bob’s Family Raceway, Clarksville
February 17th

Welcome to Alba Rallysport!

With a motorsport history spanning the last 15 years, 2 of those in the US, this blog will follow the story of the Alba Rallysport team’s second full US rallycross season. 2006 was a successful year with the team taking 2nd place in the Rally Prepared AWD class of Detroit Region’s rallycross championship. 2007 is shaping up to be a challenging year with 10 rallycross events, 3 TSD rallies and 2 stage rallies on the calender. Stay tuned for event and technical reports.
See you on the gravel.