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Sorry it’s been so long since I last wrote, but so much has been happening….

 

I have done three events since I last wrote; the Capital Rally, Rally of Lithgow (first round of the NSW State Championship) and the NSW round of the Alphera Dutton Rally, so it has been very busy.

I entered the Rally of Lithgow for some more practice at writing pace notes and more time in the car. The event started out really well and we were in 10th after the first two stages, however we were getting very bad brake knockoff. On the third stage, coming down a long straight, I didn’t pump the pedal up enough before the corner and basically ran out of braking room and clipped a small bank on the outside of the corner, bending pretty much everything on the front left. It was very disappointing, but on the positive side, at least we found out about the problems with the hubs and bearings and I now have some more clues on how to more effectively drive around similar problems in the future.

The Dutton Rally is always heaps of fun. It is a far more relaxing event and there is a lot of time to enjoy the social atmosphere. For the event I was loaned a new Ralliart Colt (1.5L Turbo) which was a real hoot. It was such a fun little car to drive around on the road as well as on the track. At the final day at Eastern Creek Raceway, even the ‘Colt Club’ came out to watch. My thanks go to Ralliart Penrith and the Dutton’s Anthony Moss & Sam Beck, for making it all possible.

I was hanging out for the Rally of Canberra. I had been watching my ‘in-car tapes’ from WA and Lithgow and pretty much picking them to pieces, so I was eager to get back in the car and improve a few techniques!  I found the Canberra recce really tough. Most of the stages we did in Heat One were very technical and it was hard, because there was so much info you wanted to put down for every corner but you just can’t have that much in your notes! (I also found a way to really annoy Dale – if you press the Stilo headset together it makes a really annoying noise through the intercom!) 

 

My rally was almost over on the first corner of the first stage on Friday night. I just came in way too fast and I was looking out the side window (down the road I was meant to be driving straight down) looking for ruts and hoping there were none that would trip the car up. Luckily we came away unscathed and I really enjoyed the rest of the stage at night. The whole night concept seemed to work really well for the spectators as well as the competitors. It definitely adds another spectacle to the rally. Mind you, it would be a different story if the stage was dusty.

On the liaison back, we had a big chat about not trying to attack too much on the first corner of the rally, just letting the rhythm come, etc. I really knew I had stuffed up when I turned on my phone and there was a voice message on it that went something like; “Molly, this is your mother. I have received a call about you trying to throw it all away on the first corner of Bluetts…. I think we need to have a chat.” I think when I saw her, my first words went something like; “I know, I know, too fast in, very, very slow out!”

The two stages that stick out most in my memory from the rally are the Mineshaft and Millpost stages. Mineshaft because I have never been airborne for as long or as much as I did in that stage! The actual mineshaft wasn’t as daunting as I thought, but I found another jump in that stage that wasn’t in my notes and we hit it flat in fourth. The second run through I went about 10kph slower and didn’t get any air!  Millpost was also a highlight – it was one of the best stages I have ever done. It was 23km so you could really get into a good rhythm. Our second run through the stage was also the last stage of the rally and we broke a drive shaft only a few kms in, I couldn’t believe it!

Canberra certainly lived up to its reputation for being a car breaking event (although maybe it’s me that’s hard on the equipment!?) We got through Heat One relatively unscathed with no major dramas but Heat Two was full of them. Towards the end of the first stage of the day, Oakey Creek, the car started jumping out of second gear so we drove the next Minshaft stage with no second gear which is the most used gear in the Mirage and you really need the revs to get any power, so it was very frustrating. Luckily we did have a spare ‘box with us, but it was a synchro box which isn’t too much of a problem, except that this one had circuit racing gear ratios so it was geared for 230km/hr (my dog box is only geared for 155!)

It was pretty incredible to watch the guys change the box in our 20 minute service and the fact that we went over by only eight minutes was awesome. It was the first time we had changed the gearbox in a high pressure situation, so the way everything worked was simply fantastic and I really owe the rally to the boys, without whom, the rally would have ended there. Some guys from TRD also came over to give us a hand which sped up the process, too. I was pretty overwhelmed to see all these guys pitching in…. I owe them all such a huge thank you (and a few cases of beer!)

 

I was determined not to let all of this affect my driving so I tried to concentrate on the road instead of the gearbox, except when I had to remind myself that I needed to use the clutch! We struggled a bit on the square corners where 2nd was too tall and 1st too low. It was even worse when I tried to hold more revs and speed, and use all the road because we ended up out in the loose stuff and dropped even more speed and revs! However, it was a good experience to learn to drive around such problems and more importantly make sure you keep focused about the right things and not let something like that take away from what you’re there to do.

Sitting at the start of our second run through Millpost, I just couldn’t wait to get started. It was a much faster and more flowing stage so it would have suited our gearbox situation a lot better. Then the drive shaft broke!! It actually sheared the shaft so we were able to pull it out and still leave the CV housing in the diff, so we could continue driving, but it was very interesting in one wheel drive! The story gets better though, because we also opened the bonnet and with so many things going on I forgot to do up the bonnet pins! We made it 100m down the road before everything went white…. That is definitely a mistake I will ensure that I don’t make again! By the time we made it to the end of the stage it looked more like we had rolled than broken a drive shaft. (I’m pretty sure Dale is convinced I really am a blonde and I just keep dying my hair brown.)

We didn’t nominate to score points in Canberra, so on the positive side, we had all these problems and learned a lot more about the car in an event which didn’t cost us any points.

It’s really exciting to have such a great group of enthusiastic people in the team and every rally we are all learning more about the car and how to overcome little problems and make the car better and more reliable, which has been a really rewarding process. I’m also learning lots as a driver.  There are always going to be dramas, like we had in Canberra, but it makes the good results all the more satisfying!

I would like to say a big thank you to Dave Pitman and Pitman Trucks who really helped us out getting to the start line in Canberra and as always the guys at Silverstone Competition Tyres, Kevin Shaw and Ralliart Penrith, Motographics and RallySchool.com.au.

Until next time,

Molly Taylor.

 

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