Monday, April 23, 2012

Optimum Result at Magnum Opus

After the stress of last minute preparations for the Sno*Drift rally in January we enlisted the services of Lenger Racing to prepare the Alba Rallysport PGT WRX for Magnum Opus, a single day rally in Michigan’s UP. Typically April in the Upper Peninsula is still snowmobile season so we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted with sunny skies and dry, dusty conditions.

Based in the town of Newberry the locals were welcoming and enthusiastic. Parc Expose was held in the service park followed by two short Super Specials in the Fairgrounds which was certainly a crowd pleaser.
Tammy and I were seeded 4th on the road and not having competed in a gravel rally together since 2008 we planned to take it easy. Well, that’s easier said than done and as soon as the countdown started for SS1 we had our game faces on and put on a show for the spectators around the grassy oval Super Special. Henry and Cindy were instantly the ones to chase and the Sti of Moyle/Immonen wasn’t hanging about either. We had a fight on our hands just to keep up with both crews.
As we headed out to stage 3, Skyline, we put the pressure on and took 7 seconds out of the #377 Sti but a long way off the Krolikowskis. The stage was hard packed and winding with a large number of spectators enjoying the rally as we neared the end of the 5.5mile test. The car was oversteering more than I preferred so at the turn around we dropped the tyre pressures on the DMacks significantly and were fine for the rest of the day. On the way out on stage 4 we pushed a little too hard into a 4th gear corner and just got away with going wide on the exit, the sandy bank shaving a couple of seconds off but keeping us on the road.
We headed north to stages 5 and 6 which were wide, fast and a little loose. Without a doubt the fastest stages I’ve ever driven, all 5s and 6s if we had had stage notes. There were only a couple of corners noted in the tulips! We topped the car out in 5th gear; “I’m giving it all she’s got Captain” was the reply to Tammy who was demanding we go faster. Despite the lack of power, stage 6 was our first Rally America stage win. The top 3 cars were seconds apart so we were all pushing hard. This was a serious battle.

We returned to Newberry for the first service and had to tighten up the bolts in the rear. The allotted 30 minutes flew by and as we lowered the car seconds away from our time out minute the car hung up on the jack and so we just made it to the control. We moved up to 3rd on the road but without lights so we just hoped that the rally stayed on schedule.

We headed north again to loop around the same 4 stages and we continued to put the pressure on through Skyline In/Out even though the stage was much softer than previously what with 50 cars passing along it. That was our second stage win. The car felt great and we were totally in sync with the tulips with Tammy occasionally looking up as a second pair of eyes on the stage calling out corners. This was definitely a ‘drive what you see’ rally so all eyes forward was our strategy. With the sun setting on the west bound stage 8 we dropped several seconds but amazingly the #377 crew set their fastest time in the blinding sun!

With fingers crossed hoping the light wouldn’t fade we headed over to the wide open and fast flowing Pike Lake Rd stage and we set exactly the same time as the first pass through. I like consistency but the #44 car was pulling away so we put the boot down on the following 3 mile stage and took 5 seconds back. Moyle and Immonen had the same idea though and nipped 2 seconds off us on the same stage.

We made it back to service with very little fuel left but glad to back for some lights and a quick wrench check under the car. As we left for the final two stages the wind dropped and so the dust became a challenge.
Regardless, we didn’t back off on stages 11 and 12 and pushed hard to the end only 1 and 2 seconds off Henry and Cindy, just not able to gain any more time. We had run out of stages and we transited back to Newberry for the end of what was simply the best rally we’ve competed in.

With 2nd overall this was our best result to date. We were ecstatic and to have done it together as husband and wife was just such a cool moment never to forget. Our competition was top class and words can’t describe the fun we had battling with those two highly respected teams.

There is only one thing I would change, we need more power!

Thanks to Lenger Racing, Tommy Knight, RHD Tire and of course Team Illuminata Motorsport and BRAID USA.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


It's bloody snowing today so bugger cycling up north this week.

With rallying on my mind (1 1/2 weeks until Magnum Opus!) I'd better kick back and watch the "Easier Said Than Done" rally movie trailer by Grand Rapids film maker Matt Johnston.

If you like what you see, go to and support Matt's project.

Monday, April 2, 2012

BC-TC Adventure Ride

Michigan really is a beautiful State. There is an incredible amount of wilderness here and what better way to see it than by bicycle. I am planning to go UltraLight on this 2 day trip but the question is, can I make it the entire 160 miles from BC to TC? Let's hope the weather holds until the end of next week.

Barry Roubaix wrap up

I know this is a week late but the Barry Roubaix race was excellent. It really was a "Killer" race but standing on the start line 12hrs after de-planing from a 26hr trip back from China I couldn't wait to stretch my legs on the 36 mile gravel road course. It was quite something racing with 1500+ cyclists. Certainly the biggest race I've ever been in. I ended up 53rd in our class of 129! I'll take that given a year ago I wasn't able to ride 20 miles without aching let alone race 36. My personal goal was under 2hr 15mins and I made it with 7 minutes to spare so next year I'm gunning for under the 2 hr mark. The leaders were doing the course in 1hr 45mins. Amazing.

The weather had been unseasonably warm in Michigan for March, mid to high 20's Centigrade for two weeks while I was overseas. The day before the race we had torential rain so that changed the game for many who had been pre-riding the course in the two weeks up to the event. Race day was dull and overcast which wasn't a bad thing. Cool air, no sun to blind us. I was fine with that.

Overall, the course was great fun and I certainly had to draw on my mountain biking experience on the slick 2 track sections riding past fallen riders and nudging others who weren't quick moving quick enough. Rubbin' is racing as they say in the US! Wait, that's NASCAR racing. Oh well.

I think I have the bike racing bug again...