Sno*Drift ProRally; Round 1 1999 Michelin SCCA ProRally Championship Atlanta, Michigan; February 20, 1999 Press Notes ...
Sno*Drift ProRally; Round 1 1999 Michelin SCCA ProRally Championship Atlanta, Michigan; February 20, 1999
Press Notes #1
1.) Good morning and welcome to sunny and crisp Atlanta, Michigan, home of the 1999 Sno*Drift ProRally, round 1 of the Michelin SCCA ProRally Championship. Primarily due to ongoing technical problems, as well as the need to meet with people who are at this event, we have not been able to post any reports prior to now. The technical problems really aren't resolved, but we will continue work around them.
2.) Actually, a more appropriate greeting might have been (phonetically, because I don't speak the language) something approximating Gung Hee Fah Choi. Happy Chinese New Year!
3.) It is very fitting that the 1999 series gets started today, the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit, a creature known for its speed and resilience. ProRally also is a resilient creature of speed and it, too, is at a new beginning.
4.) The weather here is absolutely perfect for a winter rally. There has been some snow and cold throughout the week, but today is brilliantly clear and crisp, with temperatures expected to be in the mid-20s.
5.) The roads are covered with ice and snow, with substantial banks on both sides in many places. There also are a number of places where the gap between the banks is little more than a car-width across.
6.) According to rally officials, locals and drivers who participated in yesterday's press stage. Once the thin layer of snow gets worn off, these roads are going to get extremely slick in places. They're going to deliver some real surprises, especially for cars at the front of the field when they run a stage for the second time.
7.) Last evening, the one car damaged on the press stage rejoined the field. The J.B. Niday/Leah Hoffa Fiesta missed a finish-control sign that had blown down and suffered significant front-end damage. However, a bit of creative cosmetic surgery made it possible for the team to start today, albeit with just two lights up front.
8.) Thirty-eight cars started the rally, beginning at 10:01 this morning, in front of rally headquarters, the A Wind-Sans motel here in Atlanta. (Due to the lateness of this posting, the combined entry list/starting order will be posted after we get caught up on the notes.)
9.) Two World Rally Championship-level supercars were near the front of the field, both Open Class Mitsubishi Evo IVs. Peter Lahm and Matt Chester were second off the line in theirs. Garen and Doc Shrader started 10th in theirs.
10.) Cal Landau and Eric Marcus led the field away from the start line in their Production GT Mitsubishi Eclipse. Not far behind them, a pair of Mazda 323 GTXs set up to challenge Landau/Marcus for the class honors. The Gail Truess/Pattie Hughes car started sixth, with the Tom Ottey/Pam McGarvey 323 right behind them.
11.) Waiting in line to start the event in his rented-for-this-rally Production Class Volkswagen GTi, Karl Scheible pointed out that this is the first time he has ever rented anything with a roll cage in it. However, as any experienced traveler would, he was quick to point out that he had "declined all coverages."
12.) During the first service halt, comedian and "concerned citizen" Eric Marcus (Cal Landau co-driver) stopped by the press room to suggest that the roads were so slick and difficult to drive that perhaps rally officials should prevent anyone behind them from restarting the event "in the interest of their safety." Of course, he and Cal were first on the road at the time!
13.) Garen and Doc Shrader found their Evo IV to be a quick ride in the opening going. However, they had to drive most of Stages 2, 3 and 4 on a flat, after getting a pair of flats simultaneously - with just one spare aboard. The mishap cost them a few minutes overall, and dropped them back to 16th on the first re-seed, but Doc was optimistic about their chances.
14.) One of the better pre-event predictions about conditions was "He who goes off stays off." So far, that little bit of prophecy hasn't come true. However, as more and more stages are run, more and more people are talking about having been off or having helped pull people back on the road. Also, more and more cars are exhibiting bodywork that appears to have been "naturally rearranged."
15.) A significant portion at the beginning of Stage 9 has been dropped. Most of McCormack Lake Road will be dropped, and the stage now will start where the original layout joined Lutz Road.
16.) Carlos Arrieta, who is driving an Open Class Audi quattro with Dick Casey navigating, started rallying in Spain in 1963. The snow and ice doesn't concern him too much. What he does feel is a problem is the ice on off-camber turns.
17.) Tim Winker (Group 2 Saab 99 with Brenda Corneliusen navigating), who has had his encounter with the snow and a bit of trouble changing a tire, describes the team's current approach thusly, "We may be conservative, but at least we're slow."
18.) Karl Scheible, who is renting a Volkswagen Gti for this event, will be running a new Beetle later in the year when, as soon as the car is ready.
19.) Eric Burmeister and Mark Buskirk (Group 2 Volkswagen Gti) retired at the spectator area on Stage 6, reason not given yet.
20.) Brian Vinson/Richard Beels (Production Class Volkswagen Golf GTi) searched in vain last night for a two-cent seal for the clutch-actuation shaft. No one had one. So they rigged up a fitting, tube and funnel system to keep refilling the transmission. Near the midpoint of the rally, they figured that they had added 15 quarts of gear oil to their two-quart transmission. It's a pain in the neck; but, on the flip side, they figure that the underside of the car never will rust.
21.) Toward the end of the dinner break, Pete Lahm (Open Class Mitsubshi Evo IV with Matt Chester navigating)looked out the window of the press room at the setting sun. Sitting roughly in fifth place at that point, and apparently thinking about the already icy roads and the sharp cold that soon would return, he said, "Now the fun begins,"
22.) During an after-dark service halt Ken Stewart explained that his Open Class Chevrolet S-10 pickup simply wasn't getting any traction, which was making for a very long day. "I'd never done a winter rally," he said," and I wanted to do one before I got too old or quit. I think today's the day I got too old."