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/

No comments: