Victory in the Angeles National Forest Widget Team Partners with Kono Motorsports to Earn Treeline Win West Covina, CA. Ralph Kosmides (Newport Beach, CA) and John Dillon (Thousand Oaks, CA) teamed up to tackle the Treeline Rally on 10 July ...
Victory in the Angeles National Forest
Widget Team Partners with Kono Motorsports to Earn Treeline Win
West Covina, CA. Ralph Kosmides (Newport Beach, CA) and John Dillon (Thousand Oaks, CA) teamed up to tackle the Treeline Rally on 10 July 2004. The team won the race outright, finishing over a minute ahead of the Group 2 car of Brian Scott (Phoenix, AZ) and Dave Hackett (Reno, NV). Kosmides, who races a Group N-spec Subaru Impreza prepared by Kono Motorsports, invited the Widget codriver to run Treeline because it was impractical for his regular codriver Jimmy Brandt to fly in from Michigan for a one day rally. It was the first overall victory for Kosmides in the California Rally Series. Dillon won Treeline in the previous event codriving for Lauchlin O'Sullivan back in November 2001. The 2002 and 2003 editions of this race were cancelled because of the California wildfires.
Though the duo won five of the six stages of the day, their run was not incident-free. Reported Kosmides, "We entered the very first corner a little too hot and slid straight off the road. Fortunately the berm stopped us from going over the edge, but it was close. I'm sure John was asking himself whether racing with me was a good idea after all!" Despite the first turn mishap, the driver quickly found the rhythm of the tight and twisty roads that make up this rally and set a pace no one else could match.
"Ralph proved today how he earned his national championships. His driving was measured and precise," observed Dillon. "These roads are so narrow and twisty that he constantly shifted between first and second gears, only rarely getting into third before jamming the brakes on and downshifting.. Aside from our inauspicous start, I felt comfortable calling the route book for him."
The second Widget car, a Mitsubishi Evolution driven by Nick Korpal (Las Vegas, NV) and codriven by Eric Schleicher (Phoenix, AZ) didn't fare as well. Korpal lost control on the very first corner of the rally, the same place Kosmides and Dillon nearly went over. Korpal's Evo slipped over the edge and down a thirty-foot embankment, where the car finally wedged in between the trees upside down. Both men were unhurt, but the car's bodywork is thoroughly destroyed. Amazingly however, the drivetrain is still solid and, after a tow truck extracted the car from the bottom, they were able to drive it out.
The biggest fright for Kosmides came on the fourth stage when the right rear suspension broke and caused the wheel to flop over and eventually flatten the tire. After crossing the finish line (and learning they'd won the stage even with the problems) they struggled to get the car back together. Fortunately for them, organizers had to delay the start of the next stage, giving Kosmides and Dillon more time to affect repairs. Using a fabric tie-down strap they were able to return the wheel to a more-or-less vertical position as a suspension brace.
When Stage 5 was finally ready to run, they were poised to resume at the front of the pack. However, they voluntarily relinquished their first-on-the-road starting position. Behind them was a tight battle between two Group 2 cars of Jay Streets (San Francisco)/Ole Holter (El Segundo) and Scott/Hacker. "We didn't want to mess up their race in case our repairs didn't hold," commented Kosmides, "so we let them start the last two stages ahead of us."
Kosmides and Dillon approached the fifth stage cautiously, unsure about the strength of the strap. It was the only stage of the day they didn't win.. However, they decided to attack Stage 6 and once again set a time unequalled by the other cars. Another problem, less important, cropped up about halfway through the penultimate stage when the odometer failed. Despite the loss of instrumentation, Dillon continued to make what calls were needed, estimating distance based on speed and time. "You can't really get lost on these roads," noted the codriver, "but it didn't hurt to let him know about the scary bits even if the mileages weren't exact."
At the end of the event, Dillon thanked Kosmides for a chance to race in the Ruby's-sponsored Impreza, the first time he'd ever codriven in a Subaru. "I had a great time today. It was a pleasure to team up with Kono Motorsports for this rally. It was also nice to have my old friend Doug Nagy crewing on the car. Doug and his wife Marnie took good care of us all day."
Kosmides expressed gratitude as well. "I thought we were done after the suspension failure, but here we are with first-place trophies. I'm glad John was able to fill in for Jimmy this weekend."
The next race for Kono Motorsports will be the Colorado Cog Rally in September. The Widget Rally Team of Leon Styles (Mission Viejo, CA) and John Dillon heads east at the end of July for the Maine Forest Rally. Styles and Dillon currently lead the national Open class championship hunt.
About the Sport
Rallying is the ultimate team motorsport where street-licensed cars are raced at high speed on dirt trails with two people in the car, a driver behind the wheel and a codriver describing every bend in the road. U.S. competitors are not allowed to pre-run the roads so they are racing "blind," navigating from a route book provided just hours prior to the event. Cars can usually reach speeds above 100 MPH as they snake between trees and along the edges of cliffs in this sport of strength and stamina.