P, R, N, D, one, two, three
P, R, N, D, one, two, three
D to R and woe is me.
This was to be the first
rally in my new Subaru Outback Sport and first rally ever with an
automatic. The D to R scenario was
certainly in the back of my mind throughout the event but the one time we
needed the R in a hurry, I couldn't find it. My navigator, Gary Reid, gave me
plenty of warning for the upcoming acute right, "very tight," he
said, and when I couldn't negotiate it cleanly and when it was much too late
for a handbrake turn, my only option was to back and fill. My praises of the
neatly gated gear selector lever on the Sube turned to curses as it took me an
agonizing 10 seconds to find the reverse slot.
The Totem has traditionally
been an all gravel rally but, due to conflicts with other events, has been held
in late November for the past two years.
The weather can take many turns in BC this time of year, especially as
far north as Merritt, the starting point. I had two sets of tires from which to
choose. The unstudded Cooper
Weathermaster S/T, which I bought for gravel use and the studded Hakkapeliitta
10s. I wanted to save the Hakkas for the
Thunderbird in February, but a last minute change in the weather up north,
prompted me to go with them for Totem.
This turned out to be the best choice by far.
There was an unbelievable
amount of snow covering about 90% of the regularity sections. Only a week before, Route Master Paul
Westwick said that most of the route was bare gravel with a bit of ice on some
of the higher sections. But for the
weekend of the rally, cnn.com/weather
was indicating subfreezing temperatures overnight with snow. As usual, the speeds were very brisk. In some places we were making fresh tracks in
eight inches of fresh snow and in other places two or three inches of snow was
covering solid ice. On several occasions
while on steep downhill sections with hairpins I was sure we weren't going to
make it but with the anti-skid thumping away we somehow got around the corner.
Finally I got to find out
what left foot braking is all about. I
was never quite coordinated enough to pull it off with a standard transmission.
Gary and I have run numerous
Totem Rallies in my '82 Toyota Starlet with varying success. The lack of power
in that car prompted me to try to run early most of the time as the crafty
Canadians are wont to put the controls at the top of unclimbable hill climbs or
at the end of a series of unstraightenable hairpins. With 165 hp, however, the Outback has enough
power to make up a 20 second deficit in fairly short order.
Unfortunately I was mentally
still driving the Starlet and, as Gary felt obliged to point out at the end of
the rally, I had collected three times as many early points as late. It was just such a thrill to be capable of
being early for once.
Nevertheless we kept the car
on the road and solidly in second place to John Fouse and Dennis Wende in
John's Subaru SVX after the first ten hours on day 1. On Sunday, my early syndrome continued to
haunt me while John and Dennis turned in a remarkable 17 score for all of
Sunday. They finished first overall,
first computer with 65 points (with unstudded Hakkas no less); Gary and I hung
on to second overall / first in calculator class with 106 points. Special note: The third place finishers,
Novice class Subaru 2.5RS of Sid Kendall and Mikael Heidrich with 195 points
and running only the stock odometer. Definitely a team to watch in the future.
A few other entries of note
among the 35 starters were Bob Chandler and Mark Clemmons in Bob's ancient and
tired old 240Z. They were solidly in
third, nipping at our heels Saturday night but had lost 3rd gear late in the
day and decided not to start Sunday. Roy
Lima and John Rapson in Roy's Subaru Legacy Turbo had many offs and much
difficulty maintaining the speeds due to choosing to run on gravel stage rally
tires -which were not much better than slicks, according to Roy. They decided to work checkpoints on Sunday. Satch Carlson and Russ Kraushaar probably
would have won it all in Satch's SAAB Sonnet II V4, consistently turning in
some incredibly low scores, but suffered a broken throttle linkage on Saturday
and missed a section as a result. They
ended up 3rd Historic and 12th over-all.
The Totem and Thunderbird are
two rallies I look forward to every year and again I was not disappointed at
this years Totem. The challenging and
well run events, friendly organizers and diehard checkpoint crews make these
must-make events. We're now eagerly
looking forward to Thunderbird in February.
Merritt, BC. November 24 & 25, 2001.
Ken Kwong is conducting the Novice
meeting and unfortunately I’m not paying close enough attention… after all, it is the Novice Meeting. Ken has
asked the veterans in the crowd to impart some words of wisdom on the neophytes
and I distinctly hear several phrases along the lines of “stay on the road,
stay on course, and then stay on time…" Excellent advice to all.
Then there was the admonition to be
really prepared for the weather, surviving a BC Winter Rally, the eventuality
that you may go off and have to wait quite some time for help. Have water, juice, food, warm clothing, and
something to start a fire. “Start
a FIRE” ??? He suggests buying a local paper and a
lighter or matches. Good advice… too bad
we didn’t heed it…
Rally Master Paul Westwick directs the Driver’s Meeting with further comments
from experienced BC Winter drivers as to how to finish… “First you have to finish…Stay on the
course…Then worry about your score…”
Seems to be a recurring theme here.
Well, we tried, but we didn’t succeed.
We passed tech with the RX but we were
still plagued by a small coolant leak.
The first car is out and we are car two.
Time to go. The first transit is
39km out to Brookmere Road. We hit the
cattle guard in a cloud of steam, and zero the odo. The steam seems to have come from coolant
puddled up somewhere and falling out onto the exhaust—still unable to find the
leak, even with a crowd of onlookers and varying suggestions. I’m guessing it is the weep hole in the water
We’re running in Calculator this event,
instead of Paper, and the AlfaPRO is working great. We have it set for km’s and it’s cranking out
to three decimal places—right on.
The first Regularity is Highway 5 to
Tulameen via Boss Davis Lakes and Otter Valley.
After starting late we take a 19, then three 0’s, a 1, and a 0 into
Princeton. Third in class. We’re feeling really good about the change in
class and it looks as though
the coolant leak has lessened to a cup of antifreeze every 100km. It’ll hold, I hope.
The second Regularity starts at Hembrie
Mountain Road and is to go through to Missezula Lake. Then Kentucky-Alleyne Park, Sunset (with a
caution at the start: “Very Icy”), Westbank, Beaver Lake, Big White Ski Area,
We start our portion of this Regularity
with the verbal instruction from sweep that there has been fresh snowfall, with
no traffic, at about 14km. The distance
is about right and the Subaru SVX in front of us is plowing snow with the belly
pan. The road is just an outline with
only John Fouse’s tracks to follow.
We’re 7 late at the first control, zero at the second, and 6 late at the
third. Not too bad… The Hakkapelliitas are holding well. We are third in class by only 5 seconds. We are right on time at the CG at 30.34km,
then at 32.296km we missed a corner and found a rock.
The road was about a 1km straight,
rolling downhill. The corner was flat to
off-camber and in the sun. Absolutely
sheer ice, with fresh snow covering it.
I braked early from 68km/h (42.3mph), maybe as low as 30km/h, turned the
wheel… car continued straight! Brake.
Power. Left foot brake and
power. Sawing at the steering wheel but
just no contact with the road surface. 2:30PM.
Tracks show the rear end was starting to come around, just not soon
enough. (We just have to convert to a
rear E-brake!) Car 1 had made it OK, we
were car 2 and after dinner Saturday night several competitors said our
triangles probably saved them from the same fate on that corner. We could hear them slowing, tires skid,
recover, and proceed very slowly around the corner.
now became the Primeval Rally, the Survival Rally--
While we are now stopped, high centered
on a four-foot diameter rock under the radiator, both front tires hanging in
air, and a three-foot rock holding the driver’s door shut. We have ample time to look at Vinson Lake,
not too far further off our front bumper, and listen to the geese. The only other sound is the occasional rally
car continuing past. It seems like there
are substantially fewer than the 35 starters.
Sweep confirms our guess. There
are quite a few “offs” behind us, and the extrications have put sweep very
late. The tow strap is out and a couple
of tugs only succeed in shining up more of the corner as all four wheels of the
truck spin in vain. They said second
sweep was only about 15 minutes behind…
Forty-five minutes later a caravan of 4x4’s and rally cars show up. All the cameras come out to document the recovery. We position one truck down the road to keep
us from rolling over left, and one truck straight back to pull us up and
out. Five minutes talking it through and
a minute and a half later we’re on the road.
Unfortunately it is deemed too dangerous to tow us out to the highway,
or Kelowna. What was it they said at the
4:00PM. Our recovery has the road blocked and a
logging crew behind us offers to call for a tow truck. 40km from Merritt, 12km into the woods. Should take a little over an hour. It is getting dark quickly. We can’t find any matches so we borrow a
lighter from Ken. They leave… asking a
dozen times if we’ll be OK here. Five
minutes later we have a warming fire growing, in a copse of trees near the
road. We watch the moon rise over the
trees and try to gather more dry firewood.
Do you know how to start a fire without paper, in the snow, with wet
wood…? If you plan on a BC Winter Rally,
you should learn. Also learn what to
take as a survival kit, overnight, snow, below freezing.
Only one car passes, doesn’t even come to
a full stop. 6:00PM, the tow arrives.
He’d been stuck twice on the way up the hill to get us. The driver say’s he’d prefer to disconnect
the driveline rather than to dolly the car, so while I do that, Josh douses the
fire. We’re all hooked up and ready to
go. Only four hours, could have been a
lot worse. We’ve been told that there is
a Subaru dealer in Kelowna so we tow there, drop the car, and arrive at the MTC
at the hotel in time to check in, two-minutes-early.
The initial plan was to see if Subaru
could pull out the front air dam and sheet metal, replace the radiator and fan,
within a day or so. Plan B was discussed
at length at the pub during the Blue-Gray game, and evolved into trailering the
car home. Fixing it at leisure with
existing spare parts.
Monday morning we called Subaru to
explain why they had a wrecked rally car, and found the parts manager was an
ex-FIA rallyist, very interested in our plight, the rally, and as to who had participated. Finally, a call to the rental people. We have to go to Penticton to get a “one-way
rental to the States”. Down and back to
Anthony Subaru. The ex-rally guy helps
us load up. We’re headed for the
border–-the long way. To avoid bad
weather on the Coquihalla and 97C, we choose 97 South, Wenatchee and Snoqualmie
Pass. This was an hour or so longer, but
the Border took about two minutes, so we figured it was about even, and on dry
We had a great start, the middle wasn’t
as planned, and the experience in the snowy woods was quite the little
adventure! Even with the adversities we
had a great time. And we came away with
a new list of things to take along on BC Winter Rallies.
By the way, pay attention at the Driver’s
RX Rally Team
SE 170th Street, Renton, WA
Note: Brian Palidar's Sirocco went off so bad that it wasn't worth hauling back
to the States.)