2007 Rally of the Tall Pines Preparation

Tuesday December 7 2010

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Preparation



I have wanted to get involved in performance rally for many years. The idea of running “the back roads” at speed without being on the wrong side of the law is very appealing.

Last winter I purchased a 1987 VW Golf SCCA rally car. It is a great little car with fantastic handling. The plan was to prep the car for Tall Pines in November. Unfortunately business has a way of getting priority over having fun and we didn’t get the car done on time. After a few emails, ACP (Andrew Comrie-Picard) offered to let us use a Subaru Legacy that was built during episode 7 of the War of the Wheels TV show that Andrew hosts.

For those of you who know ACP, get a load of the promo picture for the series. I wouldn’t have recognized him.

ACP is an entertainment lawyer turned auto journalist. He hosts the TV show War of the Wheels and co hosts the Canadian Rally Championships. ACP is one of the top rally drivers in North America. He has competed in the X-Games twice and recently finished second in the Canadian Rally Championships.

More importantly he is an all round nice guy.
The Subaru Legacy was built in 36 hours by: Frank Sprongle (4 Star Motorsports), Jen Horsey, Nick Boucher and Mr. Veilleux. It’s sister car from the show has now completed two Targa Newfoundland events in the hands of Andy Proudfoot and Bruce Terris.

The car required a little work to get it ready. We changed the windshield, skid plate and belts. We added a new light bar, turbo restrictor and cat.



The original plan had been to run Tall Pines with Evan Gamblin as the Co-Driver. Evan and I have run Targa together for 5 years. We make a great team and won Targa overall in 2006. However, we had never run a performance rally using pace notes before. To help shorten our learning curve we decided to bring in some experienced help.

With the help of Ross Wood, I managed to secure Ray Felice to help shorten our learning curve. Ray is pretty selective of who he rides with and I was pretty happy that he agreed to strap himself into a car with a novice. Ray normally competes with Peter Reilly in a 4wd Open Class VW Golf. Ray has lots of experience including winning the 2001 North American Rally Championship. He is also the president of Rally Sport Ontario.

To help me prepare for the event I attended the O’Neil Rally School in New Hampshire. This is a great school and a must for anyone thinking about entering their first rally. The school teaches a lot of the basic techniques that are essential for keeping the car on the road.

Thank you to everyone who helped us prepare.

Glen Clarke    Ray Felice
Car #51
1991 Subaru Legacy

Special Thanks to our 2007 Sponsors:

Click here for 2007 Tall Pines Entry List


Reconnaissance Day



The November weather was shaping up quite nicely for a warm dry run on some great gravel roads. Then the snow came. On the Wednesday and Thursday before the event we received an early snow storm that dumped close to 30cm of dry light snow on the roads. Good thing we ordered snow tires.

Thursday and Friday were spent inspecting the stages in Ray’s Ford Escape. (I know its a Ford but what are you going to do) Recce, as its called, consists of driving the roads at a maximum speed of 60kph while the codriver reads the route instructions. The purpose of the recce is to allow the team to create/review and perfect the instructions that will be used at speed.

Performance rallies such as Tall Pines use route instructions called Pace Notes. For those of you who have not experienced pace notes it is quite an earful. I have run 5 Targa events which use tulip diagrams. I am used to the level of information provided by the tulip diagrams but pace notes were a whole new experience. Tulip diagrams provide information on the most important corners and intersections. Pace notes provide detail on every aspect of the road. When the codriver is calling the pace note instructions it sounds like a non stop verbal barrage for the entire stage. Listening to and comprehending these instructions is incredibly demanding. To drive the stage at speed the driver must listen carefully and can not afford to miss a single detail. A communication mistake will quickly result in a crash.

At first I couldn’t keep up with Ray’s calls, even at 60kph. There was simply too much detail and I couldn’t digest it fast enough. Ray dumbed it down for me and left out some of the short distances and minute detail. That worked and I found that the calls started to make sense. After 2 days of practicing the calls I was ready for the real thing.

We set some simple goals for the event.

  • stay on the road
  • don’t break the car
  • finish every stage
  • have some fun

More than anything, I wanted to ensure that we finished the event. Speed and finishing position were not a concern. (that’s hard to do when you are as competitive as I am)

During registration we met the team that built the car during the TV show. When they found out that we were driving that car in the event, they thought we were crazy. They stressed that the car had been built to last for the 2 minute competition at the end of the show. They didn’t think that we had a hope of making it all the way through the Pines. They went into great detail about all the things that were going to go wrong. Wonderful. Now I was even more determined to finish.


Tire selection is very important in all forms of motorsport. The tire on the left is a Silverstone Gravel tire. With the aggressive tread pattern you would think that it would be good in the snow. Surprisingly, it has very little grip in comparison to the Yokohama A034 snow tire on the right. One of the main differences in the tire is the compound. The silverstone is very hard while the A034 is extremely soft. The A034 also has siping in the tread blocks that help grip the slippery surface. During Tall Pines, top teams actually ran an ice tire that provides even further grip.


Shakedown



Shakedown consisted of 5 runs through a stage at night. This was the first time that I had driven the car in anger with a codriver barking instructions, icy roads, deep snow and night lighting. To say that it was challenging was an understatement.

We managed to keep the car on the road and I started to become more comfortable with the performance. I focused on balancing the brakes and throttle to steer the car through the corners. Left foot braking is a must for these conditions.

Several cars found the ditch including Ian Crerar, who put his Ford Cosworth on its side.

During shakedown we experienced some of the problems that the original builders described. The gearbox was pretty crunchy and the turbo would quickly go into overboost causing the ECU to perform a hard fuel cut at 5000rpm. We also had a continuous antifreeze smell coming into the cockpit. Luckily it was cold enough that the engine did not experience any overheating. Since there was nothing we could do to fix the problems before the event, I just had to learn to drive around them.


The Event



Saturday morning came early. We left the house at 6am to be ready for the 7am grid.

The snow had stopped but the temperature had dropped to -19C over night. According to the weather forecast, the afternoon was going to be +6C with rain. Great.




During the grid preparation we met Joel, Mike and Jonathan. They are from Kemptville near my home. They agreed to help crew for us and they did a great job all day long.


ACP was in 2nd place in the championship and needed a win to have a chance at the title.

His goal was to win at all costs.
ACP’s Mitsubishi prior to the start

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