The DFL Rally Team of Houghton, MI took to the stages once again for the start of their 2006 rally season last weekend at the Sno Drift Rally in Atlanta, MI. The weekend consisted of nearly 130 miles of competition, and nearly 300 total miles of driving on closed-off back roads covered in snow, ice, mud, water, and everything in between. After a disappointing showing at the 2005 season-end events, the team of driver Carl Seidel and codriver Jay Martineau set out with a fresh engine in their Production Class 1988 VW Golf GTI and hopes for good clean results to start the new season off, but nothing ever goes as planned.
The Sno Regional Rally on Friday had varying conditions and the team found it hard to adapt to the ever changing road conditions and were unable to find their rhythm. The roads were icy, snowy, and inconsistent at best. On Special Stage 3 - The Ranch I Seidel and Martineau found themselves off the road and in a ditch after sliding wide on a tight downhill left-hand turn. Martineau hopped out, hooked the tow strap to the car, and waited for a tug from another competitor. Sans Thompson and Craig Marr in their #49 Production Class Dodge Neon were willing to help out, and after a second pull they successfully extracted the DFL Rally Team from the ditch. After that scare Seidel and Martineau decided to play it safe and just finish the day's stages and hope for better luck on Saturday. Unfortunately a clean drive to the finished was not in the cards. In the final stages of the night the team's alternator came loose and a quarter of a mile before the end of the final stage the battery was completely drained and the car died. A Group 2 VW Golf driven by Joe Sladovich and Kent Gardam towed the car to the end of the stage, but the DFL Rally Team was not able to make it back to the final check in which resulted in a DNF for the day. After changing the alternator belt and tightening the alternator back up late Friday night, the team was ready to start fresh for Saturday's stages.
Saturday went much better. The roads were more consistent, still very slippery, but had more predictable grip through the turns. On the long 25 mile stage, SS10 - That Old Black River I, the team finally found their groove and felt more comfortable pushing a bit harder. A few close calls and encounters with snow banks kept the adrenaline in check, although on SS14 - Gene Henderson Memorial the team posted the best Regional Production Class time and won $100 in memory of late rallyist Gene Henderson. The team was still not quite fast enough to clinch first place, but they finished 2nd in class only 1 minute 54.06 seconds behind the first place team of Jim and Marianne Stevens in their 1992 Suzuki Swift GT.
The team would like to thank their crew and sponsors, Martineau and Morris Contracting, Inc., Blizzard Snowplows, and Carquest of Houghton for their support. They would also like to invite you to join them at their next event, the Headwaters Regional Rally, on May 20th in Park Rapids, MN.