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Last Ditch Racing, a performance rally team based in Bangor, Maine travelled to the Team O’Neil Rally in Dalton, New Hampshire this past weekend. The first event of any sanctioning body for 2009, the event is held on and around the Team O’Neil Rally School in Whitefield, New Hampshire. Conditions were snow and ice, and Driver John Cassidy and co-driver Dave Getchell were set to defend their 2008 victory.

Rally is a fickle sport and this event was no exception for the LDR crew. The team found themselves off the pace for the first few stages, with Cassidy concerned that their turbocharger might be at risk due to unexpected noises under boost. The team had to resort to a spare turbo just prior to the event as their usual competition was found to be damaged. Said Cassidy, “We knew it was a gamble going with an unknown turbo, but we didn’t have much choice. Once we realized, in spite of the noise, that we had consistent boost, we decided to try and ignore the fact that the turbo might grenade at any moment.”

SS5 saw the team come into a L2 into R2 complex near the rally school. Cassidy cut the corner a bit too much and was sucked off the road when a combination of overplow, oversteer and debris in the ditch conspired against him. “It was an uphill right turn, and I cut it a bit too much. All of a sudden we had grip. The momentum we had carried us right off the road,” said Cassidy. Coming to the team’s aid were numerous spectators, including Mr. Tim O’Neil and Mr. Martin Headland, two of the most experienced persons with regard to rally car extrication. “I was sitting in the car and everyone was lifting the rear of the car, a few inches at a time, back onto the road. It was incredible. Then they all pulled on the tow strap and yanked us out.”

The team set competitive times for the remainder of the stages, but fell down the order after the off behind some cars with less grip. “We caught a Mazda coming down a series of hairpins, which was quite fun,” said Cassidy. “We didn’t want to pressure them too much as weren’t really in contention for an overall spot at that point, but T-4 doesn’t like to go slow!” The Mazda crew graciously let LDR pass and finish the stage at speed.

Cassidy was hoping for more of a battle with X-Games BMX Superstar and Rally medalist Dave Mirra. “Dave is a fantastic guy and becoming very quick in a rally car. We’ve used each other over the last half of the 2008 season to gauge speed. We were clearly no match for Dave and Co-Driver Lance Smith at this event, but perhaps we’ll see a closer race at the 100 Acre Wood Rally at the end of February.” Rounding out the podium behind Mirra were fellow Mainer’s Chris Duplessis in his VW Golf and Allen Downs in his Subaru Impreza.

“The event is fantastic, and it was great to see everyone come out and try their hand at what is the lowest grip surface we race on,” said Cassidy. “To see 2 of the 3 podium spots filled with fellow Maine teams is very satisfying-we only wish we could have joined them!”

The team shifts its focus to the Rally America Regional Championship, held in conjunction with the 100 Acre Wood Rally in Missouri in late February. “As Overall and Class Champions in the Northeast, we’re invited to participate in the RRC,” said Cassidy. “We showed good speed there last year, but lost the RRC due to a timing penalty. We definitely have some unfinished business there.”

For more information on the Team O’Neil Rally, please visit: http://teamoneil.com/rally/
For more information the 100 Acre Wood Rally, please visit: http://www.100aw.org/

And finally, Last Ditch Racing would like to thank their Partners for their support:
Triple Caution, LLC, http://www.triplecaution.us
Hydra EMS, http://www.hydraems.com
Team O’Neil Rally School, http://www.teamoneil.com
Mark Fleming Photography: http://www.markfleming.pixyblog.com/

For photos, videos, team blogs and more information on Last Ditch Racing, please visit: http://www.lastditchracing.com
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To Purchase Last Ditch Racing Gear, please visit: http://www.cafepress.com/lastditchracing

Photo copyright Pete Kuncis/Onalimbracing.com 2009

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