Widget Hits Racing Jackpot in Reno
Team Claims Overall Victory Third Time this Season
Reno, NV. Ralph Kosmides (driver, Mission Viejo, CA) and John Dillon (codriver, Thousand Oaks, CA) hit the jackpot at the Reno Rally on Dec 3-4, 2005, winning overall the combined two-day race in a 1999 Group N Subaru sponsored by Ruby's Restaurants and Perforce Software. Along the way they set five stage records on the new event. The rally, headquartered in Reno, NV but centered near the town of Gerlach, was organized by Dave Hackett with help from Rally-America stewards and staff members.
Reno was the second rally for Dillon to codrive for Kosmides. In the first, the 2004 Treeline Rally near West Covina, CA, the team also won overall.
"These roads were rally fast and smooth," according to Ralph. "On two separate stages our instruments showed a top speed of 111 MPH, and we ran one 22 mile stage in just over 19 minutes. You really have to concentrate because there are always 'gotchas' just over the crests!"
"It was nice to get back in the car with Ralph," said Dillon. "He knows how to drive smoothly even while wrestling through the tricky bits. We were hoping to reprise our Treeline victory here in Reno; clearly our efforts paid off for us." He praised the car's mechanics as well. "Steve [McNaughton] and Doug [Nagy] understand the sport and know how to prepare the car for rough conditions. Not only that, they recognize the things we'll need as soon as we pull into service. They were on top of everything, leaving us free to enjoy lunch and 'talk story' with the other racers."
Not everything was rosy out on the mountain stages for the team. They took their time on the first stage as Ralph reacquainted himself with the car (he hadn't raced in almost seven months) while John adapted to Ralph's requirements for the "calls." (The codriver reads instructions to the driver from a book provided just hours before the start of the race, so the timing of the calls is critical to keep the team safely on the road.) Their leisurely start cost them valuable seconds, but on the second stage they returned to the fray, coming within one second of fastest time.
On the third stage, the team once again proved quick, setting fastest time (by one second over the Hintzes). Their Widget teammate, Blake Yoon, was less fortunate. In his first time behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Evolution VII (formerly owned by Leon Styles), Yoon crashed into a bank after getting caught out by a blind crest. Though he and codriver Vartan Davtyan were unhurt, the car suffered serious damage to the frame and drive train. The rally's early race leaders, the Hintz brothers in another Subaru, retired at the end of the stage because of transmission problems.
Capitalizing on the retirements of Hintz and Yoon, and worried by the proximity of Andrew Sutherland/Chrissie Beavis just behind, Kosmides and Dillon hammered hard on stage four to claim the overall lead. On the day's last stage, however, they hit a rock and flattened a tire, dropping them to second overall, sixteen seconds behind Sutherland's Group 5 Neon.
The Hintz brothers returned on Sunday, but Kosmides kept his foot hard on the throttle to take the first stage win of the day. "We launched the car on one of the big jumps and landed at the bottom of a wash," remarked Kosmides. "Man, we really flew a long ways, but the landing was soft considering (how high)."
Unbeknownst to the team, the landing loosened a fuel fitting in the trunk of the car. They struggled through the day's second stage, losing eighteen seconds to Sutherland. "Ralph told me afterwards he was getting a little dizzy from the fuel odors. He said he drove terrible lines in almost every corner. I know I didn't feel as confident in my calls either." Fortunately between stages Ralph and John were able to tighten the fittings and on the next stage set another stage record, a feat they duplicated on the last stage of the rally.
At the end when the numbers were all finally added up, the Widget crew finished almost a minute and a half ahead of the Sutherland/ Beavis pair, with the Hintz brothers once more withdrawn, this time because of a broken A-arm. "We looked forward to battling to the end with Dave and Rick [Hintz]," said Kosmides. "John is racing again next weekend in Laughlin, but this is my last rally of the year. It's good to end the season on a high note."