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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I had so much fun co-driving for Dennis Chizma in 'Herbie' at the Doo **** that I decided it was time to make the jump to the left seat. I bought a 323GTX from Derek Bottles that needed some minor points cleared up and got the car ready for my first event.

Staring down the barrel of a 28 mile stage in your first event EVER on 4 wheels is pretty daunting.

Claire Chizma insisted that she go with me on my maiden voyage to 'keep me on time and out of trouble' and these words were truly prophetic, she just didn't know it at the time.

So there we are, sitting at the start line (on time) and with the car about as well prepped as my crew chief (Greg Knepper) and I could make it for the event. I was not particularly keen of a 35 minute (estimated) trial by fire for my first stage, but that was the way it went.

5...4...3...2...1.....away we go....

I was initially reluctant to really go charging into corners where I could not see the exit but once I got a feel for the car I gradually stepped up the pace a little at a time. We ran into serious dust about 8 or 10 minutes into the stage and Claire tells me 'pass him on the main line section' so I back off until we hit the drag strip and just keep it out of the trees. Fortunately, the car ahead seemed to know we were coming and graciously moved off to the right at the exit of the hairpin following the main line and the pass was a non-event.

So far, so good......

The second half of the stage I began to realize that the car really suited how I like to drive and I gained a bit of confidence so braking got a little deeper and the car got a little more sideways on the throttle out of corners.

About two thirds of the way through the stage I began running into heavy dust again. This time it was really bad and going in and out of the shadows made it difficult to see exactly where the road went, so I backed off a bit. We came to the control about 6 or 8 seconds behind the car ahead of us and decided that it was probably wise to not have attempted the pass since I had about 30 minutes experience at that point and the rally still had a long way to go.

Oh yeah.....

Halfway through the first (long) stage, the odo goes dark. This was not good from my perspective. Amazingly, Claire never missed a beat estimating distance and checking instruction numbers as we went blasting by. I had total faith in her and just kept listening as before and driving what I saw. It was pretty amazing and I was *so* glad that she wanted to come along

Service was uneventful since I didn't touch anything on the stage and only a few small rocks made it into the brakes. Greg pronounced the car good to go and off we went to the second stage.

This one did not go as well as the first because it initially seemed like I just could not make the connection with the car that I had in the first stage and it was just not flowing right for me. I tried to just relax, breathe and be smooth and gradually things got better. No drama on this one since I was being such a weenie.

More service, no problems

The third stage was the exact opposite of the second and I immediately had a good handle on the car and was improving my corner entry and exits while still managing to not terrify Claire. The notes just kept coming over the intercom in a calm, level voice and I could tell that it was starting to work better. Her timing was getting better as we went a little faster and that helped me pick it up that little bit more.

More service, still no problems (how about that crew !!)

Fourth stage doesn't really stick out in my mind but it went very similar to the third.

More service, *still* nothing noteworthy.

The last stage for Saturday was the one that was waiting for me all day. We got started and through half of the stage just fine and all of a sudden I hear 'you are on your own' so I backed off a bit.

But not quite enough.....

As we head around a right 3+ (or so) with exposure left, I have the car sliding into the turn just a bit too much and the back end heads for the (furtunately, relatively shallow) embankment. I decide that if we go off back end first that we will be doing the old 'ground-sky-ground-sky' thing and that is a bad idea. I yank the car left and drive down the embankment onto a road about 6 or 8 feet below the one we just departed, yank the e-brake and spin us around and head back onto the stage. I figure we lost about 10 or 15 seconds total and considered myself sufficiently warned.

**after discussing this section with a couple of other veteran navvies, it seems that the route book was a bit hard to follow in this section**

The rest of the stage was a non-event and the only major problem at service was locating my seat cushion. It was eventually found and sanitized for re-use.

We did manage to bend one rim on our little adventure, but otherwise the car was undamaged. Did I mention that I *LOVE* DMS shocks.

By the end of the day I was pretty beat and just headed back into town having no idea how we did. It turns out that we went from 37th starting spot to 14th overall, 7th in open class, and 1st in class 3 drivers. I was beside myself. Still am.......

Sunday went a lot like saturday for the first 3 stages so I won't elaborate on that much. More of the same, an absolute BLAST !!!

Here we are again at the start of 'the biggie' and I am concerned about a leaking oil seal on the turbo. We turn the boost down to about 15 psi (from about 18) and then the ATC tells us that Jardevall and the big Audi (Plsek's car) are off 'somewhere' but nobody knows for sure where. This is a little disconcerting for me, but away we go. The car and I connect again, but this time something is different. About halfway through the stage (just after the dragstrip on main line) I figure out what the problem is. I have used up the front tires. I tell Claire that the fronts are toast and that I am backing off until I figure out how to compensate and get the car to turn-in better. It takes a mile or two, but I eventually come to grips with the car again and we probably only lose 10 seconds for my inability to adapt on the fly quickly.

More service, no drama (Thanks again Greg and crew !!!)

Lining up for the last stage, Claire figures that we are only seconds from 3rd place and asks me what I want to do. I tell her that I don't want to risk wadding it up and that I can live with whatever we get as long as we finish. She accepts this (reluctantly) but sees my point of view. However, once we get into the stage, she gets her way anyway. I make the connection with the car on the now destroyed tires and am playing pitch and catch with the rear end for virtually the entire stage. I don't think I have had that much fun in a long time. We are roughly a minute faster than our time in the morning on the same stage (boost controller was off, only about 9 psi) and we call it a good day.

Heading into the moose lodge for the finish there is yet another rock in the right rear. It must be really nice in the RR caliper since I had a rock there for most of the weekend. We get 10 feet from Janice Damitio and the car finally spits out the rock at the MTC. Service crew gets a break this time.

Dinner and awards was something I never did in my motorcycle racing days, so it was kind of new to me. The only previous experience was with Dennis at DooWops and I didn't have to say anything.

We find out that the guys in the orange subie ahead of us on the road had some problems in the morning that ended up costing them a decent amount of time and that we did not have to push at all on the last stage. Fortunately, we came out unscathed and were rewarded with 11th overall, 3rd in Open (let's face it, because of attrition) and 1st in class 3 drivers.

We accept our awards and I thank Claire and the crew for their help. I don't even manage to trip over my tongue in the process.

Then John tells me that I am not welcome in class 3 anymore.....
(I think that was a compliment)

I blame Ray Damitio and John Forespring for baiting and setting the hook and head home to get the car ready for the next time......

Thanks to one and all for organizing, volunteering, and providing emergency services.

We'll be back !!!

323GTX #291

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Believe me, it was all the help that I had that produced the result. It was almost like cheating having Claire in the car and only having to worry about staying hydrated at service.

Thanks for the pic. It is my new wallpaper (and motivation) at work.


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Matt has said some pretty nice things about our weekend and I need to thank him publically for allowing me to codrive and get some more stage miles in. I met Matt at STPR several years ago and told him that I would codrive his first event. Since that time Matt and Karen have become some of our best friends and they have moved near us in Seattle. I didn't hesitate to codrive for Matt because I knew that I was going to be able to tell him what he needed to do without feeling the least bit intimidated. I also knew that we were going to have fun and that the car and the crew were going to work out well for us.

On the first stage I found myself thinking "boy, his set up times don't fluctuate from corner to corner much" which is always my challenge as a codriver....getting the pace of the calls out at the precise time the driver needs them. With less experienced drivers the set up times will change from stage to stage and mile to mile and call to call as fatigue and concentration varies. Matt has natural talent and skills which carry over from motorcycle racing.

Our unfortunate "off" lends credit to the fact that he also brings the old motorcycle addage of "always know where your out is". It was at that point that I gave him every benefit of the doubt in his ability to go faster and get consistently better. When a codriver can do the job of codriving and no longer think about what the driver is doing specifically it is a true compliment to the driver. I began the event feeling like I was the one with experience and he was a new driver. I ended that same event feeling the same way I do when I codrive for my favorite driver, Dennis Chizma.

I really enjoy codriving for people, like Matt, who have the ability to do well and the green spirit of fun and joy getting into the sport that consumes us all.

Sometimes a new driver and codriver match feels perfect from the start flag.

I have been lucky this year to have some great rides. Thanks to Bruce Davis, Bob Henderson and Matt Manspeaker for a great year thus far.

See you all next time.
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