2001 Maine Forest

Maine Forest ProRally 2001

The Maine Forest ProRally of 2001 almost proved to be too much for Lina Racing. Excellent crew work and great co-driving saw driver Anders Green through this notoriously difficult event. The stages in Maine are known to be car breakers, and the course laid out this year was no exception. Perseverance and cool heads helped us finish every stage in the rally, a goal we fell ten miles short of two years ago in a spectacular rollover.

DAY 1

Crew Chief Jeff Denton and I headed out for a leisurely 900 mile drive on Tuesday evening. The truck was on the trailer, and the van was packed, even gassed up, all a day before we actually left! There was even an inventory listed taped to the inside rear doors! We were very ready to go racing. Jeff asked me if I was going to sleep on the way up� "I can't sleep! I'm going to a race! I'm jacked!" Not jacked enough, apparently; looked down for ten seconds, and ended up taking a huge detour into Washington DC. And this isn't the first time heading to a rally we've gotten the screwgy going through DC. Luckily no one dared to mess with Vantro.

The strangest event of this trip up is when we come up on a U-Haul towing a car. Taillights look familiar� Ah-ha, these guys have a Focus. As we pass it, we see the big SCCA ProRally number plate 82 on the side! Another rally car, in the middle of the night, 750 miles from the event! Honking, light flashing, and head-out-the-window action ensue, then the drive continues.

Two AM saw us just south of New Jersey. Not wanting to sleep or do anything in New Jersey, we called it a night. At breakfast the next morning, we noticed that we had just missed the auction of a closed bed and breakfast. Tough call, rallying, or antiquing? I mean, we had the trailer with us!

DAY 2

Once we got into Maine, our plan was "No stopping, keep flying!" Approaching our final destination, Waterville, our gas situation looked dire. We know that Vantro drinks gas like crazy; you would be thirsty too if you had to haul 12,000 pounds around. "Should we stop and get gas?" "No stopping, keep flying!" We were only eight miles from home when I started to say, "Well, I think we're going to make it."

I only got to 'think' before the engine stopped.

But, we had spare gas on the trailer, and made it home in time to have some excellent strawberry-rhubarb pie.

DAY 3

I woke up early (because I'm jacked!) and started cleaning up the truck. We had just received new sponsor stickers a few days before the race. I needed to remove the old ones and get the new stickers in place. Also, I had ordered new safety belts and had them shipped ahead to meet us in Maine. They were waiting in a box when we got there, perfect. Leaving enough time in the travel arrangements to take care of last minute item makes racing so much more fun. Jeff woke up a little later, joined me for installing the belts, which went much more smoothly that I had imagined, only because something can go wrong. A single trip up the road to the hardware store we call "Ahh-bu-kahn!", in that Japanese Anime way, and they were in.

My father, Ken Green, was also part of the service crew. Jeff said that there's no way we drove all the way to Maine without a trip to the coolest place ever. So, we headed over to Industrial Marden's, a salvage store that has simply the best stuff in the world: like batteries�for battleships, or wrenches�three-inch-wide wrenches, or shaft bearings�eighty-pound, ten-inch-inside-diameter bearings, or what looks like a timing belt�only it is four inches wide and twelve feet long. We were like kids in a candy store.

Hooked up the CBs for the luxurious hour and a half trip to Rumford. "Check Check!" and we were on our way.

The smell of the paper mill let us know that yes, we were in Rumford. Checked in at the Linnell, the hotel that we had managed to get a room swap into at the last minute. Ben Greisler reserved some rooms, but wasn't attending. What he didn't tell us was that we had the sweetest room in the place! Underground, more than double the size of any other room, there was enough space to set up two pool tables, without even moving the beds! It's known as the Rumpus Room. This was fortunate for us: we caught up with Matthew Johnson, a fellow North Carolinian, in need of a place to stay. He had just flown in from Turkey then driven from DC up to Maine. "We've got room" I said and added, "and an extra crew shirt. Congratulations."

After getting settled in, Jeff, Ken, and I drove up to Sunday River. The plan was to meet my co-driver Chuck Cox up there for registration. Well, big events being what they are, registration wasn't quite ready yet. We proceeded to camp out next to some free fruit and ordered some deathly slow Buffalo Wings. Remind me to�I don't know�something, but we were hungry and that was the wrong spot! We ran into all sorts of people up there. John Buffum was present, no surprise there. Marty Allen showed up. Even though he isn't racing his totally sweet Focus this year, there's no way he would miss spectating. JD Ackley stopped by with his troublemakers. And this was all before we even got into line for registration!

Chuck and his new wife Joan showed up as expected. We waited to get signed in for registration, talked to more people in line (everyone seems to know me), stopped by the contingency sponsorship table to chat with Kurt Spitzner, and got out of there.

Got back to the Linnell, and my brother Max rolled in shortly afterward. He was also going to be on the crew�good thing there are lots of shirts to go around!

Day 4

Finally, race day! Parc Expose doesn't start until the afternoon, so we have quite a bit of time on our hands. Since registration today is at the Linnell, where we are staying, the area is very busy, flooded with rally cars and teams. Aaron Flacke, a photographer from the Maine Times newspaper comes over and talks to me while taking pictures of the truck. He had grown up in Maine, like I did, and also had not learned about rally until recently. This in spite of the largest rally in the country happening under our noses!

Jumped into the truck with Jeff and headed up to inspection. When we drove past tech the day before, there were fifty cars lined up. This morning there were three. We hung out with Garen Shrader there, and ran into Tony Chavez as well. I jokingly told him that if he wanted to get a photograph with the trophy and me at the end of the race, I'd try to work him in. Great racer, and a very friendly guy to boot.

Chuck showed up shortly afterward, and we went out to calibrate the rally odometer. We use a custom computer, and Chuck, a designer of similar electronic systems, mastered it quickly. We drove that noisy truck into town and parked it with the other 120 cars.

By the time the parade from town to the beginning of the first stage started, there weren't many spectators, as they had already gone ahead. This first stage of the event was designed to allow very easy viewing for the crowds: it wound through a public park. I've always wanted to tear up a baseball diamond; this was my chance! The strange part of this stage was all of the unusual obstacle to avoid hitting, like fences, backstops, dugouts, wells, buildings, and the thousands of people that lined the stage. Even though we were starting the stage at a quick pace of one car every thirty seconds, there was time for those of us in the back to actually walk up and spectate! We met up with our crew and our good friends the Allens and watched some of the front-runners go by.

Hiked back to the start and watched several cars off the line. Suddenly SMACK! A yellow Subaru had crashed at the very first corner of the rally, only seventy paces into the event! Around the right-hand corner, they tapped a tree on the left rear, which sent them sideways off to the right. Stopped instantly. The driver was fine, and the co-driver, Claire Chizma, was a little surprised by the whole thing. She might have had her bell rung slightly. Once she was clear, I called, "Ok, who's ready to move this?" About eight of us (all drivers or co-drivers, the spectators were cordoned off from this section) grabbed the rear of the car, lifted, and slid it further down into the corner. The original resting position had blocked the entire road and threatened cancellation of the stage.

Back to the start, and we were soon up. My autocross experience paid off: I had memorized the entire stage. It was only about eight tenths of a mile long, and over in a heartbeat. The most unnerving part was a drifting corner that had concrete pylons on the outside, only about five feet from the road. Jeff told me later that he had checked them out� Hollow plastic!

After this we made a quick loop onto the road, then through a grass field and an ATV track, to arrive at the first service. It sounds strange to have service after only one minute of rallying, but it was more a logistical problem than anything else: the competing cars blocked the only exit from service! There was some strange scheduling as well. Due to the large number of entrants, the thirty-second-gap first stage converted to the standard one-minute-gap exit, meaning that the last teams were in service a full hour longer than the first teams!

Aside from one good smack on a driver's side wheel, there weren't any incidents on Stage 1. This was really a warm up for the service crew. I sat down and ate some food� This turned out to be a wise move considering the events that would unfold later in the day. We did put on the rally lights at this point. Even though this was advertised as a "no night stages" rally, we were running 120 minutes behind the big guys.

Finally, we're off to Stage 2. The droning of the engine during the long transit was offset by the beautiful view traveling though western Maine's mountains. Stage 2 turns out to be one of the roughest stages on the east coast. We set quite a good time, the inherent toughness of the truck being able to handle the tough terrain without flinching. Kendall Russell met us at the end of the stage, working finish control. She told us that we were lucky; most of the teams had come off stage with flat tires, broken rims, or worse!

Basking in our superiority complex, we arrived at the start of Stage 3. Oops! We actually did have a flat, passenger front. A ding in the rim started a slow leak. Plenty of time to fix that before we entered the control, so Chuck and I got to it. Actually the first time I've ever had to change a tire outside of service. Ooh, it wouldn't be the last!

As we finish up, we notice that the line isn't really moving forward at all. Then we hear fire trucks. Coming this way. Turning onto the stage. Oh boy, this doesn't look good. I see a water truck turn in with the words "Big Truck" on the front. And it was big. As it turned out, an Audi had gone for quadruple ground-sky alternating views. The crew was shaken, but ok. A few minutes after their roll, when the were safely out of the way, the car ignited due to fuel dripping onto the turbocharger. A marshal at that corner told me the ensuing blaze was as high as a telephone pole, and spread ten to fifteen feet into the woods around the car. The tires heated up and popped, but the gas tank never exploded. I saw the car on the trailer after the event; interior completely gone, if it wasn't metal it was missing. It looked like they were just starting to build it by stripping out the interior. Strange, though; you don't see too many cars, sans wheels, upside down on a trailer.

Because of the fire, the stage was stopped, and about thirty of us didn't get to run it. Diane Houseal gathered us all together and informed us that it was over, time to head back. She gave us directions for the quickest route back to town, and everyone started back. I took pity on an Eclipse whose skid plate was dragging and threw them a roll of duct tape. Whenever their car moved even a few inches at slow speed, it sounded like their gear box was in a thousand pieces!

We had passed some friends of ours just before the approach to the stage start. They had holed their oil pan and were out of business. During all the confusion, they had coasted down to the start of the stage. I didn't hesitate for a second when I was asked, "Hey Anders, can you tow us back?" "You see anyone else with a truck? Of course I can!" They got out their tow straps, we taped them onto our tow hooks to avoid any surprises, and off we went. Only after being under way for about ten minutes did we realize that we were sixty miles from home! Oh, that made for a long drive. And those poor guys were only fifteen feet behind my "braahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" exhaust. Unknown to me at the time, I had split one of the welds and it was much louder back there than usual. And even usual isn't quiet.

More than anything at this point, I was tired. It was about ten thirty, and all I could think about was food, and not being in this loud truck anymore today. What I didn't know is that I should have enjoyed the what-I-would-later-remember-as-quiet ride.

Stopped at the service area, even though everyone but the factory Subaru team was gone. I didn't want to flat tow through town, and service was only about 4 miles from everyone, so it seemed a good place to stop. Headed back to the Linnell, which was not only our hotel, but also where the results were posted, and where the food was! Caught up with M.E. and Carl Fisher there. Check the scores, we had managed a fourth in our class, not too shabby against all the big national players. We managed to snake some pizza, parked the truck next to Vantro, took a shower and hit the sack.

Day 5

I woke up before the crew, got dressed, and managed to find some Dunkin Donuts Munchkins in the lobby. Mmmm, chocolate! (But never on stage!) Another beautiful day, sunny, a few clouds, just chilly enough to know that it would be very pleasant later. Wandered over to the truck to take a look at everything. It all looked pretty good.

Decided to take a look underneath. Got out the pad and laid down under the truck, just poking around. Checked out the exhaust and noticed that there was a huge crack in one of the welds. No wonder everything had seemed a little loud lately. Now that it's fixed, I can say that it hasn't sounded that quiet in months, so the crack has been growing slowly. I knew it wouldn't withstand the pounding of today's stages, so I decided to take it off.

Fortunately, about this time the crew was awake and wandering around. Max, Ken, Matt, and Jeff got to work tearing off the exhaust system and coming up with a method to secure the end that was left so it wouldn't bounce around. We ended up with no exhaust behind the catalytic converter, using metal host clamps and safety wire to hold the whole thing together. I don't know exactly how they removed it, but I believe it was under the influence of Thor (We have a huge hammer that lives in the "Suspension Tools" box named Thor). For about an hour there was quite a burst of activity as we dealt with that and other issues.

Oh yes. Thor was also employed to straighten, or rather, "rounden" out one of the rims we had bent yesterday on Stage 2. Jeff and Matt took turns the ringing the gong, while I made sure Ken didn't lower the truck onto Max while he was working on the exhaust. Ken sometimes gets too ready for the next project.

The first control that morning was set up in a flexible manner, which meant that the frontrunners had to be there at 10:00, and we didn't have to be there until 11:30. This meant that as we were working, the registration area gradually cleared out until we were one of only a few vehicles there. It's a bit unnerving to be the only rally car around, even if you know why. I was also nervous because Chuck and I had figured, the night before, the time we had to be at the first control based on 120 cars and a few minutes margin. Well, thirty cars were already out of the rally due to problems on the first day, so there goes our margin and then some. Chuck was staying at a different motel, and we were meeting him en route. This all left me pacing a little.

Jeff and Matt weren't waiting around to coddle to a nervous driver, they had things to do. They gassed up the van and took off to the first service at Oquossoc. Ken, Eva, and Max jumped into the other service vehicle with a five gallon jug of fuel, and followed us the sixty miles to the first service. I was worried a little about time, but after about an hour of transit, I saw a familiar corner, and turned right onto the road that lead to service. We passed the start of Stage 4, and there was brief confusion as our crew slowed down there, but they caught up with us directly. I would see them next at Oquossoc.

Stage 4 started out very comforting in its familiarity. Compared to the absolute riverbed of rocks from Stage 2 yesterday, this was might as well have been paved it was so smooth. I was comparing sections of it in my mind to the in-car video I had from the last time I competed there: felt smoother and faster! And this time no chipmunk taunting me at the start line. More spectators in the forest than I remember, but I can't complain about that!

About five miles into the stage, we come out of a corner and over a series of three "whooomps" at about sixty-five miles per hour. Suddenly there is a big clunk from underneath as we land the third one, and the engine dies!

Ahhhhhhh. I wasn't screaming, but my mind is racing trying to figure out what had happened. It's lucky that we are in a straight, I hit the brakes and pull over to the side. We aren't in any imminent danger of getting hit by cars following us, but I run back with a triangle I get from the rear box. Chuck is also getting the triangle from inside. After setting this out, I run back to the truck and look underneath, fully expecting the drive shaft to be broken in two, or the transmission to have a huge hole with a gear sticking out. Nothing. Something big has got to be broken in the engine bay. I pull the hood pins out and yank the hood release. Open up the hood. Now the mystery begins, because I can't see anything wrong.

Cars are already starting to zoom past us now, and we are holding up the OK sign. I give every car that goes by an enthusiastic double thumbs-up to keep them focused on going fast and not worrying about us. As soon as they go by I lunge under the hood and a hail of rocks impacts the truck and open hood.

I try to restart the truck, and get a "WhirrRRRRR-RRRRR-RRRRR-RRRRR". The engine sounds like it wants to start, and the cranking is strong; it just isn't catching. "Electrical" immediately pops into my mind.

A sub-plot that's playing in my mind is that I really don't want to get stuck here. First of all, we're only five minutes into the day, and combined with a rather short day yesterday, that would make for a long tow without much racing. Secondly, it's really hot and sunny right here.

I pull out the main wire from the coil and hand it to Chuck. I tell him to hold it to the negative battery terminal while I try to start the engine. I mean, I didn't want to hold that thing! It might be all sparky!! "RRRRR-RRRRR-RRRRR" No spark--definitely electrical. Check connections to the coil. Wiggle lots of wires. I'm an electrical engineer and I've attached every single wire to this engine. Nothing is working�. Crap! At one point I even grab one of the wires out of the "Media Box" that holds the camcorder, cut it, strip it with my teeth, and we jumper various components trying to get things to work.

I decide to take a look inside the distributor cap. I'm standing in front of the radiator. Everything around the engine is hot, and unclipping the cap is no cool operation. It reminds me of the quotation about car racers: "Doesn't mind working on a hot engine. Well, minds, but still does it." Only a little burn, and I pull it off slowly. Things look normal. I pull off the rotor, the rotating arm that distributes energy to each of the spark plug wires. As I do I hear the faintest "ting". I say to Chuck, who is leaning in over the driver's side. "Oh boy, I've just dropped something small and important, and I don't know what it is." I guessed from the sound of the ting that it didn't make it all the way to the skid plate; it was somewhere above it. I postponed thinking about that problem for a moment; as I looked into the base of the distributor, I saw a connector that wasn't on its post. As I touched them together, a spark! "Oh, I've got a good feeling here!"

Connected them up and said to Chuck, "Ok, now, what did we loose. Some long, quiet seconds of staring, then Chuck with, "I see it. Sitting right there between the cooling vents on the alternator." I can't see anything and say, "Ok, go for it." He pulls out a tiny piece of shiny metal, about a quarter the size of a postage stamp. Hands it to me, and I realize that it fits right on the side of the rotor. It slides perfectly into place, I put the cap back on, and my mind must be blocking sensations: it doesn't seem quiet as hot this time. I run back to the cab, reach in with my foot to stab the clutch, and turn the key. RRRR-vvrooOOOOMMMMM-MMM-MMM!!!!!

"It is ON!!! WE'RE ROLLING!!!!!"

Chuck runs back to get the triangles, we throw them in the back. Can barely contain ourselves while we buckle in and get back on the gas. Chuck isn't thrown for a second and immediately begins with "Square right in 30". The rest of the stage flies by. We're pretty stoked to finish this stage. We know that we didn't post a competitive time, but we were pretty proud of our effort to diagnose and fix an electrical problem like that on stage. And be both agreed that it was way too hot in that particular spot to get stuck there for the rest of the day.

Stage 2 was more of the same kind of road, we were really getting into the heart of Mead Paper Company's land at this point. Things felt fast and smooth until one turn caught us out. It was an S starting right; as I came through the second part of it, turning left, we slid too wide. The culvert wasn't very deep, but it was very soft. We sunk into the muck and kept powering through, but discovered a rotten stump about halfway through. This bumped the truck over about a foot, but not enough to get out us. Heading uphill now, we stopped. Reverse, forward, reverse� we weren't going to rock out of this one. Jumped out of the car again.

Both the road and the ditch were soft. Both tires had dug pits, and our rear differential was sitting on the "curb" of the dirt road. We were in pretty deep, only one foot off the road! Put another footnote in the "rally cars always crash on the co-drivers side" story!

Because of our mishap on the previous stage, we were actually last to start this stage. In a way, this helped us out. After trying various techniques including packing the wheels with rocks, and even trying to run over the jack for traction, we heard sweep coming. They popped us out in short order. We followed them and shortly realized that our front right tire was in a seriously bad way after impacting that stump.

After about a mile we came across John Cassidy and Maygen McCarty. They were off and seemed to be in relatively good shape, that is, not rolled over or crushed. They were working on a wheel or something. Sweep asked us at this point if we wanted to turn around and get out of there, or continue following them. When I replied that we had MPL (Maximum Permitted Lateness) to think about, he told us that we if we wanted, we could change our tire and rally on in front of them. We were also warned sternly that they wouldn't stop to pull us out a second time. Chuck and I gave each other "the look" and were told, "Well, here's your chance to prove you can change a tire in under four minutes."

The tire was completely off the rim, and super hot. I don't think it took four minutes at all. I jacked, Chuck got out the spare, then kicked off all the lug nuts. Those short little tire irons really do work, if some silly car mechanic didn't torque them to 160 foot-pounds using an air gun. Oow-oow-oow! Hot lug nuts!

RRRR-vrrooOOOOMMM and we were rolling again. I drove the stage at a "high cruise" speed because I know the time was shot, and really didn't want to face those guys again. Plus I had no idea what real damage might be lurking at that front right corner. I just feel out truck. At this point, we were just running this race for the fun of it.

Got to the end of the stage and who walks around the car to talk to me, John Buffum himself! I have no idea what he's doing this far out in the middle of nowhere, instead of in some air conditioned car running the radio net, but he leans in and says, "Ok, we're going to let you run. Head down to the next control, we'll waive the transit penalty, take whatever minute you want. OK?" Yeah, that's ok! I pull up, to the intersection, only twenty feet away, where there are perhaps fifteen people and some cars. It's a four way intersection, and Chuck is still trying to put away the score card, so I don't know where to go. I rapidly point both ways multiple times while trying to make some eye contact out the window, and get fifteen arms and broad grins pointing me right. On to the next control, only a mile down the road.

"What minute would you like?" "This one!" "Uh, ok" We roll from the control to the start, our ideal out time is assigned, with a "You're about to start" as the card is handed back to us. Chuck barely gets the card back before "10! 9! 8!�" I take a deep breath and look down the road, and get ready for it to be ON.

Back in the zone, and a long 14.6 miles later we're finished. Lots of locals are watching everywhere in the woods. I see M.E. Daniel-Fisher jumping up and down at one point, and even Randy Zimmer. I honk, because I honk at everybody, everybody, and keep driving. Afterward M.E. said that she didn't think I saw her, but it's really just me getting a little better at not honking at spectators in the middle of turns. During the straights, I honk a lot.

We pull into Oquossoc and wait in front of the control. Service is a madhouse with millions of teams spread out everywhere. I don't see my crew anywhere, and I can't enter the control to go look for them. We have four minutes�. Finally I spot Jeff and wave lazily. No use hurrying just yet, we can't move the truck. He walks over and says, "How is everything? What do we have to do?" I say, "Take a look at the other side." Jeff walks around the front of the truck and sees the co-driver side: headlight hanging out, signal light missing, completely muddy, front quarter panel folded like origami, door smashed in, fairing crumpled, bed dented. Jeff walks back around to me with an, "Ok. Follow me, I'll guide you into service." Doesn't even raise an eyebrow. That's why he's my Crew Chief.

Our minute, and we roll in. We're set up next to Team LeConte, and John Shirley is running that show. First things first, Ken jacks up the front and we get that tire off. Max pulls the quarter panel out, raw-muscle style, and Jeff is checking out the situation in the wheel well. Matt is working underneath, checking alignment. We change tires, and tune the alignment a little bit. We didn't even have to use Thor! Chuck maintains the clock as we chow down some food. Eva had gotten something, sandwiches maybe. I'm not even sure I looked down long enough to see what it was--but it was good! The photos reveal that it's some sort of food in bar form. Jeff shoves the fire extinguisher in my hands, I don't know why. I realize that Ken is about to start re-fueling. (It's part of the regulations). As usual, there's a whirlwind of activity that I can barely keep up with. Jeff manages and delegates and in the end it's all done. It seems that I'm largely used only for consulting.

This was a fairly long service, after everything was done the crew even washed the mud off the truck. With distilled water, because, hey, we rally in style. And we wouldn't want to contaminate our no-dollar paint job.

All smiles as we pull out of service; things look good. The crew gives me a big thumbs up, and most of them start to disperse to help other teams with whatever they need. The transit begins with a quiet zone. I tell Chuck I'll do my best, but it will be hard with no muffler� I keep the engine at its smoothest non-muffled point, about 2100 RPMs, and we make it out without getting any nasty looks from the locals.

Stage 7 is not only the longest stage of the day, but also the longest stage of the SCCA ProRally calendar: Parmachenee Long. I tell Chuck that I would like it if he could periodically tell me how many miles we have left as we traverse the stage. It's a little mental game, where you just give thanks for enduring, and know how much more you have to push.

We come up to the start, still near the back of the pack because of our earlier mishaps. Milling around, we see Scott Naturalle. He suggests that we get in front of him, as we usually drive faster. His idea, not mine! A true gentleman in motor sports. Oh, he's also three cars in front of us at this time. He and I talk to the teams between us, and all is arranged. Chuck and I almost settle for staying where we are, thinking that we have a two minute window, but we realized this was a pipe dream.

Now, I checked the stage times after the event. Scott's times are generally less than one percent slower than mine. That is some close competition! Of course, as the driver, I'm usually blissfully unaware of these things. I would also like to congratulate Scott for delivering the goods on this stage: he was making up time on me, and posted a better time than I! I think that next time we get together, we are going to have to pay closer attention to the battle we're having! Plus, it looks like I owe him a beer.

The starter: "3�2" vrrrRRRR "�1�" rrrrRRRRRRRMM- rrrrRRRRRRRMMM and we're gone! Fast, fast, fast...and scary. Use the brakes. More brakes! Gas! Gas! Gas! There were a couple sections on this leg that really scared me, with some high speeds. I remember one rocky section, downhill, rough. I recall being freaked out last time I raced this piece. The speed would get to a point where I was scared, so I would lift. Then I remembered what my Ski Sawmill driving instructor L. Mark Stone had taught me years ago: Full brakes, or full gas. I wasn't about to get on the brakes, so I punched the gas again. I gained another several MPH, and the cycle repeated. So, it was like this: Gaaaaaaaaas. AHH! Lift! Um, gaaaaaaaaas. AHHH! Lift! Um, gaaaaaaaaaas. Phew there's a corner coming up soon. GAAAAS! GAAAAAS! BRAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chuck didn't seem to have any reaction, but he's navigated in much faster vehicles. I'm still working on my speed threshold. Driving fast is easy. Driving that fast is not easy.

At some point during this stage, Chuck made a comment about the engine sounding rough, or maybe it was the exhaust. Over the intercom I replied, "That's just the exhaust." Turns out I was right, well, mostly. Against all logical reasoning, it did sound louder. I kept driving and left the worrying about that until, well, until I had to. Not now.

We make it to the end of the stage and we're stoked. Felt fast, felt good. Dropped about 40 seconds on this stage from the last time I'd run it. Get in to service, and yeah, that exhaust does sound a little louder. We pop the hood to see what's up.

Oh, now it's very obvious. It's louder because we're shooting out fire. We've blown a hole in the exhaust header about the size of a silver dollar, only two inches from the exhaust manifold! There's also a crack where some of the exhaust headers come together. This area of the engine bay has nothing else around it. There weren't any scorched areas, or even discolored areas. So, if it has made it this far, roll with it.

We did tighten up the other clamps that were holding the back end of the exhaust system together at this time. They had rattled a little loose. Gassed up, windshield cleaned. We made the decision not to put any rally lights on, even though we were down one stock light from the crash earlier, as we were still well within the daylight hours.

On the last transit, and I'm feeling pretty good. On the way out, we see other rally cars already on their way back. I give them a flash and a wave, because I wave at everybody. Everybody! I'm at the point where I'm really feeling like this thing is going to come off without a hitch, but I'm not stupid enough to actually say that during the transit! My definition of "without a hitch", at this point however, is probably suspect. I've already trashed the entire right side of the truck�

The last stage is very strange, with a character unlike all the others. It is obviously being used for active logging, and there are many road surface changes throughout. From not-yet-packed-down rockiness to soft, ground-up road mixed in with wood chips from skidders loading trees. Weird off camber roads, where they haven't yet been completely cut into the side of the hill.

It was awesome! Some of the coolest driving, plus a really nice full throttle air into a fully cambered turn out of the mountain, about two thirds of the way through. I also had some strange rocky rain on this run�.

Out of the corner of my eye I see a fairly big rock flying through the air, going forward past my driver's side window. Its gentle arc causes it to reappear in the front window, where I proceed to drive right into it! Smack! And it leaves a little spider in the windshield. Then it rolls gently down to the base of the windshield, and stays on the wiper! Five seconds. Ten seconds. Ok, this is going to distract me, so I turn on the wipers, and push the rock over the side. Now, drive, boy, drive!!!

At this point, we're catching the car in front of us, so we've made up a minute on them. This road isn't too dusty, which helps us. Finally we're only about six or seven car-lengths behind them. They must see us and think, "If they've caught us, we should be able to go faster" and they start to get on down the road. Fine by me, I don't want to pass them on this one lane dirt road, and that's less dust I have to deal with. I'm just happy to inspire my fellow drivers.

We're about seven tenths of a mile from the finish when Chuck tells me "No more instructions till the end! Drive it like you stole it!" "Ok, but I'm going drive it like I stole it from my Dad, cause it still needs to run when I'm done with it!" and it is ON for a last glorious 70.

A lengthy, relaxing drive back to service. Big grins as we roll into service. It seems like all the other teams are also happy to see the truck with the big scrape make it to the finish, and we get lots of waves and smiles on the way to our pit. No bottles of Champaign await, but Jeff does toss me a bottle of Woodchuck Hard Cider that I'm glad to see. Lots of whooping it up all around, and congratulations are flowing freely. It really does feel like a big victory to come back to Maine and drive the entire event. There's only one thing better than rallying, and that's when rallying is over!

We also get a friendly visit from a member of Mad Mike Halley's crew: he's hauled some rear leaf springs all the way up from Texas for us! We swap a ring and pinion set for them. More happiness.

I throw the keys to Max with an "I'm not driving that noisy thing any more today!" I tell him it's a little loud, but not to worry. I belt him in, and we begin a caravan back to the hotel. I did, however, forget to mention to Max that the speedometer in the truck is off by about fifty percent. So he's following us in the truck, thinking that Vantro is taking these corners down the mountain at about 85 MPH! Then he looks around and realizes that he can't be going that fast.

At the hotel, a quick regroup. Chuck and Joan are headed back to their hotel, we will meet them at the banquet. Ken and Eva are beat, and going to head back to Waterville that night. Max, Jeff, and I grab quick showers and jump in Max's car to head up to Sunday River for the banquet. Matt has already caught a ride up there with Andrew Havas.

And the party is started! We immediately run into some old friends, like Ramana Lagemann, who, fifth place overall notwithstanding, is just looking for a ticket to get in, and Garen Shrader. And the chicken they have is good, and the desert is definitely a two-tripper. We're hanging out with J.D. Ackley and his crew for dinner. After all, this is the cool table! I even spend a few minutes with John Buffum, who helps me clear up a little scoring misunderstanding. That guy is rad!

After eating, I want to head up to the bar, but I don't have any money. Then I reach into my pocket: the tow money!! "Jeff," I say, "let's go get a drink." We head up to the bar. I spread the hundred dollar bill down on the counter and say, "Do you think you can help us out with a few drinks?" They smile and oblige us with a "What would you like?" and I reply, "Well, I'll be starting with two, so we've got options�"

Lots of good times and happy folks. Stories, congratulations, laughing, joking, drinking, phew! It was great! About midnight, we're pooped, and we head back. Surprise, surprise, who's making trouble in the parking lot when we arrive? We joke around with another of our favorite older-car, rear-wheel drive rallyists. Then we set off some roman candles and other fireworks. We start to feel silly with all the whistling and noise that's being made, and back away. Retreat to our rooms and sleep comes very easily. The next morning sees us wake up at an unknown time, but it doesn't feel too early. I'm not wearing a watch, I'm the driver! Rally's over, man, no need to keep time. Relax. Well, except for that 900 miles tow we have ahead of us.

A beautiful Maine day, I take the first shift because I love driving in weather like this. Already we're talking about the next rally. We pass three rally teams towing before we hit New York. A weary thumbs up and a big grin, we plod on till 4:30 in the morning. Rally rally rally! *Grin* Can't wait for the next one.

An SCCA Performance Rally consists of anywhere between thirty to one hundred and twenty cars and trucks blasting down gravel roads. Generally national forest or logging roads are used, and they are closed to the public for the race. The cars race on a series of "stages", which can be from three to thirty miles in length. A rally can consist of up to 250 miles of competitive racing. Each car leaves a minute behind the next, to speed along a road the driver has never seen before. Each vehicle also has a "co-driver" or "navigator" who describes the road coming up from a book provided by the organizers of the race. All vehicles are based on production cars, but require standard safety gear such as roll cages, racing seats, and 5-point harnesses, while the driver and co-driver are required to wear racing helmets and fireproof suits. The harsh roads take often damage the vehicles, and each pit-stop, or "service", lasts only 10 to 20 minutes, during which the crew may do anything from simply gassing up to replacing an entire transmission.

Lina Racing, named after its home state of North Carolina, is owned by Anders Green and based in Cary, NC. For more information about our races and pictures of these events, go to www.linaracing.com To contact Anders Green, use anders@pobox.com or 919.303.0218. Also visit the Sport Car Club of America, who sanctions these events, at www.scca.org