The rally was shaping up to be a classic, with Stig Blomqvist here to drive Carl Merril's Escort, Noel Lawler in one of John Buffum's Tiburons, David Summerbell in the Buffum Elantra, and Frank and Dan in their Audi. Other notables were Jon Nichols debuting his new Golf, Garen Schrader in his Evo IV, and a supporting cast that eventually totalled 71 ProRally (national) cars, with an additional 13 ClubRally (divisional) cars starting on Saturday. Summerbell ultimately did not start, as the transmission of the Elantra was not working correctly.
We met up at registration (Brad and the crew come from Deleware), and got all the paperwork sorted out, the car scrutineered, and then had our service crew get lost. (How does one get lost in Rumford?). Fortunately, we found them just before the start, but as we did a u-turn on the highway, the passenger side inboard cv joint broke. We arrived at parc expose on the end of a tow rope; not a particularly good omen. As we were staring number 67 on the road, we had over an hour to fix things. We also had a spare driveshaft, but its outboard cv was bad. No problem, our crew rebuilt one good driveshaft out of the two bad ones, and managed to get it done 10 minutes before our out time. We were off.
The rally had been rearranged from its usual configuration, with more stages on Friday night, and only one running of the in-town stage as the finale on Saturday night. We also weren't doing the stages half way up to Oquossoc, but instead were using some of the Maine Winter stages.
The first two stages were the typical Bunker Pond In and Bunker Pond Out, 5.8 miles, and they set the tone for both the overall event, and our event (literally). About a mile into the stage we found the Gail Truess/Pam McGarvey Mazda 323 upside down in a ditch, having left marks 20 feet up a tree beside them. That was apparently Gail's first roll in her rally career. We also passed the Orisek's Audi, stopped with mechanical problems, and, shortly after that, everyting suddenly got louder in the car. At the turn around, we found that the exhaust had broken about 3 feet back from the flex connection. We also found that Dean Fry's Subaru wasn't going to start stage 2 after having engine problems. The run back out was even more exciting, as we found the Green/Denton pickup in a creek, the Arrieta Jr./Casey Saab rolled, and a very excited finish control crew after the Andreou/Bellefleur Audi had apparently gone past the control car and straight at the tee beyond it. Lesley Suddard had also had a wheel fall off, so at least 7 cars were out after only 12 miles of stage. Even though the first re-seed was based on these two stages, were taking it easy because we weren't entirely sure about the repaired driveshaft. At service the crew removed the piece of exhaust pipe, so that we could try to fix it in the morning. It was going to be a loud night.
Stages 3 and 4 were the same, two runs through the 6 mile Grafton road. We were still going fairly slowly, as Brad was used to shifting on engine sound, and ended up short-shifting a lot. We found the Havas/Tremblay Golf parked at the side of the road on our first pass, but that seemed to be the only problem in there. Stage 5 and 6 were a turn-around, but with the out stage taking a different road at the end, 14 and 15 miles respectively. We started into Magalloway North (5), and immediately found hanging dust (it was now dark), which persisted for the first mile or so, and then disappeared. We didn't notice, but the car ahead of us had gone off about a mile into the stage, so we were dust-free until we started catching the car that started 2 minutes ahead of us, with a couple of miles to go. The organizers scrubbed Magalloway South because there really wasn't time in the schedule to adjust it to 2 minute spacings, so we transitted out, handed in our time cards, and began the 50 mile trek back to the hotel.
Saturday morning saw us re-seeded to 48th out of the 54 national survivors, now supplemented with the divisional cars, including some of the national DNFs. Not counting the in-town stage, there were 4 real stages today, but the shortest of them was the 12.4 mile Wilson Mills, so it wasn't as easy as it seemed. Fortunately, we now had ear plugs (thanks to Phil Barnes and John Dillon), and the sound was bearable.
Wilson Mills (Stage 7) was the first stage where we really felt that we were going reasonably quickly, and the times were reflecting that. We went straight from that into the longest stage of the rally, the 24 mile Parmachenee Long. This stage seemed to be a bit too much for some, as we saw 7 sets of triangles, and other people went off behind us, including a divisional Mazda 323 that had a truly massive multiple rollover. Among the cars we saw were the Nichols/Koch Golf with a wheel off (bad Jon), the Mendham/Mendham Sentra in a ditch, the Hadjiminas/Maxwell Fox Kit-car with headgasket problems, the Driegert/Chizma Subaru in the ditch, and a Galant VR-4 in intimate conversation with a tree. Then it was off to service in Oquossoc (this is one of my favourite places to service). The crew had the parts for the exhaust, but we decided to leave the fix until after the last gravel stages, and have a quiet car for the transit and town stage.
So it was back to Parmachenee East and West, and bach again to Oquossoc for the final service. After that, whe had the 36 mile (quiet!) transit back to Rumford for the in-town stage that ends on the main street (left at Dunkin Donuts), which is run in reverse order. We went through there with no dramas, parked and went back to watch the final finishers. The Hurst/Bohn Rx7 had a full spin at the final corner, and Garen and Doc Schrader showed how to time the demise of your engine perfectly, as it threw a rod as they crossed the finish board, and they coasted down to the control car leaving a trail of oil and coolant, but were still 4th.
An examination of the results showed that we managed to finish 31st out of 44 finishers, 7th in Group 2 in the national, and 16th out of 30, 4th in class in the divisional (sorry CluRally). We were only 28 minutes behind Stig.
The top 3 were:
Stig Blomqvist/Lance Smith
Frank & Dan Sprongl
Noel Lawlwe/Charlie Bradley
The other Canadians there were Bruno Laverdiere/Martin Duval (39th), Ilana Rosenshein/Jennifer Cote (40th), Roger Sanderson co-driving for Jens Larsen (DNF - exhaust), and Peter Watt (car didn't make it, so he worked MTCs). And, of course, the ones I've already mentioned above.
We had lots of fun on some great roads, and brought the car back without a scratch. We will be doing more events together, so look for the Jetta with a boat on the side. Thanks to John Buffum and crew for putting on the rally, and Mead Paper for letting us play on their roads.