Flatirons Tuning and Subaru Rally Team dominates Production GT at Ojibwe Forests Rally before crashing. Boulder, CO - The Ojibwe Forest Rally was held on August 25th and 26th in the forests around Bemidji, MN, and marked the sixth round...
Flatirons Tuning and Subaru Rally Team dominates Production GT at Ojibwe Forests Rally before crashing.
Boulder, CO - The Ojibwe Forest Rally was held on August 25th and 26th in the forests around Bemidji, MN, and marked the sixth round of the Rally America Championship. After a strong performance at the X Games Rally the Flatirons Subaru and Tuning Rally Team was anxious to get back out on the stages and fighting for the Production GT Championship. Missing from the Flatirons Rally Team's inaugural effort at the Ojibwe Forest Rally would be co-driver Scott Crouch, who was replaced for the event by experienced co- driver Christine Beavis due to scheduling conflicts.
The classic forest roads that make of the Ojibwe Forests event are well liked by drivers for their smooth and flowing nature, but the changing surface compositions in stages and specifically the sandy soil conditions on some make the event technically challenging especially at night when a large portion of the mileage is run.
After running in the more powerful Open Class Rockstar Energy Drink WRX STI rally car at the X Games Rally returning to the Flatirons Tuning WRX Production GT car was a bit of a shock. "It took a little while for me to cope with returning to the PGT car. After being in the Rockstar car with more power I had to relearn how to drive the car and remember that I was essentially in a stock WRX with a stock motor and transmission," stated Foust.
Once the team got familiar with the car and established some in-car chemistry with interim co-driver Beavis, the Flatirons Team quickly marched up the leader board taking class wins on all eight stages Friday night and setting top 5 times overall on all but the first stage; the Flatirons Team won the class on the stage and finished sixth on the short stadium stage. Their charge to the front was not without some drama though when the team encountered a rock on Special Stage 3. "On SS3 we hit a rock on the inside of a turn hard enough to bend the wheel. As a testament to their strength our Hankook rally tires held up to the impact and was able to hold air despite the bent wheel; letting us complete the stage without being significantly slowed."
Going in to Leg Two on Saturday the Flatirons Team had been able to build a lead of 1:08.8 on rival Matthew Johnson, an impressive feat considering the competitiveness of the class. "We went into Saturday with a pretty big lead over Matthew, we decided to take it down a notch on the pace to ensure a finish and were careful to check Matt's stage times to make sure he wasn't pulling too close to us in overall time." Noted Foust.
With only two stage remaining in the rally the Flatirons Team headed into the long 22.54 mile Strawberry Mountain Stage 16 with a lead of 1:07.4. This was going to be a difficult stage in the rally for all the teams as the long length of the stage would mean a mechanical problem would be extremely costly and drivers would have to be alert and mindful of their pace to avoid loosing any time.
"We went into SS16 with a nice lead on Matthew and decided to try to play it extra safe. In this rally there is a lot of ditch hooking where you put the inside front tire inside the turn to help the car rotate and for SS16 I tried to pay special attention to staying out of the ditches. Unfortunately we came into a fast section that had a 'left 5- over crest' and as we cleared the crest we managed to just clip a large boulder with the front left tire; there wasn't even any body damage from the impact. The rock managed to shatter the wheel and the brake rotor instantly, I've never seen one of these Enki Rally wheels break like that so the impact, although it just caught an inch of the wheel, must have been tremendous." Reported driver Tanner Foust.
Adding insult to injury the boulder that the Flatirons Team had hit spun them around 180 degrees after the impact and then rolled into the road blocking the racing line forcing co-driver Chrissie Beavis to sprint up the hill and place a safety triangle to warn later competitors of the boulder. Due to the severity of the damage the team was forced to make roadside repairs where the car came to rest after the impact taking 15 minutes to change the damaged wheel instead of the more customary 3-4 minutes, and forcing them to finish the rally with very limited braking effectiveness.
Reflecting on the event Foust added: "It is unfortunate that this rally had to end the way it did. The Flatirons PGT Subaru WRX was amazing, Chrissie was perfect with the notes while she sat in for Scott, and our Hankook rally tires were incredible delivering excellent grip and proving to be extremely durable. To have things going so well, and being able to pull the lead that we had with Matthew on an event where he has more experience than us was more than we could have asked for, but rally racing dishes out its blows sometimes and for this event we took the hit."
The service crew will now tow the car back to the team's base in Boulder, CO, where they will set about making repairs and preparing the car for the team's home event, the Colorado Cog Rally, to be held on the mountain prairie roads around Steamboat Springs, CO, on September 22-24.