The Wishbone Alley GazetteMarch, 2003
Thunderbird 2003 - Anecdotes and Afterthoughts, by Ron Sorem
Our T-Bird ’03 all started with checking my e-mail after being on the road for a few days. Lee Sorenson from Sacramento CA , informed me he’d sent in his entry, requesting car number range 11-20. The challenge was laid… did I want another passing fest like last year?
Waiting for posted starting order, the "Team Trophy" was announced. The challenge then became “Shall we form a team?”. Great idea, but I learned at our local car club meeting, the “Must include an novice” requirement would prove very difficult- most of the crews were running in Unlimited. RASC would already have three computer cars.
Friday morning, Max Vaysburd and I in the Subaru RX, met with brothers Lee and Rod, in their Subaru RS, to convoy leisurely up to Merritt. The wait at the Border proved to be less than the wait for our table for lunch! We arrive at the rally Headquarters to find three other rally cars had already taken up their places in the parking area. Let the rally lore begin.
As the evening
approached, a steady stream of competitors and organizers filled the
Pre-start routines varied from leisurely breakfasts, with recruiting of Novice crews (only seven entered) for the Team Trophy, to searches for motion sickness remedies, stomach flu remedies, or cold remedies. Car care ranged from checking the fluids, wiping the windows, applying decals, to push starting a SAAB Sonnet 2, and frantic fuel delivery problems on a BMW 2002. The question of “would they run” continued right up to their start-time and the prodding, tinkering and owner’s skill (or luck) succeeded.
novices had been recruited and the cry of “our novices can beat your novices”
went out as the challenge of the day.
Rod had connected with a little white Sentra that had blown past us on
We have been working on a hybrid navigating system for Unlimited. In 2002, I ran an ALFA Pro odometer and Max ran a laptop with Glenn Wallace’s software program. Mileage came up on the ALFA and Max entered them into the laptop, keeping us on time. Glenn’s software is capable of direct input, as developed on his 2.5RS, refined on the first WRX, and further fine-tuned on the present WRX. All well and good if the car has a Vehicle Speed Sensor or the electronic cruise control can be tapped for nice clean pulses. Our old RX has neither, so we’ve been testing with the 5-volt pulse off the ALFA… First efforts brought out some spectacular speed displays, so some filtering, amplifying, and general electronic wizardry ensued. The last test with a recently purchased early ALFA-Elite produced good clean pulses, with repeated tests over an hour-long section being within a tenth of a second or two… This should be close enough.
Lee and Rod run an Elite. Steve and Dave run “Paper” or, as Dave points out, AFR—Along For the Ride, with its own set of rules. (You’ll find Dave scratching out more calculations than he likes to admit.) Clint and Justin are in the BC Novice class, which allows tables, calculators, etc., just using the stock Odo. (Similar to SCCA’s “Stock” class.) It proved to be a varied group with cars 11, 15, & 19 catching up on “how are you doing?" at nearly every Transit, and wondering how “our Novices are doing”.
Thunderbird has managed to find “interesting” roads since 1957, including cold dry years, to freezing rain years, to very deep snow years. This year, Rallymaster Paul Westwick, would present drivers with a chance at all of the above. We began on dry roads, with even a little dust. The surfaces changed to frozen gravel, to wet gravel, to mud. Then, crossing to the shady side of a ridge we would find snow, ice, frozen mud ruts, or just polished icy sheets stretching driver’s ability to hold the line, and navigator’s ability to hold breakfast.
Car 18, Martin Wilson & Andrew Dobric, in the "A.L.S. Foundation" stage-prepped 1992 Subaru Justy, may have been the first to admit this. Andrew relates, “Day 1’s results for us were caused by my lack of reading instructions –the one's on a bottle of motion sickness pills, not RI’s! So, I relieved myself in the regular co-driver manner (without soiling the car!) and we were about 90 down. #19 had passed already. 2 minutes later we approach the rear of 19 and they allowed us to pass. Just, we couldn’t quite keep all 4 on the smooth part of the road and the ditch gremlins sprung to life! A fine 180° pirouette – just in front of our fellow competitors ("Oh for a video camera!")" Car 19’s Dave Glassman could not believe Martin’s exhibition driving… repeating over and over, “He was on two wheels!”
Car 9, RJ Carroll and dad, Ren, in a 1988 Subaru RX were the first “off” of the event. The road was soft in spots after the first hillclimb and descent, fairly level along-side a pasture when there came a quick right-left for a water course—the RX went straight. The result was a bumper rolled back, under the radiator, limiting steering to straight-ahead-only. Sweep got them out and further up the road to a safe spot, but a trailer would be needed for the trip home. Prepping the spot for the Carrolls was one of the checkpoint crews, missing the same corner earlier but able to continue.
Following the Carrolls parking spot came the mud and frozen clay hillclimb with exposures. According to Kristen Tabor, along with Scott Huhn, in the 1998 Subaru Outback Sport-- “...thick icky mud, scary…Scott was cursing, I was holding on, and no one cared about the clock.”
Our own try at this hill brought the first of our impulse problems, with the display showing very early, and the checkpoint being very late. After topping out of the mud, the rally continued north until a double 90° right at what has become loosely named “Wallace’s Corner” turning south to end the Regularity. As to “Wallace’s Corner”, Glenn replies: “I think enough people have stuffed it there (OK, I’ve stuffed it there twice) that it is not deserving of being named for me.
“Now the place I stuffed it BIG time last year should definitely be named Wallace’s Corner, err, or straight; and it was right after a quiet zone too… No one else could have stuffed it there.” 2003 saw most of the cars out of shape coming into the double 90… the intersection sits in the sunlight after just coming out of the trees, with melting loose snow and slush over ice. Fortunately, for Car 5, R. Dale Kraushaar and Larry Richardson in the Team Challenge Driving Events 2002 WRX, there were lots of photographers and checkpoint personnel to help extricate them from the snow bank here at “R. Dale’s corner”. We came in too hot, couldn’t rotate the car for the first right, slowed sufficiently to get some grip and tiptoed around the second right. 4 early coming in, 4 late going out. This was followed by the prettiest section of the day; a winter wonderland with fresh snow and frosted trees. The section included a checkpoint at an “acute-left” intersection, where drivers either drove through very carefully and slow, or as some tried, with the back-bumper-first timing method. All of this fun came before the mid-point gas stop in Kamloops . Time to remove the rally light covers.
break, a long transit set us up for
Day Two begins with a light cold rain as we leave. The opening Regularity is 21km of hillclimb, passing freezing rain over gravel, to freezing rain over snow, to fresh snow and frost covering the entire landscape with a blanket of white… Thunderbird now lives up to its reputation for snow. As we top out the ridge and begin the long downhill, 21km of left-foot-braking begin to take the toll on our car and big-time brake fade and clouds of smoke occur at the Stop sign. Another 21km Transit to cool the brakes and the rally comes to what will be the stuff of legend for 2003.
Further into the section the roads are snow over ice over the frozen ruts. As the road begins its descent to the Thompson River we now have freezing drizzle over polished ice and steering becomes as much luck as skill. We approach a corner downhill medium right and the car jumps a rut and is sideways before the corner! Somehow recovering, we continue, encountering a long left where the car goes sideways again. Full opposite lock, touch the left foot braking, modulate the power, tap the brakes, and looking out the navvie’s window we finally recover. “Max, remind me to breathe again will you?”
Our’s is just one of many stories: Car 7, Peter Parsonage, Subaru Impreza 2.5RS—“…we did a perfect 360 on an icy downhill section. For once, I wanted in-car camera as it may have just made it look like I knew what I was doing. At about 160 degrees (and still travelling at CAST downhill backwards) I remember telling [son] Owen ‘we’re going off’. A dab of brakes, we continue to rotate only to come to a halt pointing back downhill. Select first gear and off we go. Sometimes you just get lucky.”
Car 8, Paul Eklund—“We found the back end of
our Subaru 2.5TS Wagon passing us as we came down the ice hill. We just floated broadside down the road until
I could get the back end to come back behind the car. No worries… It is like Sno*Drift only more
fun.” Car 10, Glenn Wallace—“Lee
[Sorenson] gets the “balls of steel” award for being right on time after the
slippy ice turns… I could tell he was on time because we wound up 90-something
late and he was right behind us for half a minute!” Car 16, Greg Hightower to car 15—“I wasn’t
following your line. I wasn’t following
anybody’s line! Every car left four sets
of tracks down the hill!”
The rally crosses the Thompson at Chase BC and sets up for China Lake Regularity, 67km, six checkpoints, and on to the gas stop.
After gas, the
53.60km Douglas Lake Regularity begins on pavement, turns to gravel, turns to
snow. The route twists through the
little canyon and climbs rapidly to the “acute-right” control, with more
cameras and a fairly deep, loose section just getting to the turn. The balance of
The last scheduled Regularity was scrubbed because of muddy conditions on a twisty narrow road clinging to the steep hillside. A regular Thunderbird route, it is familiar to many, and most remembered in 1999 as Patrick Richard’s big stuff, into the ditch, in front of the checkpoint. There was so much snow that the rally could not continue very far past the control, waited for all the cars, then ran back down the hill to the finish.
Tires were an important consideration for the winter event. Studded Hakkas, Studded Pirellis, Studded Coopers, Studded anything… not all season radials. Car 45’s all-wheel-drive wasn’t enough on the icy rutted uphill. Reminiscent of the “old days” of rear wheel drive, Navigator Jason Grahn got out to push… and then as Driver Ryan Douthit continued on without him, Jason simply jumped in the back seat of #47 Novice silver 2002 WRX Wagon, with Ashton Evans and Brina Selandeirs. Ashton and Brina were on their FIRST rally. Jason later quipped—“If you are a car that is placed behind the car that has all season tires, be prepared to slow down as they like to park on stage for extra exercise.” -and- “Lock your doors.”
My first Thunderbird was in 1971 and I have to agree with Glenn Wallace’s assessment of the Thunderbird Winter Rally—“It occurs to me (only after 5 years of my own attendance) that in terms of conditions and number of entrants that Thunderbird really is “the” North American TSD event of the year. I’d love to hear if there are any other TSD events that come close.” I think we all agree… --Ron Sorem © 2003
Full results, photos, and other accounts at www.rallybc.com
Stages 4 &5, Doo WOP IV Club Rally
by Ron Sorem
The weather, settled the dust-window question early in the day, with a steady mist, changing to scattered showers, changing to downpour, then back to mist and even sunshine.
As is the case often with many low budget rally teams, I would be working this rally instead of running; standing out in the rain, working a timing control or blocking a road is easier than trying to fix a broken car, in the rain at home. Besides, the "company" is nicer.
Saturday saw 43 starters, but with a couple of serious "offs" and some mechanical failures, only 38 began the Sunday run.
The RASC/BlackSheep/TorqueSteerers/ PugetSoundRally/ Oregon SCCA crew, under the "control" of Stage Captain Mark Nolte, wandered into the woods for Smith Creek Stages and barbequed burgers. Typical fare for this bunch of die-hard stand-in-the-rain volunteers.
Fireworks were in order very early, although not what one might think. The message over the HAM frequency was something to the effect that the gas-fired grill had just blown up! It seems Nolte, in his rush to get everything on the stage in order, had dropped off the goodies and grill, delegated a cook, and gone "into the Stage". However, he neglected to mention the spare propane bottle inside the grill. Muffled comments came in from all quarters, generally the consensus being "We're off to a great start!" The flaming propane tank having been kicked aside, and burgers on the grille, all was right with the crew assembled at Smith CreekStage Start.
Lots of time spent catching up on old acquaintances, meeting new recruits, discussing the latest rally adventures, cribbing for the HAM test, and generally getting in the mood to stand together in the rain. This get to know the new people session included the "crash course" (possibly the wrong phase) in duties on a Stage Rally, and recounting the fun we all have even if it's raining. We may all be certifiable. Stage Captain was off setting course markers and checking banner tape ˜by himself", probably by choice to avoid the possible flying propane bottles. The banner tape had been placed by John Nispel, well into the previous night.
As the cut-off time for assignments nears, the list is checked, radios are checked, last snacks are gathered from the starter‚s table (I think that was the starter‚s table) and our nine cars head west into the woods to take up their positions as road marshals (protecting the public from the rally), and the Finish Control crew, with their compliment of HAMs.
Also arriving in the stage eastbound, as we motored through, were two Pacific County Sheriffs. The frustrated-rally-driver-in-a-street-car, at substantially over the 25mph county speed limit, gave a faint wave, checked his mirror, and surprisingly did not see the expected U-turn with lights. This was planned: Although none of us knew it at the time. The Rally Organizers, Ray and Janice Damitio had arranged for "back-up" as we were using the county's roads for our stages, and they knew the "neighbors have attitudes".
As we were setting up the Finish Control, and determining sign placement and parking arrangements, "Deputy Brett" arrived looking for someone named "Tom" (Palidar). (Tom and son Brian, with their normal service crew-chief Michael Daily, and fellow rally driver Vasco de Pinna, were also working instead of running. (Our region is rally-ready- if you can't compete, you still volunteer to work.) After a short explanation of what the Deputy's assignment would be, he was shown a place to park and relax.
The stage is HOT. Advance (John Nispel) and Pace (our EMT from Ellensburg) show up and we're ready for rally cars. First car is on the stage and about eight minutes later we can hear the unmistakable sound of gravel against metal, engine roaring, and the car is in sight around a medium left, gaining speed as they see the timing marks and trying to shave off milliseconds as they pass the Flying Finish in a medium right and brake hard for the Stop Control.
Some anxious moments, or radio chatter, ensued, as there was confusion over "Car 4" being off the road. Car #4 came rolling in at speed piloted by Bob Trinder (with Andy White) of BC. The "fourth car" which was Car 228 with Ross Foster and Alan Perry had in fact missed a corner and performed a "tank-slapper" off the road, high centering on a berm just tall enough to high center a Mazda 323 GTX, and high enough to keep them from going down the bank. Co-driver was standing at the side of the road with tow strap in hand, hoping for a kind gesture from fellow rally cars. Instead, Alan was forced to wait for Sweep. Only seconds later they were on the road again and trying to make up the lost time, finally catching the mighty Geo of Kristen and Janice Tabor just before the end of the stage.
Our only other delay was the rookie drive of son and father team Robin and Erik Hoagland, Car #273 Honda Civic in Group 2, having mechanical trouble of undetermined origin, and arriving at Flying Finish with emergency flashers blinking.
The west end location began as a Finish control. Stages 4 and 5 were "turn-around" stages, to be run back to back, in the opposite direction. The quick training of newbies workers paid off, and Finish 4 became Start 5. Personnel had to be repositioned. Signs had to be relocated. All the Stage 4 paperwork secured and Stage 5 paperwork readied. Turn-around time for Finish of Stage 4, to Start of Stage 5, was accomplished in possibly record time.
Dave and Rick Hintz in the Turbo RX-7, followed closely in acceleration and sound by Paul Eklund and Amity Trowbridge in the WRX, then Richard Buckner and Lee Shadbolt in the Subie RS Turbo, set off Stage 5. Most of the Group 5, Group 2, and Open class cars left in a spray of gravel, and the stutter of rev limiters, a quick flash of brake lights, a twitch of the steering and they are gone around the medium right a quarter mile away and we await the next car. Production classes were more sedate, but no less enthusiastic.
Last car, then Sweep, and we begin tearing down the control. We pull all the signs, corner markers, and the banner tape. Then, the procession heads east pulling down all evidence of our passing, except the interesting driving lines on the gravel road surface.
We regroup at the Finish Control and repack everything to the appropriate cars, say our thanks and goodbyes, and head for the rally finish at Oakville Grange.
Our exodus is halted because Stage 6 is not yet complete, but shortly we join the conga line of what seems like a hundred workers, service vehicles, and officials slowly eastbound on Brooklyn Stage. We are driving at about 20 mph, far short of the 109-plus (that‚s all the higher the radar gun registered) of car #207. Just short of Stage Finish (or just uphill from Stage Start) we find one of the cars that didn't make it to our stage. Jamie Thomas's WRX Wagon #215 is so far off the road, backwards down the cliff, that it is barely recognizable as a Subaru: they look different from that angle. But the car is hooked to one of the sweep trucks and steadily winching closer to the road and recovery. Everyone is OK, just "over-rotated-on-the-corner". Car 273 is at the end of the stage and their mechanical problem is now terminal. The Honda is being winched onto the Tabor Rally Team Trailer for transport to Oakville .
One thing strikes our stage crews: We pulled down a 6.69 mile stage, on the way out, everyone leapfrogging along, gathering signs and banner tape, and were finished in 20 minutes. Stage 3 & 6, is littered with banner tape, signs, arrows and cautions for the entire 6.99 mile length. Someone would spend a long time cleaning this up by himself or herself, where our crew all took a part, thanks to more "newbies" training by the "veterans".
From the chatter at dinner, everyone had a good time. A couple of cars didn't complete the Sunday drive, because of electrical and motor problems, and I don't have any of the Saturday gossip, but Doo Wop was a success.
Ron Sorem © 2003
Monte Carlo WRC
By Ken Lingbloom. (Thanks to "Howling Transmissions", Chuckanut Sports Car Club newsletter)
So there we were, airborne and on our way to
Our mission was to gather with a few others from the local rally community to see just how much the organizing of a WRC rally had changed from the 1980’s when last we had one here in Western Washington . In a, word, exponentially.
Our first couple days were spent taking in the city of Monte Carlo and locating rally headquarters. The city is another story entirely, but suffice to say we found it quite interesting.
The actual operation of the competitive stages remains the same as most stage rallies; start controls, finish controls and lots of road marshals. The equipment at the controls was of another world.
All timing is done at timing lines controlled with infrared beams and sensors. All data thus generated is sent via satellite to the WRC compound and race control. Each car carries a cluster of sensors and transmitters such that it can be located, its route traced and potential problems noted.
For example: if a car stops while in a stage, a light goes on at headquarters within 30 seconds. If a door is opened or the hood raised or the trunk lid opened, corresponding lights go on at headquarters. After the car has stopped for more than 30 seconds, the amber light goes to red and medical staff is alerted as to a possible problem.
Each car is required to carry at least one video camera on board. This signal is received at the WRC headquarters and logged in the event database for potential use in ISC’s television coverage. The WRC compound is the rally version of Bernie’s Formula 1 “Bernievision.” In addition to the in-car coverage, staff photographers are flown out to the stages to film the event, and that material is also logged onto the video database.
This is all done so that daily and sometimes even live coverage of the event can be broadcast from the WRC studios. Studio time is leased so that voiceovers in various languages may be done or even custom made shows can be produced using alternate footage in the database. The whole system is contained in 7 or 8 semi trailers and moved to each venue to record the event.
The cars themselves are on the cutting edge of technology, as well. The cost is rapidly approaching, if not exceeding, $500,000 per car, with most factory teams producing 20 to 30 cars per year.
While the horsepower may not seem prodigious at a limit of 300 horsepower, the torque truly is. To see these things launch at the start of a stage is awesome. To me, even more remarkable was the braking displayed by these machines.
Each event has a “shake down” day prior to the actual running of the rally. A test and tune day, if you will. We went out to watch the cars testing the day before the event and were able to see them in various modes from flat out straights to extremely tight hairpin turns.
After each run, the cars returned to a service area where changes were made. Sometimes suspension tweaks, sometimes tires, sometimes drivetrain components or the electronic programs that control many of the cars systems. All cars are required to run the fuel provided by WRC, and the fueling area was replete with the fire brigades from the surrounding communities.
So, how was the trip? Great! We knew going in that there would be a lot to learn. Thanks to being able to talk with members of the WRC staff, we came away with a much better understanding of not only where we need to go but also some tips on how to get there. Can we expect to see an event of this caliber in our area? A qualified yes. There are many things to bring into place, mostly from a business and logistics perspective, before we stand a chance. Perhaps the biggest obstacle will be in the budget required to operate an event of this nature. Once that is in place, the other pieces of the puzzle will begin to fit into place more easily. Watch this space, but don’t hold your breath.
* Seen at the Les Schwab outlet in Tukwila: a "siping" machine. We aware that sipes (tiny cuts breaking up the tread blocks) provide more edges for tires to grip with. I didn't know such an option was available when you buy new tires.
That said, Les Scwab is among the outlets that don't want to sell you tires if you bought rims somewhere else.
* Mike and Gretchen got a Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS. Their long-term relationship with the pickup truck ended the next day- it died. Alternator, battery, among other things.
FOR SALE / Wanted:
* Lucas' 1994 Ford Explorer XLT is for sale. It's a 4WD 4-door with brand new automatic trans & brakes, looks & runs great. Factory alloy wheels, tow package, tinted glass $4400, J. Hines 425-823-6343.
* I wish somebody would take the 79 Fire Arrow "carport queen" off my hands. Includes rebuilt 2.6L engine with Zero hours. No reasonable offer refused. Ed Storer, 206-282-3145; firstname.lastname@example.org
* TSD rally-ready 1983 Audi Turbo Quattro Coupe. Mars red. 170K miles. Lots of goodies. $8,500.e-mail Peter Linde at email@example.com
• Call the NWRC Hotline (206) 256-9627 for latest info on Puget Sound TSD events. NWRC Friday Niters start at the Eastgate ( Bellevue ) Park and Ride. Reg opens at , FCO 7:31.
NW Stage Rally activity: