ICEngineering Subjects

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Autocross Corvette: Introduction

Photo credit: Andrew Wong

It's been a loooong time since I've written anything here. I guess motorsport has gotten pretty routine for me in the last couple of years. I autocross a lot and do ok but not great, and it doesn't feel like there's much of a story there. The RX-8 has been a great reliable autocross car and it just hasn't needed any work. Which is boring. That's about to change, because it's getting transformed into a whole new car, but that's a story for later. This is about what I'm doing during the months that the RX-8 is in pieces.

About a year ago, Allen (who has the cool SSM Miata in #1 here) and I decided to go halfsies on a new autocross car. My motivation was to learn to drive something with some power, because hopefully some day the RX-8 will have power and I'll have to learn how to use the intermediate positions of the gas pedal. Also, I've been autocrossing the RX-8 ever since I started autocrossing back in 2007 so it'd be interesting to try something new. We wanted this to be fairly easy, so we decided to get something that would be fun and competitive to run in the "Street" (formerly "Stock") category, but since it would be a dedicated toy, we wanted something that is actually a sports car. Basically, we didn't want something slow with lots of doors and seats and stuff. But we're also cheap. Our top candidate was a C5 Corvette Z06, but we eventually settled for a non-Z06 C5 Fixed Roof Coupe (FRC) because it was very inexpensive. The FRC is missing 1" of wheel width front and rear, about 50 hp and a little bit of suspension stiffness when compared to the Z06. But it's otherwise a very similar car. We figured that with the street tires that we are required to run, we wouldn't miss the hp too much, and the FRC looks like it's a very competitive car to have for the "B Street" class, while the Z06 looks like it might be lagging a little bit compared to its C6 brethren in "A Street."

I added the vinyl, but the ugly wheels were included with the purchase!

Turns out it was cheap for a reason. First of all, the steering felt really bad, so as we went to adjust it, we discovered that the rack was broken and I had to replace it. Then we bought some wheels and old tires plus a used set of Z06 shocks for it and took it to an autocross in Ohio where it promptly overheated, the clutch slipped, the brakes went to mush and it generally drove like crap. From there, we replaced the engine's harmonic damper (which required removing the steering rack again), tie rod ends, brake fluid, rotors and pads, and upsized the front sway bar and took it to another autocross in Oscoda. It seemed like we fixed all the problems, but the old tires were definitely ruining the driving experience and we weren't buying new ones because we knew that a new crop was coming for 2015. So we played around with it on junk tires and then put it in storage for the winter.

Grip was poor

The first thing we picked up for the car in 2015 was a set of Koni Sport shocks. The "cheap" Konis for the Corvette are actually a pretty nice set of rebound-adjustable monotubes, but they aren't all that cheap at ~$1100 for the set. And because the rules allow it (also because this blog would be boring without some fabrication), I built a set of spherical bearing lower eyes for the fronts.

Obligatory lathe picture

These parts probably don't gain us much, but it makes it more like a race car

We also bought another 1.5 sets of wheels so we could test tires. This year, Bridgestone and BFGoodrich really upped the ante by releasing the unbelievably grippy RE71R and the Rival-S respectively. We're ambitious people, so we bought a set of each. The Corvette wears 17x8.5 wheels in the front and 18x9.5 in the rear, so we ordered each set with 255/40/17's for the front and 275/35/18's for the rear. Interestingly, both manufacturers had some supply problems, which meant that we ended up getting the 255 Rival-S for the front and the 275 RE71R's for the rear while the others were back-ordered. We started the season out that way, running a few local events with mismatched wheels and tires. The car was amazing with pretty much no tuning, and even on the tight courses at our local sites, we were consistently getting great results.

Cool wheels, right?
Photo credit: Andrew Wong

We eventually got our 255/40/17 RE71R's for the front, but after BFGoodrich kept pushing back the ship date on the Rival-S for our rear wheels, we eventually canceled that order and instead ordered another pair of 275/35/18 RE71R's to squeeze onto a pair of 18x8.5 front wheels that we bought. SCCA Solo's Street class allows a +/- 1" diameter change for wheels, so we took advantage of that to get a wider front tire.

It's a tight fit

We took the car to a test-n-tune in Indiana to test our three different front tires, and found that we hated the narrow RE71R's, loved the wide ones and the Rival-S were fast but weird feeling. All ran very similar lap times, but the wide front tires did it most easily, so we decided to use those for events that we care about a lot, and to burn up the other tires at local events because it's more cost effective than selling them.

Since then, we've done a lot of autocrossing with extremely good results, though we weren't able to hit any national events until deep into July when we attended the Toledo Match Tour which was a great success. We managed to take 1st and 2nd in class competition in spite of lots of rain and bald tires, and we both qualified for the "Super Shootout" which is a bracket competition in two senses of the phrase. It's set up in a tournament-style bracket, but it's also run like bracket drag racing where drivers are run against their "dial-in" times from the qualifying round. So you basically want to beat your own dial-in time by more than the other guy beats their dial-in time. I knocked myself out when I was paired with Allen by hitting a cone, but Allen took that opportunity to go and win the whole thing!

This is Allen's winning face
Photo credit: Andrew Wong

Just this last weekend, we ran the Wilmington ProSolo where we faced some more good competition in our class and again managed to place 1st and 2nd on tires that really have no tread on them.

This is before we put 26 more runs on them

So all in all, we're feeling pretty good with one more Champ Tour coming up in Wilmington and then the National Championships in about a month. I think that if I don't screw up too badly, I can take a decent trophy position, and Allen has a real shot at the championship. Let's see what happens!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Electric Longboard!

Before building this thing, I couldn't ride skateboards at all.

Like, as a young kid, elementary school or so, I was pretty sure the cheap plastic skateboard we had was absolutely impossible to stand up on, and my sister and I just would put a knee on it and scooch around.  Even then, the thing would hit the smallest piece of gravel and throw us off anyways.  I ruined a shirt and for the longest time had a scar on my shoulder from trying to take it down the neighbors' driveway hill...

But still, I couldn't get the awesome but entirely impractical idea of an electric longboard (fuelled by my recent RC dabbling, a dude I saw cruising on one in California, the recent assault of 'E-board' startups, and the great forum at out of my head. 

So I chose slightly upsized components, and geared it for 26 mph.  Good idea, right?

This thing is a blast.  It's not perfect, and I have a short list of improvements for if I make another one (!), but it's effective.  And it's so much fun: cruising down the road on such a low-profile piece at road-bike-pace feels miraculous and awesome.
For better or worse, pretty much everybody who sees it also thinks it's awesome.  With this board I've met just as many people on my street in the past week as I have in the past 1.5 years of living here.  However, choosing to ride it somewhere is a very conspicuous activity, and I feel pretty self-conscious about it.

And 26 mph is way too fast.  I think the fastest I've gone so far is just under 20, and the board can wobble pretty badly when going faster (though I think the higher speeds are easier with more experience).  In the video below, I'm only doing 14-16mph.  This summer, I plan to ride it to work and back (6 miles each way) with a battery change probably needed 3/4 of the way there.  That'll be a pretty silly adventure.

As far as building the board, what you see is what it was.  I just purchased parts and attached them.  The only important fabrication for function is mounting the motor to the truck, and a drive sprocket to a wheel (this board is 1-wheel-drive).  Once this is done solidly, the board should work just fine.

1) Drive sprocket to wheel: Parts from spd-si (cool and easy, a tad expensive): used a 9mm width HTD timing belt. Used hand tools only on this board (quick and dirty) - pressed the sprocket into the bearing race of the original wheel (lucky fit!) and added 2 additional ball bearings to keep the sprocket concentric to the truck axle.  (bolts added later for torque transfer because epoxy really didn't even pretend to work)

 2) Motor mount: the board had threaded holes in the trucks (don't know why).  So I used these, with a simple bar across (to get two threaded holes engaged) and a plate up to the motor.  I chose not to use slots, instead drilling multiple bolt patterns for indexed ctr-ctr (more robust when rolling down the street, but much more of a pain to get the center distance correct)

 3) Component selection and mounting to board:
So, I chose to go with a single motor and 1-wheel drive.  I figured I could always upgrade from there, and buying just one would be less risky than buying two of everything if it turned out the parts were poorly chosen.
Test fit (gorilla tape assembly)
Total cost was $330 (thanks to free batteries and a cheap-ish $110 longboard)
Motor: Hobbyking SK3 6364 $70.  I got the 214kv version because that's what was in stock and I was impatient, but would have preferred a lower kv model.
Controller: Hobbyking 150amp car ESC $70.  Some concerns about matching to the motor regarding poles (actually I still don't understand what the SK3 is regarding poles...) - but I wanted something with braking, and that could handle 6S.
--> This portion ended up not working satisfactorily, keep reading!

Receiver/transmitter: the cheapest that hobbyking had (works great)
--> Update June 2015: I'm getting pretty tired of carrying this really huge, attention-grabbing controller when I'm just trying to get groceries...I'm going to look into a modified knockoff wi-mote

Batteries: Would use 6S Lipo (cheapish, chargers are readily available for 6S), but my friend had a load of A123 LiFe cells that he wasn't using, and let me borrow them with no return date... thanks dude!  I modified his 12s (!) packs to 6s, and made a pack connector to go 2p.  With the 6s2p it should be 4600mAh, which seems to be about 4 miles of range.
6S is to balance power vs cheap controller and charger availability.
"This pack can weld metal"  (12s A123 cells)

Taking apart, check out the classy label indexing

It was scary taking an angle grinder to a bus bar

I used XT90 connectors, I like them a lot

 Then I made a few stainless steel mounts.  I used stainless because I had some had seemed like a good idea a while ago for a shifter kart exhaust mount, and I bought some metal (plates and tubes), a tubing bender, and some stainless welding wire...and then didn't use any of it.  So I had it around and still hadn't tried it out.
My unfortunate conclusion is that I should avoid stainless if possible in the future.  It's really difficult to cut and work (the metal work hardens: I also needed to buy some pretty expensive carbide jigsaw blades to cut it effectively), and the welds are functional, but messy when using the C25 gas I have on my mig (I didn't want to spring for tri-mix on this experiment, which means the welds will probably rust in the future! not really stainless anymore...)
Anyways, it's together and solid now!  And I'm really pleased with the battery mount especially, which holds the battery firmly but without any sharp/metal things to abrade the packs.

Stainless hoops for mounting and bottoming protection.  Velcro battery hold-down ties battery down to 1-sided adhesive foam on the board, allows quick change, secure mount, and no battery rubbing against sharp edges.

- 1 wheel drive is functional, but I would choose 2wd for more natural feel next time
- The motor and ESC combo is not perfect.  At big mismatches between throttle and rpm (like, big throttle from a standstill, or trying to rip full throttle from medium speed) the motor makes an electronic screaming noise, and the torque cuts to almost nothing.  I think this is because the motor is sensorless, and I think the ESC is lighting up the next circuits ahead of the motor position, resulting in a not-functioning condition.  The board is still capable of huge torque (pulled me up some pretty long, steep hills at a very good speed), but it's very frustrating from a user feel point of view.
(while-writing update: maybe I can add the position sensor to this motor! oof long thread, hehe, maybe I'll start here... Oh!  wow, there are pcb 'external sensor' boards available already made specifically for this motor.  I think this will be going on the board very very soon!)
-Gearing: on a longboard without wearing pads, 20mph is plenty.  I'll change the gearing for this, and hopefully greatly improve that motor 'scream' condition also.
-Timing belt: is functional, but the belt is showing wear.  I expect to have to change it in another couple weeks
- Since building this I've ridden a real quality (unpowered) longboard, with great trucks, more traditional (but still big, 90mm, and mid-durometer) skateboard wheels, and a nice flexible deck.  The quality board really made a big improvement in handling and feel.

So, researching while writing, maybe an add-on hall effect sensor system to the motor will make the board entirely satisfactory to me.  But if it doesn't, maybe next year, I'll build a nicer deck and trucks with a pair of sensored 1100-1500w motors (if the sensored hardware becomes a bit cheaper).  Cool.

UPDATE 4/14:
I added the position sensor piece which is sold, linked from the instructable above. (It was really difficult to solder...for me at least).  I wired it into that Hobbyking 150A controller, and got the wires all plugged up correctly.  It was AWESOME.  Huge torque, it actually layed a patch of rubber on my basement rug.  Torque steer became a problem.

However, then I started tuning it: I changed the motor timing, softened up the acceleration...and then tried reverse.  It didn't like it.  Reverse and brake didn't work well, strange behavior...and then some smoke came out...  Something is damaged in the ESC...
Back to unsensored...still not working correctly (no effective torque, cogging, etc)... I'll open up the ESC to see what's cooked, but I'm going to say it's torched.  SOOOO close to working great...maybe there is a setting combination which would work without ESC damage, but I'm not going to burn a couple more controllers to find out.

Now I think I'm going to find a way to run a Kelly controller, or similar, with the RC receiver...

Butt-boarding into the sunset.  This thing is a heck of a toy!

Update May-June 2015:
After still not being thrilled with power density of non-RC controllers, and not finding any better sensored controllers than what I had (plus learning about the hall effect sensor latching, and being concerned about RC brake logic ever working correctly with the external sensors)...AND reading this guy, and this post I decided to chance it on another sensorless controller.  I chose the same Trackstar 200 amp controller he talks about in those two linked posts from his blog/site.  I was especially convinced by his youtube video showing the controller logic to change the operating frequency at low speeds and high loads.

   Side note, that guy is awesome.  But you probably already knew if you've found this site by now.  He's the one who made the sensor board I had already tried on the previous controller.  He's made a lot of fun electric motor stuff, to put it lightly...

The Trackstar 200amp controller was an excellent decision.  It can't get the board going from a standstill, but give it the smallest amount of forward speed and the controller grabs on.  Once it's locked it, it DOES NOT let go.  Full throttle from any speed works.  It works so well that I've probably still only pulled full throttle about 10 times, even though I've gotten about 5 more charges worth of riding on the battery packs by now.  The controller dumps enough power to warm up the motor, which the first controller could only do when sensored.

Also, the controller is '8S lipo', (8*4.2v max cell voltage) and actually the capacitors on it say 35volts, so if I ever get bored I can make a small 'booster battery pack' to run in series...maybe go 8 or 9S total for waaay too much power.(the A123 cells are LiFe, max 3.6v each cell, 9*3.6 = 32.4v) 

I've used the board with the new controller: 
-to get groceries 3-4 times
-to ride to a friends house across town to show off
-to ride to party to show off (and share it with other people...hehe)
-brought it to work to show off to/share with my coworkers (and crashed while full-throttle butt-scootching in front of my managers, pretty embarrassed about that...)
-in my engagement photos (yea, really)
-to ride downtown here in Ann Arbor 2x for dinner/errands
-to share with my family and friends when they visited town for my wedding
-on my honeymoon around Asheville NC (hehe, TMI here?) to dinner and breweries
-near the Appalachian Trial when my knee was injured again and I couldn't walk far  (hehe, seriously)

Super fun.  Best toy of 2015.  I didn't know it was going to be this awesome when I started. (humble, yea?)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Full Disclosure, GTI Story ends

Fall 2013 I moved across town, another rental house. This one has a nice attached garage, but it is smaller, and I'm not allowed to keep ANYTHING outside.

Oh, also, I'd bought a beautiful 1995 Miata that summer  (Actually, for a few years now, ever time I saw a Miata I thought 'funnnnn!')  It can also be for track days, it's nice to have a convertible and reasonable fuel economy in my commute, and should be great for E-stock (Street!) autocross on some of our bumpier lots and allow different co-drivers than the kart. This led to some required downsizing.

So of course, I chose to sell the one really good car which we've put so much work into---the '88 GTI rallycar which 'started' this blog.

Selling the car was very bittersweet, and I dragged my feet for a while. Finally, I did actually list it for sale, instead of just saying it was for sale... and sold it in Fall 2013 (1 year ago!) to a person who I think will use it well, and is also in the region.

It was really great reading some of the responses to the listing in some of the forums. A few people had stories to share of watching the car compete, and the car got complements all around. But of course it would - because it looked absolutely badass in track-day(!) trim (which is wheels + muffler extension)
Car looking awesome at 2013 Waterford Hills Track Day, thanks John for the picture!
"For Sale" contents: (Red = work Kenneth and I did):
For sale is a 1988 MKII Golf, started as a GTI. Fairly straight, never rolled.  Biggest repair was a replaced front-left frame horn ahead of the strut top after sno-drift 2012. (still finished the day though)

Log book dates 5/7/99, 'Identity No. 97-206' original owner ran 7 rallies in New England 1999-2001
Billy Elliot owned and ran 4 rallies from 2008-2010, and I have run 4 from 2010-2012
Most recent entry 2012 Sno*Drift

I have also run many rallycross, and even an autocross and track day with the car.  It has proven to be reliable through all, except for once where I broke some wheel studs (see new pressed-in ARP studs below).  Car is capable of running at the top of G2 (2nd at 2011 Sno regional, fastest stage time on last stage).  One of its strongest points is the handling - it is a very driveable car.

Rally stage: (exhaust now includes hushpower muffler for less harshness)

Check out from 2011-2012 to get a good idea of the story!

8 point cage, 1.5"x0.098, updated door bars + dash bar 2011
Sparco Pro ADV (2x, new 2010) spectacular condition still (of course) INCLUDED!
6061 3/8" front skid plate, extremely strong
steel center skids for fuel lines
Plastic under-car skids
6061 rear skid plate for fuel system
All wheel mudflaps durable and in good condition
Roof vent
Belts dated Nov. '08
Quick release steering wheel
2002 china-market Chery mechanical HVAC heater core and flapper unit! awesome.  
Required spill kit and orange triangle kit

Brakes (
MKIII front knuckles with greater diameter rotors, larger calipers.  New rotors and pads 2011, still look great
Rear disc (GTI...)
Brake system converted to AN standard (easy repair, multiple-use fittings), hard line run in-car, stainless line to wheels.  No hardware on rear beam.
Rear brake bias driver adjustable
Hydraulic handbrake

MKIII rear beam (stronger than MKII)
Front control arms plated, adapted for spherical bearings (COM12) to eliminate durability concern common to OEM rubber
Converted to studs, ARP permanently pressed in from rear (required hub disassembly)
Bilstein "Group B" struts: 
Front: 85-92 Strut Conventional Body 300/120 VE3-4141
Rear: 85-92 Rear Conventional Body 300/100 AK30140
Front top hats replaced with Subaru 'Group N' to eliminate durability concern

Engine swap to 2.0L 9A (no modifications) 2011
New fuel injectors, injector seals, coolant lines, accessory belts, etc, all at that time
Stainless steel supersprint 4-2-1 long tube header, race cat, flowmaster hushpower.  Also includes external bolt-on muffler for meeting sound requirements for that track day, which is pretty sweet.  Seen in the fancy track day pictures.
Stock 020 GTI close ratio transmission

AGM battery, relocated behind driver seat
Engine harness separated from body harness
WOLO air horn (pretty fun)
Body harness relay and fuses relocated to dash center, some rally functionality enhancements for lighting, extra navigator wiper, washer, horn controls, etc
seen briefly here: (exhaust is since changed though)
4x giant Hella driving lights with nice weatherpack connectors and wiring
Kill switch

Yes.  Many many.  And you must take them with the car!
About 16 wheels and tires (VW alloys, snow, rally, and street tires)
Many beams, bumpers, suspension arms, belts, brakes...everything
Spare 020 trans

Let me justify further: I sold it because I found plenty of fun stuff to do in my unofficial rally sabbatical (posts to come), and I am not making any short or even medium-term stage rally plans.
Fact #1.  The car was all set and running
This made selling it seem like a particularly strange idea, but it also means it had value...
Fact #2.  Is that the GTI was a really good STAGE rally car. And just a 'good for a local region' rallycross car. And a 'silly' track day car.

So the future of this blog from my garage (which is already here in a lot of ways, to update soon-ish!) is
1) Occasional track days with the better Miata (complete with Miata prep!),
2) To build a nationally competitive car for rallycross (the snowmobile civic...) 
   2b) Hm, and maybe some rallycross nationals.
3) Plus autocross nationals with the Shifter Kart (constant fabrication involved for and around that one),
4) and motorcycle track days (maybe a motorcycle front end swap on this blog next year).
5) In all honesty, maybe other RC and some electronic stuff.  Yea yea.  But it's pretty fun.
6) Friend's cars that we get to drive, like Jon's supercharged Miata which I got to drive all through 2014 rallycross (Jon's car, my supercharger!)

Not to mention Kenneth's garage!  hehe, which makes my list above look easy (and my fabrication look woeful)

The future, which is now, is busy and awesome.  There are many more builds, repairs, and races to come and to be documented here!

GTI Repair, back in 2012

After being fairly deflated at Sno*Drift 2012, I heavily procrastinated on the car repair.  It got so bad that I even went in with a couple local Detroit Region competitors and rallycrossed a rental automatic Yaris (sounds awesome, was awesome, not a good idea though), and also bummed a ride in an rx7 in an Ohio event (straight awesome, and the 198something Suburban tow rig with 3spd manual and fragile coolant lines = also awesome, I can only try to give back enough awesomeness someday Kevin!) to get my dirt-driving fix as my car sat broken in the garage.

The damage was as minor as possible given the hit: conveniently we'd relocated the battery to the rear of the car, and its' empty OEM location was the entire crumple zone.  It (the crumpling) was 98% contained forward of the strut top, but at that area we had serious accordion-ing and spot weld tearing.
The light is shining in from the wheel well = not good!

After pulling the engine and evaluating the extent of the damage (~April...) I sent an MSpaint picture to Matt Bushore's brother (of Bent Mettle Racing) for a sawzall request, and a couple weeks later, that car chunk arrived at my house! (Thank you!)

Overall Damage (un-crashed grey fender on outside is mocked up to show 'before' shape)

Requested frame-part to Bent Mettle (not his or my car pictured!)
After deciding I could live with the crumple and wasn't going to pull the chassis, I cut the left frame horn off with a $20 Harbor Fright reciprocating saw.  Awesome tool/dollar, went through like butter.

Hehe, looks like a bad photoshop...

I think by now it's late summer, about 8 months after the tree...  like I said, I was embarrassed and procrastinating...

I matched up the pieces, and reassembled all the body panels to serve as a 'jig' for the frame.
I thought this was pretty rally.

I even used a ruler to jig it!  Pro.

Then went through and welded the pieces together.  I was very pleased with quality of the welds I was able to get with the little mig.
After removing the panels again, finishing the welds and painting, I reassembled.  Maybe the car isn't as square as it used to be, but wow, the reassembly was much easier than before the crash, thanks to the jigging method!

Finally, it was back together. 

(Oh man, I will miss the exhaust sound on it, it was great in the final iteration:
Supersprint stainless long tube 4-1 header, high flow cat, Hushpower muffler, then about 5 feet of 2.25dia tube.  Highly recommended) 

Driving it: Got it out for the September 2012 DRSCCA rallycross in which I hit almost every cone (9mos after tree), and then at Thistle Hill in December.  I took the win in that one, unbelievable mud, but the car was good and apparently I was trying to impress my girlfriend: I took overall FTD (not just 2wd), and caused all my in-class competitors at least one max time.  Sweet.

The car at its first return event, 9months after tree

The car at second return event, December, now with lights and grill...

Sno-Drift 2012 back-from-the-dead update, and the 'State of the Rally'

All the way back on July 1, 2012 I excused my lack of posts, and mentioned that Sno*Drift had not gone as planned.

At the time, I'd said: "Coming up soon: rally storytelling, fabrication and repair explanation and pictures, and future plans."  Well, it's taken 2.5 years now, and I've almost forgotten the story.

Mostly, I was embarrassed.  About both the rally (and letting down the most amazing crew ever by withdrawing after the first day), but maybe more so that I would probably be quitting stage rally, but didn't want to rush to conclusions.

     Sno-Drift Recap
We were so ready for Sno-Drift 2012.  The car was all set up with the new 2.0L, and electrical was all proven with Black River Stages under its belt. As mentioned in the older post, the goal now was to go fast.
Final Touches before Tech
We had the F150, which is a bit of an adventure but worked great.  The truck was on great new tires, all of us could fit (and did! three across the front, two in the back...hehe, I sat in the front middle and mostly annoyed Jon), all our stuff was under the cap in the bed, and we were pulling the rallycar on a trailer behind (Side note: the F150 had a 3.2:1 final drive, a broken leaf in one of the rear springs, and no factory tow package... so we were REALLY overloading it - - - worked fine)

Recce (special stage) with the truck...

And the lodging situation was awesome.  We were sharing a cabin with Billy Elliot and Dmitriy Martynov

Looking at the pictures now, we really left to start the rally all bright-eyed and bushy tailed.

Unfortunately, the next bit of the story goes "At Sno-Drift 2012 (which 2.5 years later is the last rally I've done or have plans to do) we had, in fact, hit a tree"

We were moving well, driving fast, and it was even still daylight.  (I know, pics or it wasn't fast, but we didn't have charged batteries in the camera to get any of the in-car when we were really cooking in those first couple stages)

The tree was entirely my fault, I caught my foot up on the brake when moving over to get some gas, and missed the inside line on the turn in.  The conditions were unforgiving and off we went!  I remember quite clearly my mild curse, which probably got Kenneth's head out of the route book in time to see we were NOT making that corner...  We went off, and as we hit the tree I thought 'crap.  I'M the one, the third owner, on this car's 14th stage rally, who finally totaled it.'

However, checking out the damage, the wheels were still attached and the car still held its fluids.  We started waving for a tow and (after almost getting hit a couple times as other cars came sliding our way) we were yanked out by a fellow awesome competitor!

We were able to continue down the road, it was only another couple corners to the finish of the stage.  Quickly we slashed a tire on the bodywork during the next transit (bummer, new tire!) and had to pull bodywork as best we could and get the spare on there, but we held enough schedule to keep in the game before the next special stage.  We tiptoed through another special stage, and brought her home to service.

Us coming into service after ~5 stages

The crew sawzalled us and we went back out, but my confidence was gone.  The car was pretty fine though.  Miraculously, the alignment was intact better than most events, and we had re-aimed the driving lights.  Another shake (I almost forgot, was this during this rally?) was that we cooked a relay halfway through the night!  We smelled this terrible burning, we lost all lights (!) and I could see something glowing hot behind the fusebox!  I pulled over, telling Kenneth quite urgently to get the fire extinguisher out, and shut off the car.  However, without power, it cooled down before becoming a bigger problem.  Brutal acrid smoke all over though, really bad.  We limped around, using as little electricity as we could by turning off the driving lights (I really don't remember, this may have been at Black River!)

Finally, after midnight and with the transmission making a heck of a whining noise (turns out the fill plug had been knocked out in the tree incident and it was very low on oil) we finished out the day, and got it back to the cabin.

After looking at the car (but really, I was already done before we even pulled in), we quit the event and didn't start the second day.  Sleeping in was really nice on Saturday...rally really is brutal.

Heading back out after the first service

Post-day inspection


Goodnight bruised car

Over a year later, I checked the results.  We had been running 2nd in the regional 2WD classes through the first 3 stages, and reached 10th overall, but the 4th stage, where we had the off, we lost 10 minutes and dropped back to 10th in G2, 11th in 2WD, and 29th overall.  Disheartened and having lost my confidence, we tiptoed through the rest of the day, ending up 7th in G2, 8th in 2WD, and 22 overall (of 38 competitors).

Those results are actually better than I had expected.  And I am glad to see our pace on the first 3 stages!  We were running ahead of all our friends, and many other much more experienced competitors.  Of course, their experience showed.  The race is 2 days long, 20+ stages... we found the tree early.

The big thing was that I really didn't WANT to rally the next day, and had felt that way since night fell.  I was embarrassed by that, like I was giving in.  So, hence the delay...

I'm hoping to finish out this story so I can face up to this blog a bit better, and get back to updating it with all the awesome other motorsports stuff which has been going on!

(most of these pictures from Kyle, thank you!)