2001 Sandblast

Sandblast 2001

For Lina Racing, the Sandhills Sandblast rally was a completely draining weekend filled with hot conditions, repair, parts fabrication, staying up late, and a podium finish. The results, in addition to the good times and all the laughing we did, make all the work worthwhile.

The truck was in pretty good shape after the Cherokee Trails and Ski Sawmill rallies earlier this year. So minor maintenance was all that was needed. It was especially good finishing Ski Sawmill with the truck intact, as Sandblast was only two weeks afterward.

The day before the race, crew chief Jeff Denton and crew member Matt Clayton met up with me, Anders Green, for some pre-race preparation. We did some modifications and maintenance to "Vantro", our service and tow vehicle, and finished up packing. Besides if it doesn't involve air powered rotary cutting tools, how much fun could it be?

Cheraw, South Carolina, is only a hundred and ten miles from Cary, North Carolina. So we weren't too worried about leaving a little later than the estimated one o'clock. Eric Alimena, my co-driver, didn't know anything about this. He is based in Atlanta, and although he had a longer drive to get to Cheraw, he had left earlier. When he arrived at the rally with us nowhere to be found, he was a little concerned. We were on route at the time, and, well, let's just say that Sprint PCS nationwide digital coverage doesn't necessarily include Cognac, NC.

We arrived, registered, and breezed through the tech inspection. One very nice feature of the layout of this particular rally is that the tech area is actually next door to HQ. Definitely a low stress, casual setup. One of the inspectors commented, "Hmm, looks like you've been through this before." I can only assume that this was not due to some pained facial expression and rather a thorough preparation job on the vehicle and paperwork.

The usual meeting and greeting went on at Inn Cheraw, Rally HQ. We ran into friends from past rallies, including Greg Healey (Healeymonster!) from whom we purchased our original race truck. He also had a little present: free wheels! We spotted Randy Zimmer, who runs a Subaru Impreza, and he was in a cheerful mood as always. Mary E. and Carl Fisher were milling around registration. Would a rally on the east coast be complete without them? Turns out that they had "volunteered" (simply by showing up as the most qualified people) to be leading the worker training seminar. Lucky!

Gathered up the posse and headed down to Day's Inn, which seemed to have even more ralliers than HQ! Quickly spied the kidney bean shaped mini-pool, all of five feet deep, and jumped in. Seriously, no diving. As pimped out as our service van is (no, we haven't put the bed in. Yet.) it doesn't working air conditioning. So we were a little hotro from the drive.

Settled in, started walking around. Found out that one of our competitors, also in Production class and South East Division, was having problems with their odo reading. Well, we couldn't have that! I told them that if anyone could fix that, we could. Jeff and I worked on their car till about midnight, when I turned in. Jeff continued working on the wiring, fashioning new connectors, re-routing, and testing, till they solved the problem at roughly one A.M. I'm all for out-driving someone, but everyone should start with at least the basic safety equipment, like an odometer, working, even if I am in direct competition with them. Fortunately, we had plenty of tools and supplies to take care of the situation.

Woke up the next morning, and did a little bit of sticker work on the truck. Put on the new web page address, www.linaracing.com. "Lina" as in Carolina. Started the free transit out to the service area, where the stages would start from, and, at the end of the night, finish. On the way in, I pulled the truck just a foot off the main tracks down the road, and was immediately struck with the amazing amount of sand present. It was really more like driving in snow. The site was some kind of recreational area, with horse stables, campsites, and a pond. We followed Constantine Montopolous' lead and set up our service van in a shady campsite spot, leaving all the other suckers, I mean, my dearest fellow competitors, to bask in the full South Carolina sun near the stables.

Driver's meeting shortly before Stage One. Mostly standard material: be careful, fast roads, be careful, co-drivers keep your drivers in check. Oh, and I almost forgot: there's a bull on the loose. He was last seen near Stage Three. Oh. A bull. Perfect. Someone asked, "Will we know at the start of the stage if he's been caught yet?" The answer: "The farmer has been trying to catch him for three days. I don't think we'll have any updates for you." If the bull doesn't want to be caught