Wednesday, November 3, 2010

LSPR 2010

With LSPR off the national calendar and a switch to a single day rather than the usual two day event there were rumours that it wouldn't draw enough interest to go ahead. How wrong the skeptics were. With 40 entries, national competitors filling the top ten and the final round of MaxAttack! the event was arguably the most exciting regional event of the 2010 season.
We started out on Thursday morning from Grand Rapids to head north into Michigan’s UP. John Atsma isn’t new to co-driving but this was the first time we had paired up in the WRX so we planned to take things easy. With AlbaRallysport expecting their second junior crew member in the spring Tammy was out of action and somewhat happy to relax at home after a week of business travel.
Arriving in good time on Thursday evening in the college town of Houghton we were up and out on Friday morning to unload the rally car, give it the once over, head up to registration then to scrutineering. That sounded all very straight forward until we identified an electrical glitch that took a couple of hours of noodling to rectify. Thanks to Greg Mankin who was servicing for the 555 Sierra Motorsports team without whom, we wouldn’t of had lights.
Tech was a breeze and back at the motel we met up with Graham Evans who had arrived with a truck load of new DMack Grippa rally tyres. We were eager to give them a go so in true WRC fashion had 8 installed on the BRAID Acropolis wheels right there in the car park. Late in the afternoon we headed up to the local practice stage where we took a few laps, loose, rocky gravel just to test our stage note rhythm and check all the various settings and systems on the car. All good although there was some knocking from the rear which we later diagnosed as the struts, nothing serious.
Friday night we headed along to the Pilgrim steakhouse. Brilliant.
We woke to another crisp clear morning on Saturday and carried out a few more checks on the car, again, nothing major but we did remove the footrest to give John more legroom. We setup the in-car video cam, checked tyre pressures and left for Parc Expose which drew a number of locals eager to see some rally action. We set off 14th on the road SS1 and 2 a repeat quarry stage where John got up to speed pretty quickly on the notes with us driving at 80-90% rather than the 70% during shakedown the night before. Being so close to town these are popular spectator stages so we kept it neat and tidy preferring to look boring than go off before the real forest stages began. Sorry guys!
The first true stage was Herman, renowned for being a car killer and sure enough the first pass through claimed few victims. This is a great stage and although our times weren’t so competitive, sitting just within the first half of the field, we really enjoyed the twisty technical road, zero damage was a bonus. I’m really looking forward to Herman again next year.
After service in L’Anse we headed out onto SS4 Menge which was a sandy stage, very different from the hard packed wet road just completed. This started out as a wider, open road that favoured the higher horsepower cars but it tightened up towards the end which almost caught us out as we clipped a bank. Funnily enough on the same corner our West MI rally friends did same thing in the XR8. Perhaps there was a magnetic rock in there somewhere…
SS5 we headed back to Herman and again, with thoughts of ending the rally due to the various ‘off stories’ we took it easy but improved our speed taking over 20 seconds off the previous time and we managed to make up a couple of spots overall.
Passmore, SS6, was one stage I had really been looking forward to on the run up to this event. The last time I competed at LSPR was in 2007 in a Golf Gti and I recalled the long fast sections of this 17 mile stage and just not having the power (or balls) to go fast enough. Now, in the WRX it was a different story and wow, what an amazing stage. With an average speed over 65mph we were in triple digits more than once. Absolutely fantastic. It’s very hard to put into words the feeling of flying through the woods at that speed and I’m glad we got to run this stage twice. Surprisingly we were only a few seconds down on the second pass and that was run in the dark.
SS7 FarPoint was just the opposite of the previous stage in that it was extremely dusty and with such terrible visibility it made for really nerve racking driving. Later we were surprised to learn, despite the conditions we achieved our best overall position up to that point! Perhaps all those years skiing in Scottish blizzards paid off. Onto SS8 and Bob Lake which is where we had the incident. Everything had been going smoothly, perhaps too smoothly and as we came into a tight section of the stage I misheard a note that called for a right turn to tighten. We carried too much speed into the turn and with a tree on the outside had to make the quick decision to either clip it with the rear corner of the car or switch directions and stuff it into the ditch. Well, I chose to avoid the tree and go offroad. Amazingly we found 1st gear, kept the momentum going, jumped over a few clumps of dirt/rocks/stumps, hung a right around the tree and jumped back onto the stage Dukes of Hazzard style. Regardless, this was our best stage result with a 9th place overall. Yeee haaa!
Arriving at service we were eager for the crew to give the car a thorough check. All fine underneath, tyres still looked good, brakes were warped but still in one piece. Two more stages to go, hold on!
SS9 we tackled Passmore again. 105+mph….WOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOO!
The final stage was Far Point 2 a 12 mile sprint to the finish. With a clear lead in the PGT class and sitting in 12th overall we weren’t going to give up the fight even though I usually back off towards the end of a rally. This time we had a 2 minute dust window (usually 1min gaps between cars) and boy did we make use of it as we pushed right to the finish stealing 11th place from Matt and Andrew Bushore who gave us one hell of a battle in a 25 year old G2 VW no less, an impressive drive by them.
I love LSPR. To me it’s the rally of rallies here in the US and whether it’s the time of year, the beautiful scenery or incredible roads it somehow reminds me of watching the RAC as a kid.

A huge thanks to our partners Team Illuminata Motorsport, and our crew Paul Eddleston, Brian Burroughs and of course co-driver John Atsma.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Got in. Got out. Brought home prizes.

With a multi-national crack team of 3 we jumped the border into Canada and headed to Catchacoma for a short single day rally. With 2 pass recce on a wide, fast sweeping 8km road, what's not to like? We had a driver as a crew guy, a first timer in the silly seat and I hadn't been on gravel for 8 months. It could have gone terribly wrong. Surprisingly we maintained stage times in the 5m 20s range all day moving from a start position of 9th up into 4th and bringing home the PGT victory. Sufficed to say we were fair chuffed.
GCFR is a great wee event on a fun road organised by long time enthusiasts who have what it takes to execute a safe and reliable rally. I highly recommend it.

The video tells the rest of the story...

Photos by Keith Hamilton and Bruce. Video by Alba Rallysport.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Back to Canada!

3 years ago we headed over to Ontario with a Gp2 Gti to compete in a short rally called Galway Cavendish. That was our first stage rally together and clearly we were both hooked. It's such a great wee event that we're making the tow back there next month, this time with slightly faster machinery and 2 extra driven wheels. The stage is a wonderfully smooth road, wide with fast sweeping corners and a couple of nice jumps. Hopefully photographer Andrew Harvey will catch us in action again as he did in 2007...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Alba Rallysport splits 4 wheels into 2

With the Scottish Hillrally cancelled due to lack of entries my brother Cam and I took a blast around the A and B roads of Scotland on the bikes. It's been years since I rode and to ride around the Cairngorms was just brilliant!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

On a brighter note!

I got my new helmet back from the painter last month and had some time to shoot a few photos before it's first outing.

Thanks to West Michigan painter Jeff Kruizenga of Imagine That Graphics for working with me to put this unique design together. Contact Jeff at;
Also thanks to local photographer, Justin Bruursema. If you need photo work or even a surfboard, he does it all. Check him out here on Blogger;

Just not our year....

Two bits of bad news for Alba Rallysport this month.

First, a stomach bug meant we weren't able to attend NASA's Hyperfest Rallysprint at Summit Point. The event was a success however with over 100 rides given to aspiring rally drivers.

The second dump of bad news is that the Scottish Hillrally has been cancelled due to lack of entries. Quite honestly, I'm gutted. We've spent the better part of a year planning for this event. We even skipped rallies on the our own calander to be able to attend. It seems the UK economy is also having an impact on motorsport. Regardless, these things do happen and while all involved are disappointed there are hopes of a strong return in 2011.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

HyperFest 10

This NASA event held at Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia on June 19th-20th is a blend of road racing, drifting and a last minute addition, RALLY! Oh, and there's a Daisy Duke contest thrown in there if you are looking for more than just fast, loud, hot looking cars.

Albarallysport will be there ripping up the gravel stage so stop by, shout "Where's TIM?" and you may just get a few feebies or for a lucky few, a shotgun ride in our SP class Subaru WRX.

For more information drift your way to

Ice or Mud?

I think I'll take ice over mud given the difference in cleaning time required afterwards...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

More ice?

Sno*Drift was icy. Turk Lake probably had more grip the following weekend. For some reason I hadn't had enough of sliding around on the ice but at least there was no risk of hitting solid objects.

The local West Michigan Furrin group lay on some great winter speed events.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ice Ice Baby

Sno*Drift, Atlanta, MI. Round 1 of the 2010 Rally America championship. It was one hell of a rally. We entered the 2 day regional and crawled our way through the Michigan woods on a couple inches of clear ice. We slid and spun alot but avoided trees. We were up to 4th overall in the regional I think on Friday until we spun on an uphill in the Ranch stage, wedged the car across the road and when we jumped out to get a tow rope and triangle out Tammy slipped on the ice a couple of times eventually popping her knee to the point she couldn't stand. Don Conley and Vio showed up, tugged us free and I strapped Tammy back into the car and we completed the stage. Before the penultimate stage we packed Tammy's knee with some ice (plenty of that around) and pressed on through the last two stages to the final MTC.

The EMT's checked her out then we rushed her straight to the ER in Gaylord. Rally over, she was on crutches and meds. I wasn't too disappointed. The roads were slick and it was only a matter of time before I stuffed it into the trees anyway. Braking from 100mph on a crowned road of ice is a little hairy. I learnt alot and we should go back next year as it was the most challenging rally I've never finished!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Team Illuminata Motorsport/Alba Rallysport 2010 Schedule Announced

With a limited schedule for 2010 the Michigan rally team are focused on preparing, physically and mentally for the Scottish Hillrally in July. Based in Perth, Scotland the team will be driving an FIA spec rally raid vehicle prepared by Maxtraction.

"It's been many years since I've had the chance to be part of the hillrally so it's exciting to be going back home to race. I'm a little nervous!" said David, team driver who continues, "We have the best in the business behind us with support from John Cockburn owner of Maxtraction and a former hillrally champion."
Stay tuned as the team prepare for this epic off-road rally event, said to be the toughest off-road rally in the UK.

Team Illuminata Motorsport/Alba Rallysport 2010 Schedule

January 29-30th, Rally America, Sno*Drift, Atlanta, MI
June 4-6th, Rally America, Susquehannock Trial Rally, Wellsboro, PA
July 16-17th, SHRC, Scottish Hillrally, Perth, Scotland
October 15-16th, Rally America, LSPR, Houghton, MI

Border Raid

Still on a high from Black River Stages and having missed Rally West Virginia due to the event being cancelled I needed another gravel fix before the end of the year. It didn't take much to convince Ben Slocum to apply for a passport and join us on the road trip to Rally of the Tall Pines in Canada.

Tall Pines is one of those classic rallies. Held at the end of November north east of Toronto the weather is anything but predicable. We packed all the tyres we could get hold of, 22 in total from snow and ice to gravel and 15 BRAID wheels. Tall Pines is a long 1 day rally with the day prior spent on 2 pass recce. Paul from Team Illuminata Motorsport was on hand in service along with Corey. TIM provided the 4x4 recce vehicle which came in handy because there had been so much rain during the week the stages were muddy and washed out, more suited to off-road vehicles than rally cars.
We had very little car prep to do following BRS and with new tyres we attacked on the first stage. Perhaps we pushed a little too hard because on SS3 we overshot a L2 going off the road. Coming in far too fast I locked the wheels up on the slippery bridge causing us to lose over 9 minutes. Thanks go to the US crew of Andrew Frick and Ryan Scott for towing us out.

Some of the stages were seriously rough, Peanut and Avery Lake being two of the more notable. This turned the event into a rally of attrition and with nothing to loose Ben and I really pushed the car occassionally posting top ten stage times. Not bad for our first time at a Canadian national event.

With the stages becoming more and more chewed up with each pass we slashed two tyres, thankfully making it into service before then needed changed. We also discovered a snapped spring on the front right strut. The car was taking an incredible amount of abuse. Without a replacement we double ziptied the spring together and pressed on to complete the last 4 stages of the event.

The stages were incredible. Rough, bumpy and fast. Often so fast we re-wrote the crests on the notes as jumps. On more than one occassion we flew higher and further than we felt comfortable about! Having said that I loved the tight, twisty, rocky sections and was amazed that the Alba Rallysport prepared WRX withstood what we threw at it.

Despite an issue on the final stage that left many competitors with the same time we made it and through shear perseverance took 1st in PGT and 15th overall. The roads are tough and the competition is fierce in Canada and because of that we'll be back.

Black River Stages - Take 2

In 2008 Jimmy and I failed to finished the final round of NASAs Atlantic Rally Cup, Black River Stages, in 2009 not only did we finish we brought home a 4th place overall, my highest place to date as a driver but it wasn't without drama. Here is the story...

I set out on Friday morning with Tommy, the Team Illuminata Motorsport WRC in tow, to pick up Jimmy and Brad (the young 'un) en route. The enclosed trailer and extra boxes of spares were heavy. In 2008 we DNF'd due to mechanical failure so I brought every spare part I had.
The truck was struggling. The tow to Harrisville, NY was expected to be around 12hrs. Having passed through Ohio and Pennsilvania we stopped for fuel for the 3rd or 4th time. I noticed the trailer wheel was smoking. The hub was destroyed. We crossed the street to the TA Centre but all they had we semi parts. It was 3:30pm on a Friday, we were 30 miles from a trailer service shop with a wheel hanging off. We unloaded the rally car and crawled to the garage in the hope they would have the parts needed to repair the hub. Remarkably they did and replaced the entire axle as the spindle was no longer straight. The father/som team did a brilliant job to get us back on the road, albeit 9pm and 5 hrs later. After a detour thanks to Miss Magellan we finally arrived at the roadhouse at 1am, something out of the Stephen King movie. It had been a 20 hr tow.
On Saturday morning we headed out to registration and tech, fueled up the car and cans and found a suitable spot in the service park. The ground was soft and as the guys gave the car a quick check it literally fell over in the sand. Thankfully nobody was underneath. A couple of the Irish lads came over and helped us lift it up again to get a jack underneath. Tommy went looking for another more suitable spot to work on the car.
In the afternoon we headed out the Parc Expose, chit chatted with the other competitors then onto the first stage. We took it steady getting used to the car again after a year away from gravel. The car was stiff as hell and I was thinking I should have softened it up more since the tarmac of Tennessee. The second stage saw a major incident involving one of the front runners and despite not having discussed an emergency plan Jimmy and I just seemed to kick into action and did what we had to do. The car was a write off but the crew have since made a good recovery. It could have been far more serious.

Onto SS3 and we actually ran the stage without a problem although a little shaky having witnessed what can happen to a rally car when it goes from 60-0mph in a few feet. Into service and Travis Hanson was with Tommy and Brad and helped adjust the suspension. We checked tyres, brakes and oil. All fine. Lights were fitted and off we went to run the same 3 stages. The suspension was still too stiff but we soldiered on with slower times than earlier. The mist was settling in the dips in the woods which made it difficult to commit to some corners. We weren't alone and on SS4 we had a 3 way tie. Due to delays the last 3 stages were cancelled. We adjusted the suspension again and headed to the haunted roadhouse for some sleep.

Sunday, this would be the day I said. Again, beautiful weather for late September in upstate New York, nippy but sunny and it warmed up nicely. Perfect weather for a rally. SS10/11 Goose Pond was rediculous. Jumps galore and it certainly woke us up with continuous rhythm changes. I missed an R3 and spun into some poor guy's garden but we got back on stage and enjoyed the many crests and jumps that twisted through the woods. The reverse stage saw us take a good 15 seconds off our time on the way in. We pressed onto SS12, Jayville. This was a fantastic stage that narrowed towards the end and was incredibly rough. There was no room for error with trees lining the stage and melon sized rocks on the road. With the temperatures rising I adjusted tyre pressures at the turn around and this paid off on the way back out seeing us take 13 seconds off the previous stage.

At service the guys switched the BRAID wheels front to back, reduced the camber on the front, checked the oil and cleaned the windscreen. We poured some fuel in the tank and headed out for the last 3 stages of the event. I felt we were on it. Jimmy was calling the notes perfectly, the car was fantastic and everything felt great. I just wanted to keep going and going. I had no idea what the gaps were between us and the other competitors and the navvies weren't telling so I felt comfortable pushing a little on each stage. We tied again with Billy and Jeremy in the Broken Motorsports WRX on SS15. We were having fun, laughing like school children. It wasn't until the end I realised how much time we were chewing out of the other guys in the last two stages. As eeryone was winding it down we pushed to the end. Ignoring Danny O'Brians times (who had technically DNF'd) we took fastest stage times on the last two.

The car was in one piece, barely dirty and only 4 tyres used all weekend although the rear suspension bushes needed replaced due to all the jumps. The tow home was as rubbish as the drive there. 2 hrs in and the rear brakes on the truck started to squeal so we stopped, unloaded and Tommy tore them down and repaired the parking brake which had seized on. Arriving back at Alba Rallysport HQ around 11:30pm we were exhausted but still buzzing from the fantastic stages and great competition.

A huge thanks to Jimmy, Tommy and Brad. A tow to forget but a flawless rally.