TRI Rally Team Slips and Slides to 2nd Podium Slot in G2 The Sno*Drift <www.sno-drift.org> ProRally is round 1 of the 2002 SCCA ProRally Championship which consists of 10 rounds held all over the US. The TRI Rally team made the journey to...
TRI Rally Team Slips and Slides to 2nd Podium Slot in G2
The Sno*Drift <www.sno-drift.org> ProRally is round 1 of the 2002 SCCA ProRally Championship which consists of 10 rounds held all over the US. The TRI Rally team made the journey to Michigan to compete as in 2001 and returned home to North Carolina with a 2nd place finish for the second year in a row.
The hot seat was occupied by a new co-driver who agreed to sit in for this event. Mark Bowers of Afton, VA volunteered to help the team out, he has been a rallyist since long before Matthew had ever heard of the sport, Mark garnered several top finishing slots as a driver in the past and has co-driven in many rallies in the Northeast and Canada. Mark's consultation to Matthew as a fellow driver with lots of experience was invaluable in this extremely unpredictable environment of ice and mud.
Competition started at 3pm on Friday, running 5 stages in the late afternoon and early evening hours. Traditionally Sno*Drift has, as it's name implies, plenty of snow and cold Michigan weather. This year Michigan has been without the typical amount of snow fall and the stages showed it. All special stage roads showed a combination of ice and dirt, some mostly ice and others mostly dirt/mud. This made for a particularly risky combination because the cars could gain significant amounts of speed using the traction provided by the dirt and be surprised by ice with no way to loose that momentum approaching corners. Temperatures ranged from mid-20s at night to low-40s during the mostly sunny days.
After Friday's stages the car was holding together well, noticing that the front brake pads were wearing quickly and likely wouldn't last through the day on Saturday the team searched around for a replacement set. Fellow competitor, Chris Whiteman, was very generous and provided a set. The only "moment" as they are called in rallying, was after a sharp icy crest when the road went sharp right.
Matthew-"I knew immediately we were way to fast to make the corner. Then I looked up to see a huge tree that could've spelled the end to our event. Luckily, further searching for an escape route showed a path through the snow around the tree, up a bank and back out into the stage road. It was obvious that we weren't the first team to encounter that situation."
After the first five stages on Saturday morning Speedvision producer Doug Plummer approached with the TV camera and interviewer Jeff Burmeister in tow. Matthew- "I wasn't positive that we were leading the G2 class and 2wd overall until Doug came over. Then I was pretty sure we were doing something right. Obviously I didn't know what to say, I was still a little shaken up from that huge jump on stage 9."
What huge jump on stage 9? The route book called for "Yumps until 3.49" only a half mile into the stage. The team drove flat out down the stage, encountering two "polite" jumps with smooth landings before cresting the big one. Mark-"The preceding jumps were smooth and the road stayed with us. I knew Matthew was pushing a bit, but when we crested the third jump in a row with the silence of flying through the air sustained, I had second thoughts about his tactics. We both ended up a bit sore from the impact of the landing and as for the car; rear axle bent, speedometer cable broke, skid plate deformed, and now my door doesn't close so well."
Saturday afternoon saw the TRI Rally Team arrive at a stage start over 20 minutes late after getting a bit turned around on the transit. The resulting 5 minutes 12 seconds of penalty points added to the score resulted in 2nd place in Group 2 behind the Mazda of Eric Burmeister.
The main competition in Group 2 class at this event came from, Eric Burmeister of Burmeister Engineering Rallysport with Eric Adams in the hot seat and Paul White Racing Team with Chris Whiteman driving and Mike Paulin in the hot seat. Matthew- We're all buddies but we're all sure going to make it as hard as possible to catch each other." After a champagne spraying ceremony at the Redwood to celebrate the successful weekend by all three teams they shared the many moments of the weekend with crew and friends in the local watering hole.
This event was the début of a new Mitsubishi Group 2 effort, Lauchlin O'Sullivan is piloting a new Mitsubishi Lancer RMR with Matt Chester co-driving for the 2002 season. While they were still settling in with the car on this event look for them to go quickly on gravel at Cherokee.
TRI Rally team would like to thank a number of folks; Mike Bodnar, Mary Shiloff, other organizers and workers who produced an excellent event that ran on time; Burmeister Engineering Rallysport and Paul White Racing Team for sharing their crew and car parts!; J.B. Niday for keeping it together and risking it to help us out, Anders Green and Amy Feistel of Lina Racing, Eric Adams and Carl Fisher for helping with car prep before the event.
Dedication: The TRI Rally Team would like to dedicate their class leading performance to a friend, Paul Wasner "Little Paul", who passed away recently, he was always a class leader.
The Cherokee Trails International Rally <www.cherokeetrailsrally.com> will be held in March in the mountains adjacent to Chattanooga, TN. Look for a battle royal between many fast Group 2 competitors on the twisty gravel paths with wonderful views and frightening sheer drops.