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.

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