September 12, 2001 - The ACT II Popcorn / Morrie's Subaru sponsored Subaru Impreza 2.5 Turbo driven by Steve Gingras and Bill Westrick were forced to withdraw from the Wild West Pro Rally after suffering a catastrophic drive shaft failure on the...
September 12, 2001 - The ACT II Popcorn / Morrie's Subaru sponsored Subaru Impreza 2.5 Turbo driven by Steve Gingras and Bill Westrick were forced to withdraw from the Wild West Pro Rally after suffering a catastrophic drive shaft failure on the second day of the rally. The drive shaft failed during a high-speed section of the route where the Open class Subaru Impreza was showing its speed potential. The drive shaft failure also damaged the transmission fluid cooling lines, which resulted in complete loss of transmission fluid and the car was unable to continue.
The Wild West Pro Rally, is the 8th round of the 2001 SCCA ProRally Championship series and held September 7-8 on the timber land roads of Olympia Washington. This year's rally played host to the largest entry field in its history.
The event was going well for Gingras / Westrick. The team completed the first night of competition in a solid 10th place over all, with only 33 seconds separating them from 6th place. "Road position and the thick dust conditions made it very difficult to push hard on Friday," explained driver Steve Gingras, "We pushed hard when we could see, and backed off when we could not. The risk factor was kept to a minimum and the car was running great." This year's event marked the return of the Gingras / Westrick team to the Northwest rally roads, since their Production GT Championship season of 1998.
The first stage on Saturday, was a long run of 28.33 miles, and included a 2-mile section called the Olympic Highway, a strait and wide section of road, that allows the rally cars to run full throttle. Gingras / Westrick were looking forward to this section, to show the full speed potential of the Knight Racing Subaru, when it all came to an end in one brief instant. "We were running flat in 4th, somewhere above 110 mph, when the drive shaft just exploded under the car," described Westrick, "we knew exactly what happened. It was a tremendous disappointment to hear the drive shaft bouncing around under the car." The team attempted to continue with front wheel drive only, but the damage to the transmission fluid lines was just too severe, and they parked the car off the road.
Despite not being able to finish, Gingras / Westrick gained some valuable information about the car. Team Owner Tom Ryther stated, "The drive shaft failure to our cars, show us that we exceeded the maximum speed of the drive shaft. We need to take a look at the parts and change the design so that this never happens again. We have our cars going so fast that we need to design components far exceeding conventional ideas and wisdom. This will be fixed before the next event." Knight Racing teammates Jonathan Ryther / Janice Damitio, also suffered the same drive shaft failure on the same stage.
All was not lost for Knight Racing. The 3rd team car of Lon Peterson / Bill Gutzmann did not experience the failure on Stage 7, due to catching the car ahead of them, and were informed of the failures when they returned to service, where speed limitations were established for the remainder of the rally. Peterson / Gutzmann continued to carry the Knight Racing banner, adjusted their driving limits and completing the Wild West rally for their first finish of the 2001 season, with an 8th place over all result.
The next event on the Knight Racing schedule is the Prescott Forest Pro Rally, October 5-6, 2001 in Prescott, Arizona.