2011 Olympus Rally Review Part 2

March 27th, 2012

In the first part of our Olympus Rally review, the team spoke about their successes and failures. In this portion of the review Tom chose to speak about his experience at the event.-DiRT Media

It has taken me a year to write this, both for the team and myself for a number of reasons. Much of this blog had been sitting as an archive for months so that I had time to reflect on the event and how I wanted to tell this story. I choose to put this portion of the event in my own words instead of our traditional, promotional style. Others in the rally community have a much more poignant and intelligent way of speaking about this incident.

I was really excited to run this event. I am very dedicated to the Max Attack two-wheel drive rally series; that, combined with the chance to run in the National portion of the event was a huge motivating point for us to get the car out and run hard here. With the passing of Ray Damitio, frankly, a rally icon in the Pacific Northwest, it was only common sense that we came and ran as hard as possible on his stage, the Brooklyn Stage.

We came out and ironed out some small issues in the fist few stages and parts of the event then got to run pretty hard on the Brooklyn stage. We ran so hard that we surpassed our old record on the stage, that was something that Don and I were both very proud of, so we were stoked to finish the event and put on a good show. After finishing the second running of Brooklyn, we came back to quite literally one of the fastest stages I have ever run on, Smith Creek. I’ve never been strong on the stage and I knew that courage on the high speed stretches in the stage was one of my limitations.

As we lined up for the second running of the stage, there was a delay at the stage start. For those not familiar with stage rally, we routinely come across delays for a number of reasons, anything from issues with stage communications to spectators on the course. Many times you hear from the competitors in front of you from the time control about the reason for the delay. This time the rumor down the telephone line (rally cars line up before the control zone prior to the stage start and exchange times and pleasantries), was that there was a car off the course.

While we waited for the stage to start, we removed our helmets due to the delay. We enjoyed the sun shining on us, it was a beautiful spring day, rare for the Pacific Northwest. After about 15 minutes at the stage start, veteran competitor Andrew Comrie-Picard called an impromptu driver’s meeting at the stage start. Andrew confirmed the rumor, indicating that a car was off the course, but added that it was a pretty bad collision, and that the stage was going to be cancelled, and that we would all caravan back to service.

Don and I have experienced this several times in rallying, sometimes big crashes happen and stages get cancelled, it is just what happens in rally. On the 30 minute drive around and back to service, Don put out a tweet about a car being off, keeping our followers up to date on our battle with Wyatt Knox. Once we got back to service it was time to fix a few issues with the car before fueling up and heading back out to finish up the day on the final two stages. I noticed a helicopter flying towards the area of the stage and hoped that it wasn’t heading to the crash.

After fueling the car up we entered a regroup to get everyone back in line and ready to head out to the final stages of the day. Yet again, another impromptu driver’s meeting was lined up. This time a few of the big wigs at Rally America were here to talk. I didn’t have a clue what they were about to announce.

J.B. Niday confirmed the rumor, identifying the car off as Matthew Marker and Christopher Gordon’s Subaru. They indicated that the car had gone off the roadway and struck a tree, that Christopher was doing ok, but that Matthew didn’t make it. My heart sunk. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I was nothing but shocked, and I could see the same look on everyone’s face around me at the meeting. I didn’t know Matthew at all, in fact I had only just seen him and the yellow back windowed Subaru at scruitineering the day before.

I’ve been involved in rally for eight years; as a driver for five of them. I think I have been relatively naive as to the risks involved with racing. I started out racing as a superhuman near teen, with a thick steel rollcage, a fire proof suit and crash helmet. I saw spinning, flipping wildly crashing WRC cars on TV and rarely was there even an injury. I knew I was safe, I thought that I was invincible.

I was wrong.

This weekend, someone I’ve never met before died rallying. We weren’t in the same kind of car and we weren’t in the same class, but we were both racing for the same reason, for the love of competition fun. You can’t do this sport without loving it. No one in their right mind would spend thousands of dollars a year on a car to drive it hundreds of miles a year.

In rally, we balance a car on the knife edge of our abilities. Many times we learn on stage what that limit is, we hit the wrong line, we have a moment, we miss a braking point or have a spin. We compete with others and push our limits, that is the excitement and the allure of rallying; the competition with ourselves, our machines, and our fellow man. I don’t know Matthew, but I know he is familiar with this concept. Anyone who has pushed hard in a rally knows it, it is a feeling akin to freedom. Matthew is more free than he has ever been. Rally on Matt.

2011 Olympus Rally Review Part 1

March 22nd, 2012

2011 Olympus Rally

In May 2011, the Olympus Rally brought the Demon Rally Team out for its first rally of the season. Settling in picturesque Ocean Shores, WA; the event was the third round of Rally America’s National Championship and the first round of the Max Attack two-wheel drive rally series. Little did we know that our first event of the year would be a fellow competitor’s last.

The Demon Rally Team came to this event well prepared. We had worked hard to revise a few lingering issues on the car and had tested accordingly. We were entered in the National race, both Regional races as well as the Max Attack race. Piloti was kind enough to offer up a challenge for two wheel drive competitors this year as well, taking the fastest combined time over both runs of the Brooklyn stage for free entry for the 2012 Olympus Rally.

Day one, the Ray Damitio Regional Rally, started off with a few minor issues. We were teething the car and had just moved to a larger turbo, supplied by CTS Turbo and RP turbos. This turbo pushed our power levels up in the rpm range and we found that we were hitting the limiter a lot on the first few stages. A quick Spitfire EFI computer ECU adjustment and we had upped our limit to avoid bouncing off of it on stage. Despite dropping about 20 seconds to Wyatt Knox on our first couple of stages Tom and Don were gaining confidence in the car.

After the first running of the Smith Creek stage Tom found that the driver’s side wheel had bad positive camber, unfortunately we had no time to try to fix the issue before running Brooklyn E. This is Tom and Don’s favorite stage, they were excited to run the stage and even more excited to run the stage for a chance at Piloti’s free entry for next year’s event!

Brooklyn E. went well for the team, our prior best for the stage was a 7:02; this year we ran a 6:59, putting our average speed at over 60 mph for the stage, and setting the third fastest time ever on the stage for a group 5 car. After finishing the stage, the team knew there would be some work to do on the car. Luckily there was time between stages to work not he car. Tom got out of the car and saw that the camber issue had increased and had for the driver’s side front tire down to nothing, the tire was destroyed, and the passenger side tire wasn’t doing much better. Changing the tire and doing a quick roadside camber adjustment seemed to right the problem, however, the team still had two more stages to finish on nearly bald Hankook tires and an unknown camber issue.

Tom and Don both knew is was time to back off a bit to ensure they would finish the next two stages. On their westbound run on Brooklyn the team gained 13 seconds on their first run. Luckily this time was still fast enough to win the Piloti Challenge by over 9 seconds over fellow national competitor Wyatt Knox. The Demon Rally Team took home free entry to the 2011 Olympus Rally as well as Piloti shoes to test out! A big thank you from the team goes out to Piloti for their support of rally! We were proud to run Brooklyn as well as we did, and could only hope that our late friend Ray Damitio was proud of our effort on his rally. We were stacked in third in the regional rally, just a few seconds off of second place The team then focused on the westbound run of Smith Creek, they had come back to just over nine seconds behind first place Wyatt Knox. As we rolled up to the stage start we had no idea anything out of the ordinary had happened.

Unfortunately, something had happened; something that would change the 2011 Olympus Rally and everyone involved.

Keep track of the DemonRally Team at Olympus

April 28th, 2011

For those of you that can’t make it out to the Olympus Rally, there are several ways to keep track of our progress:

our blog:
our live GPS tracking!:

official results:

The car is loaded, our truck is packed and our trek out to the coast starts in about six hours for a long day of recce. We’re so looking forward to this weekend! If you see us out there, say hi and keep your fingers crossed for a good result!