|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
August 1, 2000
|Contact: Mike White, RallyHo! Motorsports|
RUMFORD, MAINE -- While the rough roads of northern Maine did their best to end RallyHo! Motorsport's run at the 2000 Maine Forest Rally, the service crew pulled together and kept the battle-scarred Saab running and competitive last weekend.
Despite destroying two exhaust systems, tearing off critical rear suspension mounts, losing a wheel at highway speed, and failing brakes, the 1980 Saab 99 GLi driven by Mike White of Dublin, N.H., and co-driven by Mike Ronan of Waltham, Mass., finished a remarkable 3rd in class and 20th overall.
Of the 109 cars that started the event, 56 finished. This was the largest rally in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) history. "This was the roughest rally I've ever driven," White said. "The roads were littered with rocks, and I hit my share of them. We never would have finished the rally without the crew there to hammer out or replace everything I broke!"
The car's exhaust system failed early in the event, a victim of the many rocks and bumps on the northern Maine logging roads. Despite the bone-rattling noise and fumes filling the car, White and Ronan continued at full speed. As they finished Friday's stages, the car's handling deteriorated. The service crew worked through the early morning hours repairing the damage. Crew Chief Brett Rudolf welded the missing link back on the car by the light of the moon, and the rest of the crew attacked the front suspension.
"We were in the groove," Ronan said. "After we lost the exhaust, I was calling out the turns with hand signals because the car was so loud. But it worked well, and we were flying faster than I ever thought that little Saab could go!"
When the team took to the road for the second day of racing, it wasn't any easier. On the first stage, a rock destroyed the new exhaust system. To add insult to injury, while transiting into the midday service, White and Ronan found themselves on three wheels after a wheel and tire flew into the woods, never to be seen again. The unscheduled tire change crushed in the left front fender and damaged some front brake parts.
When the car arrived for service, the team again faced a daunting task - and they had about an hour to repair the damage. "I was hoping we could just bolt a piece of pipe on the exhaust, but the header was broken," said Rudolf. "We just went to work on it. Crew member Andrew Steere hunted down some exhaust pipe, we got the welder again, some torches, and a Sawzall, and everybody pitched in to put it back together."
Part of the charm of rallying is the willingness of teams to help each other out. White credits this spirit for keeping his team in the rally. "The generosity of Ivan and Olga Orisek kept us in the rally not once, but twice!" said White. "Their welder was a lifesaver. We are very grateful for their kindness and for the help of many others."
The service was successful, and White and Ronan charged on, steadily moving up through the field. They drove some of the last stages dealing with yet another mechanical issue: failed brakes. "That was the sketchiest piece of driving I've ever done," said White. "We were on the longest stage of the day, it was raining cats and dogs and I only had the handbrake (actuating the front wheels) to slow down, so we just didn't slow down much!"
In addition to RallyHo! Motorsports, the two other Saab 99s that entered the rally also finished. Geoff Clark of Pepperell, Mass., and Chris Morand of Townsend, Mass., finished their first National event in 47th place overall. Jerry Sweet and Stuart Spark, both of New Jersey, finished 53rd after rolling the car Saturday. Again, showing the spirit of rallying, RallyHo! Motorsports lent Sweet a spare windshield - complete with an 8-year-old New Hampshire inspection sticker - so he could finish. The Lyndeborough, N.H., Renaissance Rallysport team of Ted and Lise Mendham won the Production class honors in their Nissan Sentra SE-R, finishing 22nd overall.
SCCA ProRally is often described as "Real cars, on real roads, going real fast." While rally cars must remain licensed and registered for street use, they also must be able to withstand incredible punishment on rough forest roads at racing speeds. Rally teams race against the clock on closed roads.
RallyHo! Motorsports competes in events throughout the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. Team sponsors include Roberti Motor Cars of Kingston, N.Y. (http://www.roberti.com), a pre-owned Saab specialist; Import Parts Specialists of Boise, Idaho (http://www.importpartsspec.com); Nanuke Systems of Littleton, Colorado (http://www.nanuk0e.com); Nokian Tyres (http://www.nokiantyres.com); and City Tire of Keene, N.H.
For additional information, call Mike White at (603) 563-5076 or Andrew Steere at (603) 740-4552.
Dublin, New Hampshire, 03444