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