Another First Place Trophy in Last Rally of the Year
Yoon Earns Championship in Rookie Year
Laughlin, NV. Blake Yoon (Los Angeles, CA) and John Dillon (Thousand Oaks, CA), who won the Prescott Rally in October, took home another first place trophy in the last rally of the year, the Ramada Express International Rally headquartered in Laughlin, Nevada, Dec 9-11, 2005. The win cemented Yoon's championship title in the California Rally Series, an amazing achieving considering that he's still a rookie in the sport. The first place trophy was in the CRS Open 4WD class; the team finished seventh overall.
"I wasn't sure we'd even get to race," noted Dillon. "Blake crashed the car a week earlier in Reno, damaging it far worse than it looked initially." They had planned to race a 2002 Mitsubishi Evo, the same car that took Dillon and driver Leon Styles to the 2004 national Open championship. "Fortunately at the last minute Blake was able to rent a 1990 Mitsubishi Galant from Vasken 'Vic' Katourjian. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude."
Katourjian, who recently bought the car from the Rodzinskis in Washington, quoted an old Armenian saying by way of explanation. "When a man has a broken foot, you don't break the other foot--you help him stand." His company, Top Quality Auto in L.A. (phone 818.505.1616), may not be well known in the rally community, but they've been behind the scenes for a long time. Indeed, it was their Subaru that took Vartan Samuelian to the CRS championship in 2004. "I'm really impressed with Blake's performance this weekend. This 15-year-old car did pretty good!"
It didn't take long for the excitement to kick in. On the third stage they crashed after missing a turn following a blind crest. "I learned that all 4s are not the same," quipped Yoon. (The severity of a corner is noted as a number from 1 to 6.) "Lucky for us we didn't cause any terminal damage after plowing through the countryside. I jammed it into reverse and amazingly we were able to continue." Though they were able to continue down the road, the crash tore up the suspension and flattened a tire, slowing them enough to be passed by the team of Erik Lyden/Jay Socha.
"The 'off' cost us a fair amount of time," explained Dillon, "and it cost us more time when the crew tried to fix the suspension during the service stop. Mustapha [Samli, a fellow competitor] managed to scrounge up some parts for us, but some of the bolts refused to cooperate and we were quite late getting out of service, resulting in road penalties. I was just thankful we could continue racing." Their goal at that point was to just finish the event so Yoon could get some more seat time and protect his points lead in the championship.
Yoon saw it slightly differently. "I always race to win--I want to be first every stage, every event, every championship. That's why I was so frustrated with the way things were going. Going off the road left me less confident in the car, knowing I couldn't push as hard because of the suspension damage. It's hard to race to survive when you want to race to win."
Team mate Leon Styles (with codriver Mark McAllister) was racing Yoon's spare car, the same Subaru that had won in Prescott two months earlier. Said Styles, "Blake offered to let me drive the Sooby because I'd been coaching him this season. However, after he crashed in Reno, I knew he needed a car and assumed he'd have to run the Subaru. Instead, he told me 'a promise is a promise,' and rented the Galant so that I'd have a car to race."
Unfortunately for Styles and McAllister, the new tires and wheels they'd bought had a different offset to them, causing them to chafe in the wheel wells. The car proved a handful to drive, and at the end of the day they had to retire because of a broken differential. "The noise [from the diff] was awful--it was so loud I couldn't hear Mark call the notes!" said the driver. "At the end of the day we learned that the car had a broken axle as well as a bad diff, so it turned out we were racing with one wheel drive." He closed by saying "I've raced five times at Ramada and haven't finished one yet. Still, I'll be back next year!"
Day two for the team started off decently, except for one problem--nobody had a key to the race car! "Johnny [Turner] and Matt [Weddle] dug out a big screwdriver, a bigger hammer, and a monster wrench, and turned the screwdriver into the key we'd use for the rest of the weekend," reported the codriver. "It was a tense moment then, but we can laugh about it now."
On Saturday's third stage, Diamond Creek Down, they got caught in terrible dust. "The last thing you want to do when racing is to slow down," said Yoon, "but that's the only choice you have. I was pretty hot about it, but what can you do?" Dust continued to be a problem throughout the rest of the day, especially on the last stage of the night when they had to come to a stop on several occasions to try and find the road. "Man, it was awful!"
Sunday featured three runs on the SuperSpecial, side-by-side racing for the fans, close to the host hotel. The team kept their nose clean, insuring a solid finish and great ending for the year. Now it's on to 2006. Dillon has committed to racing in the US Rally Championship (USRC) series with Brian Scott, while Yoon plans to race in both the USRC and the Rally-America national championships.