An Early Finish in Michigan Car Wrinkled, Tree Down, Crew Fine Atlanta, MI. It took two days, but the icy, snowy roads near Atlanta, Michigan, finally snared the Subaru WRX STi of the Widget Rally Team. Less than a mile into Saturday's first ...
An Early Finish in Michigan
Car Wrinkled, Tree Down, Crew Fine
Atlanta, MI. It took two days, but the icy, snowy roads near Atlanta, Michigan, finally snared the Subaru WRX STi of the Widget Rally Team. Less than a mile into Saturday's first stage, the car slid off the road in the middle of long right-hand corner, center-punching a tree. Driver Brian Scott (Phoenix, AZ) and codriver John Dillon (Thousand Oaks, CA) were uninjured and the car restarted immediately, allowing the team to drive on down the road. The impact uprooted the tree, however, and damaged the radiator. With coolant draining, the team parked the car safely, their rally finished.
"Officially, we retired because of overheating," quipped Dillon. "That the overheating was caused by a tree attacking our radiator is unimportant!"
Sno*Drift was Scott's first-ever snow rally. Though he occasionally experiences winter in parts of northern Arizona, he's never had a chance to try driving a race car in the white stuff. "Our goal was to simply bring the car to the finish line and earn a few championship points," he declared. "These conditions are foreign to me so I tried to take it easy. Unfortunately, we were still caught out."
The team struggled too with the proper tire choices. "I felt like we made the right decision on the first leg of Friday, going with an ice tire that cut through the snow to get us some grip," Scott said. "On the second time out on the same roads [but going the opposite direction], we expected things to be a lot more polished, so we kept them on. It turns out that we should have switched to snow tires. We analyzed things intellectually, but we didn't have the real world 'feeling' you get from a life time's experience in these conditions, and it cost us some time."
The rally began Friday afternoon with a sense of success for the team. They felt comfortable in the car and had only one minor error, a spin on the second stage, to mar their performance. Though they weren't setting the fastest times on stage, they felt they were sticking to their game plan. On the second part of the day, things deteriorated due to a lack of grip. On the final stage of the night, dubbed "The Ranch," they overshot a junction and then, less than a mile later, suffered a flat tire. With six miles to the finish line they bumped and clawed over the rough and rutted tracks of the stage, getting passed by another car along the way. "They figured they'd lose less time driving it out than trying to fix it on stage," explained crew chief Wayne Hendrix to fellow wrench Nick Mahalak. "Besides, they reported the stage was so narrow that there were rarely any places where they could pull off safely."
The car's odometer showed that the car reached 57 miles per hour sometime before the crash. "I think we were probably going half that fast when we hit," said Dillon. "It was a slower corner and we scrubbed off more speed when we slid off the road." Neither driver nor codriver were injured, thanks in part to the "Head and Neck Support" (HANS) devices each was wearing. "In 2003, my wife Donna gave me a HANS, saying she was "saving my neck this Christmas.' You can be sure I called to thank her after we parked the car!" "Andy Brown built this car for me a year ago, making it as strong as safe as could be," said Scott. "It proved its strength today."
Though Sno*Drift ended early, and a bit of repair work is needed on the car, they plan to be ready for the next round in the Rally America championship, the 100 Acre Wood Rally in Salem, Missouri. "I've always done well at 100 Acre," observed the driver. "We'll use the event to get back on track for the championship."