Well, we're back from Rally Perce-Neige. There are some rallies in which you fight to the finish. And then there are some rallies you just want to finish. Perce-Neige was one of the latter. You know you're in for a good show when you're sitting at the start of stage 2, and there's already a flipped car on the stage.
For all rally enthusiasts that haven't previously considered it, put Rally Perce-Neige on your list right now. This rally is big. For example, we're WOT on stage 2, and my co-driver Billy points out the helicopter chase cam following us. It's the kind of rally where you can expect to find 4-time Canadian/North American/Rally America Champion Antoine L'estage/Richard, Subaru Rally Team's Patrick Richard/Ockwell, and Crazy Leo. The field was packed with over 40 veteran mostly canadian rally teams: built motors, deafening exhaust tones, and anti-lag cracks that made me think I was at the gun show.
We started perce-neige off right by taking a bite out of marie-anne (SS1).
From there we hit the fast and flowing Farley/Blue Sea stages. These were my favorite stages on the rally. Wide, sweeping 3/4 right and lefts, huge drifts, real crowd pleasers. Some of the competitors started complaining about the polished ice that was starting to show on the stages for the second pass, but for us, our grins just got wider as the rally evo got driftier. I was pleasantly impressed with the yokohama a034's capability to hold the road on said sheer ice. There was so much control/feedback through the corners, I was tempted to start waving to the spectators and start side conversations about how their day was going...as i was going through the drift.
Skip to 15:47 for an external shot of us:
That same turn didn't work out so well for crazy leo:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... Bxd3H-rCFw
On Stage Five, we saw 4-5 cars off on the famed Kitigan Zibi. We stopped to tow out a couple cars until another rally car ran up on us and almost hit us. Not too many places to safely tow someone when the widest part of the stage is only about 1.5 car widths...
As we progressed through the rally schedule, I came across a funny section called "Torture". Although, in French-Canadia, they spell that "Tortue". They even have the native American spelling for it which is, "Kitigan Zibi 1, Kitigan Zibi 2, and Kitigan Zibi 3". You see, the last 1/2 of the rally was filled with six harrowing, back to back to back 33km, 18km, and 30km stages. To put that into perspective, each one of those stages individually was 3-4x longer than the average stage at IRNY. It is not uncommon for the average finishing time on Kitigan to be around ~30 minutes. If somehow you manage to survive Kitigan Zibi, the Eagle's forest, and "Torture" (all run consecutively), your reward is... to run them one more time again, consecutively, but this time at night.
As some of you may know, we've been active in the Finger Lakes Winter Rally series since 2006. Thousands of miles of *night-time* winter rally experience. During snowpocalypse I yawned every time the back end of the evo let loose at 60mph driving around DC.
Nothing. NOTHING comes close to preparing you for the Zibi. You are racing through a forest, in the snow (turning to ice), on lanes not wider than maybe 1.5 compact car widths. This is a real winter rallyist's winter stage rally rally stage. The exercise of chaining end to end drifts together through tightening and opening turns starts to get tedious on page 7 of the pace notes (speaking of which, thanks to Dave Shindle for helping us prepare with some seriously world class and life-saving pace notes). Add together the serious roller coaster of crests and dips, sprinkle in some unexpected jumps, fallen trees, and bonus crashed competitor cars. You think that the stage is coming to a close when your co-driver reminds you there's still another 17km to go. Oh, and did I mention we're running these on *studless*
Earlier I said finishing this rally was a serious accomplishment, I mis-spoke. Finishing any one of these 30+ km stages, is a serious accomplishment. Car #32 has an entire 7 minute video of him just towing out competitor cars (ours included) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_z4OB0jA ... be&t=4m20s
We were setting a pretty good pace despite being outgunned by an essentially open-class field of cars, when we went off on an ice patch on Kitigan Zibi 2.
We weren't the only folks having problems on this stage; car #17 Thierry Menagoz/Bechard went off *into*
another rally car, car #20 Martin Losier/Losier.
Skip to 02:43 for some rally car on rally car action:
Although it cost us over 30 minutes, we were eventually pulled out with the help of Car #32
Francois Simard/Matte, Car #37 Jean-Marc Lord/Morin, and Car #27 Vittorio Bares/Vartanian, whom we are eternally grateful for. We were next to dead last after this off, but determined to press on.
On "Torture", we were getting back into our rhythm until we spun halfway through the stage, ripping off our lightpod, forcing us to finish the stage without aux lights.
I can’t say enough good things about our service crew; William, Mike, Wes, and Cat got right to work on the car. In 30 minutes, they fixed the front end damage we created by plowing into the snow bank on Kitigan Zibi. Every imaginable light on the Evo’s dash was on, and they worked furiously to solve each problem. The light pod mounts were destroyed, so Mike devised a way to macgyver new mounts from assorted bolts and equipment straps while William fixed the torn wiring in the pod.
With the damage fixed, we returned for the final part of the rally; Kitigan, Eagle’s Forest, Tortue again, and La Pointe, aka "the Drag Strip", to finish the rally. Everything came together these last few stages, and we managed to claw our way from 30th, to 16th overall by rally's end.
Honestly, we didn't really stick around for the results, we were just happy to finish period, with the car still in one piece. With the car safely stowed in Parc Ferme, we headed over to our favorite Canadian restaurant in Maniwaki. It was a restaurant for champions, and its trophy, an oreo mcflurry.
Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers for making Rallye Perce-Neige possible for us. Special thanks to Dave Shindle for all his expert advice about the rally.
Hit this link for the rest of the photos from the set:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set ... 510&type=3
We're also working on some exciting in-car footage of more stages - that should be released shortly