ProRally: Cherokee Trails: TRI Rally Team recap

TRI Rally Team still searching for that elusive win at Cherokee Trails Chattanooga, TN received a shot of adrenaline once again this year as a hundred rally teams and crews and several thousand spectators converged for the Cherokee ...

TRI Rally Team still searching for that elusive win at Cherokee Trails

Chattanooga, TN received a shot of adrenaline once again this year as a hundred rally teams and crews and several thousand spectators converged for the Cherokee Trails International ProRally - www.cherokeetrailsrally.com. This year the event was reduced to a single long day from the three short days of rallying a year before. This allowed competitors a full day, Thursday, to make reconnaissance runs (informally called "recce") where they are allowed to pre-drive the actual rally stages. The speeds are kept under 35mph in stock street cars for the purpose of making detailed notes on their character and flow called "pace notes". This is the only event in the SCCA National ProRally series which allows competitors to perform reconnaissance.

Also new was the number of international competitors and teams entered. Nine international and 4 factory teams bolstered the event's entry list to a record high 98 entries. It's a trend that's likely to continue and is surely raising the level of competition in US Rallying.

As the cars left Cricket Pavilion in Chattanooga Saturday morning, steady rain helped to further slicken the already slippery clay stage roads. By 9am many teams already had fallen victim to the twisty gravel forest roads. Cherokee was shaping up to be a treacherous event, with fully 40 teams out of the event after the first few stages. Of the 98 cars that took the start line Saturday morning at 6am only 48 completed the one day event.

TRI Rally Team welcomed Carl Fisher back into the co-drivers seat to help driver, Matthew Johnson through the Tennessee mountain roads. His role was dually important at this event; pace notes require the co-driver to speak almost constantly while reading in cadence with the car's motions through the corners and ups and downs of the stage roads. Dave White again served as Crew Chief with support from his wife Shirin, Brandon Adams, Anders Green, Amy Feistel, and Andrew Frick.

Fisher-"I'm looking forward to using pace notes- it allows the teams to go much faster and makes the race much more exciting for the spectators and TV viewers. It's the wave of the future in this country, and I'm glad to be a part of it."

Still hot from a class leading performance at the January Sno-Drift ProRally in Michigan, Johnson had high expectations for another strong finish. However, as Johnson and Fisher waited to take the start of Cherokee Trails International Rally, a day of frustration lay ahead of them. They zoomed down the beginning of the first racing stage, aiming to put a quick time on the boards when the engine started cutting out only two miles into the test. Johnson soldiered on- driving as quickly as possible with a motor that couldn't decide it if was coming or going. As Fisher kept reading the notes the pair realized the problem wasn't going away. By mile 5 of the 8 mile stage they were limping along with flashers ablaze to warn other competitors of the situation if they were caught from behind.

Stage 1 proved to be the only stage completed for Johnson and Fisher. They attempted to make repairs on the roadside, but to no avail. The gremlins persisted and they retired from the event at the start of stage 2.

Johnson-"We'd just rounded a hairpin at the end of a fast section beginning stage one when I felt something and knew it wasn't all right. Within a few corners engine was cutting out regularly. As the situation worsened I tried to figure out what was wrong as I drove. We barely got through the end of the stage and the car totally died as we tried to make it to stage two. We checked everything we could think of with no luck. That was it, there was nothing else we could do as our lateness penalties accumulated and forced us to retire. It's frustrating but this sort of unpredictability is what draws so many of us to this sport."

The 2002 Cherokee Trails Rally Group 2 class was won for the second year in a row by former Pro motocross rider Randy Bailey and Will Perry in a Isuzu Impulse. Laughlin O'Sulivan and Matt Chester took second position in their Mitsubishi supported Lancer RMR, and Eric Burmeister with Eric Adams followed up with the third position in a very competitive Group 2 class.

Many thanks are due to the numerous people who make it possible for the TRI Rally Team to compete. Before event organization and preparation, Lina Racing -- www.linaracing.com members Anders Green and Amy Feistel. Building a solid gearbox, Sam Neave of LNA Enterprises. Helping get the car to the event and with last minute preparation, Andrew Havas of N. American Rally fame in his orange Mazda RX7 -- www.havspeed.com. At event service coordination and preparation, Dave White and Shirin with Brandon Adams, and Andrew Frick.

TRI Rally Team will continue this season on to the Susquehannok Trail ProRally in Wellsboro, PA in early June. Read about the event at -- www.stpr.org/. This event is based in beautiful Wellsboro, PA and famous for the first stage water crossing and the flat out drag races down twisty forest roads where the trees seem to grow into the roads.

- www.triangleresearch.comrallyteam

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Series SCCA
Drivers Matthew Johnson , Dave White , Andrew Frick