RASC Snowflake

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Mike Daily's No Alibi Report

What a weekend! I would like to be able to say the weeks before No Alibi were spent doing extensive car preparation and that was the key to our success this time out. The Jetta was sounding pretty tired about a month ago, having been forced into service as commuter vehicle over the winter instead of getting its usual off-season maintenance.  Night on Bald Mountain and Armageddon in the late months of '02 had taken their toll.  May brought rear brakes & bearings, an engine mount, exhaust repairs, and an alternator overhaul.  I had been looking around at options for new or used rally tires.  At Ron Sorem's suggestion I got in touch with the Tabor Rally Team in Oregon and a week before No Alibi I was the new owner of some used Silverstones.  With two full days to spare, the car was ready.

We originally planned to run in the Equipped class.  We have a laptop based system that is used in conjunction with an Alfa Club odometer.  It works fairly well (1st EQU in 2001 and 2002) but has some shortcomings, too.  Mostly it requires such concentration that the driver and navigator will see or remember little of the landscape, and No Alibi traverses some truly notable scenery.  After some discussion we decided to go Unlimited.  Both Steve and I had purchased Alfa Elites in 2002, after running a couple of touring rallies with an Alfa-TSD.  We knew there were a large number of UNL entries this year including class winners from previous years ('02 Sorenson/Sorenson, '01 & '00 Carlson/Kraushaar) but we needed an opportunity to gain experience with the box.  Some time was spent reviewing No Alibi routebooks and notes from the past three years.  We expected to have mileage problems and laid out a plan for compensation and correction.

This would a fine place to recognize the fine efforts of Kirk Simons and the other RASC folks that put on this event.  Kirk has been listening to the feedback of prior years and No Alibi keeps getting better and better. 

All of you -- Kirk, Terry, Mark, Gretchen, Mike, Eric, Steve, Michael, Kim, Cynthia, Roy, Shari, Mark, Sally, Joel, Pete, Ken and Sue (and maybe more?) take a bow.

So all this preparation and planning behind us, we run Saturday like happy fools.  One bad hole along Scotty Creek nearly collapses my spine, but basically we are having a good day.  The box is making sense and has not shown any sign of a glitch.  We spot some checkpoints and know we are taking penalties.  The mileage error we are allowing for never appears.  We have been running early on the null display to compensate for a problem which isn't there.  Maybe we should stop that.  No, we'll keep doing it since the mileage will be bad eventually (it never gets bad).  Meanwhile, we find the mudhole.  Being car #3, we are the first 2WD car to attempt it.  Driver looks left, looks right, and concludes that the car will never make it through the freshly plowed field on either side.  Furthermore, slowing down won't help our chances of getting through.  Full speed ahead.  It isn't graceful, but we make it through.  The engine is misfiring something terrrible.  Have we sucked in some water or is it just a wet distributor?  It runs, but barely.  Not enough torque at low rpm to accelerate, and it simples won't rev beyond about 4500.  I slip the clutch a lot to get us moving again.  It gets better, but the misfire will stay with us for about 15 miles.  Within another section or two, we go through a heavy rain and remove all trace of the mud bath.  At a short break I shut off the engine.  When our outtime is near, the engine doesn't want to start at first.  Finally, we reach Ephrata.  Beer on ice is waiting for us.  Kirk tells us there won't be scores posted at dinner, but possibly at morning drivers meeting.

Sunday morning shows up too early, but FCO is only about an hour away.  Walking out of the Best Western to the car, we come across Tom Palidar, who tries to give us a lame line about how we only took 13 points on Saturday and are in the overall lead.  Tom needs a hobby.  We know some of the scores we must have taken and it doesn't add up.  Also, Tom is car #13, so I'm thinking that's where the 13 came from in his tale.  We drive down to the start location and have some breakfast.  Hey look, Kirk posted a scoresheet.  No way.  How can we only have 13 points?  Several teams discuss TSD calculations gone awry.  The truncation of official mileages seems to have been followed by truncation of official time.  The truncation seems to be done on each increment prior to summing the leg.  Doing absolute calculations longhand or dry running the RIs through the computer gives leg time several seconds longer than the official time.  At least one Equipped car (#9) has figured out a system to deal with it.  The Unlimited cars struggle to adapt.  One thing is clear -- running "early" has given us an edge on Saturday.

We head out of Ephrata at 8:03 and strategize how we will hang on to this bit of luck.  Shortly into the first TSD of the day, a water crossing reminds us that not all is well.  I taped the distributor about 40 minutes ago, in hopes of keeping it dry.  We get out of the water and cough, sputter, wheeze for a moment on the other side.  We lose some time, but the misfire clears up within a mile or two.  Might have picked up a few points...  The rest of morning goes well.  There is one section with a series of CASTS in the mid to high 40's which give us trouble.  We were late going into an intersection and were going to have to slow for the turn.  Also, our mileage has come up a little short, so I dog leg the turn to pick up a bit.  Now on the new road with CAST of something like 48, we are down at least five.  It has been awhile since we have seen a checkpoint and this smells like the right place.  The road is a roller coaster.  We have gone at least a half mile, and I still haven't reached the CAST, so we a now down about ten.  The upslopes are giving us massive wheelspin, and the crests are almost getting us airborne.  I can't find any acceleration in 3rd, so it's back to 2nd and fighting the wheelspin.  As we reach CAST, I noticed the difference between dead wheel and live wheel speeds was about 25%.  We finally got above CAST and started making up the lost time but it was a wild ride.

By lunch we are tired.  It has been a difficult day to stay focused.  The adrenaline rush of the morning, back pain, and dust make me want it to be over already.  On the next to last TSD we enter a speed change at the wrong mileage.  This is bad.  The ensuing discussion of how to fix it leads to an accurate solution, but the distraction has us well off of zero as we pass the control.  By the final TSD I can't hold speed to save my life.  Steve points out we are getting rather late.  I make it up quickly, but cut a few corners and maybe lock the measuring wheel while doing so.  Mileage is getting flaky, or maybe our minds are going.  A speed change down is coming soon, due to rough road.  As the washboard begins, our mileage is several hundredths short, so we enter an adjustment to correct.  At the next hard reference, our mileage is way over.  Oops, take that back out, and then some more.  At last, the timed sections are over.

Scores reflect that we were falling apart.  We take almost as many points (12) in the last few TSDs as we did in all of Saturday.  One more leg we could easily have slipped out of the lead.  Cars #2 (Hightower/Hightower) and #3 (Sorem/Vaysburd) made enormous gains on both ourselves and Car #1 (Sorenson/Sorenson).  Consider that on Saturday we had a lead of eight over the second place car, and the spread from 1st to 6th was 20 points.  By the end of Sunday the spread was only thirteen.  Of particular note was Team Hightower's performance on Sunday.  Their twelve points on Sunday was six under the next lowest car and upset the finishing order by moving them from 6th on Saturday to 4th overall.  Of sixteen !!! unlimited cars, that was the only shuffling that occurred on Sunday.

Congratulations to all (everyone finished as far as I know, including first-time newbies) and please let the folks at RASC know how much you enjoyed the event.  Without the workers, none of our fun would be possible.

Mike Daily
Driver, Car #3 (1st gen. VW Jetta)


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