Zaleski forest rally
a new addition to the rally America calendar used some old favourite rally roads that hadn't been used in 20 years
Where do you start to report on this event? A good place would surely be the Ross county and Vinton county Ohio, telephone directories, that way you’ll be sure of thanking everyone who turned out to support and watch this event.
The public support for this event was great. Many of the older folk who remembered the old Sunriser rally days were very excited to see an event back in town. The younger generations too, were excited to see exciting motor sport in their town.
Even driving out to stage we would be passed by cars tooting their horns and waving cheerily at us. The people of the area really did take to the the event.
So, what of my experience?
It was a 13 hour drive to Chillicothe from Minnesota so we did it in two days, leaving after work on the Tuesday and completing the rest of the journey the next day to be ready for reece on Thursday.
It was about 5am when Bill Marenich and I left the cabin that the Tri City Evolution team had hired for the weekend to go to recce. The early start being necessitated by the need to register first. With 114 miles of stages to be covered a strict timetable was in order, with just one pass over each stage. Reece went off relatively uneventfully apart from an incident on SS4 when it was discovered that a large tree had fallen down in the night and blocked the stage.
A tree causes a problem
But not for the forestry workers. Thanks guys!
The forestry department had to be called for, and when they arrived, short work was made of the situation with a chain saw and a crane truck, and we carried on our way. The scheduling had been so well set up by the organisers that this snag didn’t cause any problems with the event timing, (certainly not for us anyway) and by 5pm we were having the car tech’ed. It passed with flying colours.
The same couldn’t be said of TCE Rally team’s number two car of Dexter Clark and Brendon MacFarlane. The team had finished working on that car at about 4m on Wednesday morning getting things straight before heading down to Chillicothe. The car failed scrutineering on a few electrical issues. But the problems were relatively easy to sort out and the car passed. TCE Rally team would field two cars.
My impressions of the roads as we passed through them were that it was going to be hard work, this was a forest rally like Ojibwe but that is where the similarities end. These stages were tight. Very tight with hardly any run off. Lots of trees and tree stumps close to the trail edge, with some steep drop offs to boot, meant there was no room for error. A quick section of fives and sixes would be broken up by a three or a two and in a couple of cases Ones. These were very rough, tough stages and I confidently predicted that many cars would end up broken, hoping that car 723 was not one of them.
Last minute working on the car.
Thursday dawned, and I awoke to find both Bill and Dexter hard at work on their cars. Principally adding new LED light bars but there were other things being done too and I had to work hard at keeping them on the clock whilst I was working on the pace notes and programming the Rally Computer. Both guys did get the work done they wanted to do and we all turned up to Parc on time.
What a sight greeted us! Not only was the street filled with 63 cars but it was chock-full of people coming to see what was going on. These people were interested, asking questions of us all. I engaged in many an interesting conversation with people. I wasn’t needed to sign autographs, but one person did ask to have their photograph taken with me. That was good for the ego.
Parc Expose, MacArthur.
With my wife working as MTC captain for the day, she was the last person I saw before we headed out for the short drive to the first stage. With that, we set off. It was a beautiful sunny day. Great for being out watching rally cars speed by, but not so great for sitting in a rally car wearing what is tantamount to an oven mitt. I heard of one case of heat exhaustion, and I came close to succumbing myself such was the heat. I even sweated off my scopolamine patch. But by the time I noticed, the drug was already in my system so I wasn’t troubled by motion sickness in any way, shape or form. This was my first time using the patch and I heartily recommend it to anyone who suffers with the problem.
When we arrived at ATC 1 we were greeted with the sight of a long line of cars waiting to get on stage. Something had happened to delay the opening of the stage, and as we were car 55 on the road it was a long way to walk my card in on time. Which I must’ve done early as the timing sheet reports a penalty for us there. Put it down to being “rusty”, as my last rally had been LSPR back in October. I also felt like it took me a while to get back in my groove with regard to calling the notes. Luckily the stages were quite short in length so there was little opportunity to get really lost while I got my groove back.
My prediction about the rally being a car breaker almost immediately came true. Our sequence number at the start was 55, after the first two stages it was down to 53 and by the end of the first loop we were in the 40’s. The saddest exit for us was that of team-mates Dexter Clark and Brendan MacFarlane. They had run-through the end of stage three a little too hot and slid off and hit a tree hard. Hard enough to bend the roll cage. The cage did its job and the guys only sustained bruises. The car is a write off, Dexter is looking for another car.
The damage to the TriCity Evolution number 2 car. Luckily everyone is OK.
At service we left the car in the capable hands of our crew. Todd, Joe, David and Michael, while Bill and I grabbed a bit to eat prepared by Dexters wife Michelle. The crew were planned to be split between Dexter's and Bill's Cars. But the untimely exit of car 62 left all four of them to work on our car. It was quite the sight watching them work away. Services were short, 30-45 minutes, and each time the wheels would be removed and adjusted and the skid plate cleaned of mud and dirt. I quickly discovered that the way to get the work done in time to get back out on stage was to tell them they had less time to get the jobs done than they really had. I quickly learned this as we arrived late at RGC in the first time.
We fell foul of the stages and had an off too. Not as serious as Dexter's mind you. It was on stage 10, we came into a left three too hot, the trail surface that had been bone dry and grippy just 90 minutes previously was now greasy and wet after a short, sharp rain shower and offered no resistance as we slid around the corner and into the undergrowth. Thankfully, there was no tree to hit and we came to rest against a fence. Bill tried to start the car, but nothing happened. My side of the car was tight up against the fence so I couldn't get out to place the warning triangles. Bill had to do that as I tried to scramble out, not an easy task wearing a helmet and HANS device.
With no power, we had to wait for the fast sweep to haul us out, and then we could look at the car to see what the problem was. To cut a long story short, a loose electrical cable was found, re-attached, and we finished the stage posting a 19 minute time for just under 4 miles. Some people can run faster than that.
It meant we were out of contention, but at least we weren’t out of the rally, unlike many. We returned to service, let our great crew do their work and went out into the dark, last on the road. Now we were running the stages we had run earlier in the day, in the opposite direction, which made them totally new roads to us.
Being out of contention we could relax a bit, the pressure was off, and on Stage 14, in the dark, we posted the 12th fastest time overall and 4th fastest in two wheel drive class. Quite an achievement. Were things beginning to click between us? The hope was they were and we could carry that on into the next day as we arrived back at base shortly after midnight. It had been a long day, a beer was needed to help wind down ready for tomorrow and more of the same.