Team Giant Update by Carl Decker Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Adam Craig and I have never had so many people think that we ROCKED! When we decorated the car with our initials separated by a lightning bolt, we thought we were clever. Then when people saw the AC/CD car at the Oregon Trail Rally last week, maybe they thought we were clever. Or they thought we were with the band, AC/DC. I'll admit, I've been mistaken for a roadie before. But not that kind of roadie…
Oregon Trail, the 4th stop on the Rally America National Championship tour, would be the first race in a long time for Adam 'n' Carl's Giant Team4fun. The trusty Wheels of Teal had been through a transmogrification of sorts. In the last year, she'd changed from a lowly Group 2, two-wheel-drive, 130 horsepower car into an Open class car with 300 horsepower and 4-wheel drive. Over a base coat of sweat and tears, a coat of white paint was applied. And on top of that, some stickers. Now we'd see if she (we?) were ready to race against the quickest cars and drivers on the continent...
Day one started at Portland International Raceway with some short stages on mixed surfaces: tarmac, gravel, grass, and motocross track. After lots of time at registration and many apologies to the staff for us being summarily late and unprepared, and after the vehicle "scrutineering" where they surprised us by saying that our car was "good to go", we returned to our RideLife tent and awaited the start.
PIR is the best rally spectator event around. The four short stages start at 7pm and go into the dark. You can see every car on every stage in 3 hours while eating a hotdog. You can wear your nice shoes straight from work, and you won't rip the oil pan off of your car trying to get to a "spectator area". It's also great fun for the competitors to check out other racer's lines and for the Service Crew to actually see some action, other than battered cars limping back into the service area.
Speaking of service crews, we had the largest and most experienced crew we'd ever had. AC's dad, Harvey, flew out and joined Old Man Decker in the pits, for a combined 100+ years of automotive wrenching and sandwich making experience. PIR was a great place for the Dads to get to watch the WOT and all the other, less white cars compete. And it was fun for Adam and I to check out all the fancy new equipment in the Parc Expose. Lots of New STIs and Evos and people with fancy unstained racing suits with their names embroidered on them. There were even some old Group B cars from the eighties on display for us to ogle. From back when men were men and cars were 2000lbs with 800 horsepower.
The stages went well on friday. We did some nice drifting on the tarmac with gravel tires and ended up 2nd overall in the regional competition. How it works: the regional competition is for racers that don't do the entire national series. Each of the three days of the rally is scored as its own race. The national competition has no daily victor, each day is part of the three day rally. So if you don't finish a day, the regional racer fixes his car and starts again tomorrow. The national racer packs up and goes back home to the money-tree orchard. Did I mention that the entry fee is 1200 US Dollars for the national? 1800 with late fees. 650 for us regional guys. I recently heard that "Rally racing is a disease only cured by poverty".
Day two: Gravel roads in the hills twixt Hood River and Mt Hood. Seven stages on some spectacular roads. Stage 2 was one of the most memorable stages I've ever driven. It started out with 3 miles of very rough roads that had both of us exercising our sphincters as we tried to avoid the larger rocks, which were painted bright orange. Then it opened into beautiful grasslands with smooth, fast corners and exciting 80mph blind crests. We managed an indicated 115mph on one 350m straightaway. I don't think I liked this stage while we were racing it, but in hindsight, it was fun. Kinda like some mountain bike races... As the day wore on, our notes reading/absorbing improved and we began to set some good times. Every stage, the turbo would stop working for 5 to 25 seconds when we least expected it, leaving us missing about 2/3 of our prancing ponies. Annoying at the time, but even that seems like it was fun. Now, a week later, from my couch. Still don't know what was causing that.
On day 3, we went to the driver's meating (meant to misspell that) and learned we were 8th overall among national and regional competitors. We also learned that there were ribs cooking and we could reserve a rack that would be done at noon. AC and I did the right thing and put 20 down on a hot lunch for the Dads. The stages were the same as yesterday, but backwards. Amazing how foreign a road is backwards when you have it memorized the other way. Before the first stage, I asked Adam if he smelled a whiff of gas, as I did. He said no. His first car as a kid was a sandrail, so the gas-smelling part of his nose may be worn out. By the end of the stage, even he could smell gas, as it was filling up the floor under his feet! We were in the eye of a shiticane! I pulled the car off and we hopped out. He grabbed the fire extinguisher as I looked under the car to see fuel pouring off of our hot exhaust. Crap. Rally might be over. I started tearing underbody protection off while Adam took the panels out of the back seat to see if we could find the leak. He turned on the ignition as I had a look. Massive geyser of gas from a split fuel line between the body and the tank. We stole some line from the cooling system up front, borrowed some pliers from our rally pal, Brian as he passed, and had the thing back together in 20 minutes. Showed up 3 minutes late to the next stage, and were penalized 30 seconds, but we were back in the rally, if smelling a little gassy (not in the usual way). We returned to the service area at noon with a long list of things to fix and only 40 minutes to fix them. Just as my dad was arriving with our ribs. I'll never forget working on the Engine Control Tuning and looking up to see Harvey checking the dipstick with one hand, while eating a rib with the other. Turns out those were some top-notch ribs. I think I may have been removing a wheel while eating a rib about 2 minutes later.
By the end of the day, we were 1st overall in the region, both for the day and for the three days combined. Our times put us in 8th overall for the National as well, not quite in Dave Mirra territory (he was 5th), but not too far off. Travis Pastrana destroyed us and everybody else. And he gave a lot of thumbs-up before leaving the awards banquet early to fly off to film season 2, episode 1 of his MTV Nitro Circus show.
As for AC and I, we're back to riding bikes now. Gotta get in shape! The Tour Bus rolls in to Alabama next weekend for the 3rd XCT National Mountain Bike series race. Prepare to be ROCKED, Birmingham!
For a bunch of sweet OR Trail Rally Photos check out this fellow’s blog- http://mattpoppoff.blogspot.com/2009/05/oregon-trail-rally-2009.html