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2010 Oregon Trail Rally Development Success

After turning the Golf into a fire breathing turbocharged monster over the past few months, hopes were high for the car’s debut at the 2010 Oregon Trail Rally. Developing a normally aspirated car into a turbocharged beast brings about its own challenges to overcome. Many of these challenges were handled in the weeks leading up to Oregon Trail Rally, a few new unexpected and unanticipated challenges would show there face just miles into the event.

We had penned Oregon Trail in as our debut of the car’s new power plant, luckily the Max Attack Series also chose the event to kick off their 2wd championship series for the nation’s fastest 2wd drivers at the event as well. Max Attack is a dedicated series designed to increase participation in events by 2wd competitors by offering cash prizes (over $15,000 for 2010) for top finishers. The Demon Rally Team finished fourth in the 2007 LSPR Max Attack event and 1st in the Group 2 National after three days of hard rallying in Michigan. Needless to say the team was amped about the prospect of winning some money and bragging rights.

The team traveled from Seattle, Washington to Portland International Raceway in Portland, Oregon on Friday morning after a long week of final touch up work to ensure our success. After passing through tech and getting registered it was time to watch the Rally America circus windup as several of the nations top funded teams including stars like Subaru Rally Team of America’s Dave Mirra and Ford Racing’s Ken Block all arrived to take their chances at the top overall spot in Oregon’s Premier Rally Racing event.

The first day is a spectator’s paradise. Housed at Portland international raceway, fans and crew members got to see a lot of action by the 63 starting competitors. A mix of gravel, grass, dirt, concrete and pavement meant driver’s would be focusing on keeping the cars gathered up on mixed surfaces and traction changes were constant. Little did we know that the 2010 Oregon Trail rally would be an event of significant attrition and that the Demon Rally Team would be one of the first to be injured.

We started stage one with high hopes. We had little gravel testing due to the rush to get the car ready for the event, but we had one prior event in the car, so we hoped that all of our hard work had gone in the right direction. Right off the bat, our Spitfire EFI launch control system was working well, power was excellent and predictable from our RP Turbos Turbocharger. we traveled from pavement to gravel and back onto the road course to finish the first stage at the top of the Max Attack leaderboard, almost a half a second in front of Dillon Van Way in his turbocharged Focus. Unfortunately, coolant temperatures were WAY up and the car was puking a small amount of coolant from the overflow. Knowing that we had a huge issue to take care of at service I was determined to get the car back to service without doing any major damage. I turned the fan bypass on high speed, and turned the heater on in already 80 degree heat, Don and I were both sweating, I was hoping that we would get the car back to service and find our problem.

On stage two we lost almost 3 seconds to Van Way after backing off to save the car. At service we found that there wasn’t much that we could do to cure the overheating issue. We arranged for an aftermarket fan to be installed after the first day, but we still had 3 more stages before we could get it installed. On stage three disaster struck, we started just fine and approaching a sliding pavement transition we reached the limits of factory Volkswagen engineering. The car was sliding and we were picking up grip as pavement transitioned to concrete and back to pavement again, this slip and grip along with powering the car through the corner sheared the passenger outer axle splines, not even our Kaaz differential could pull us through the stage on one axle and we became spectators as we watched the rest of the field pass by our location less than a mile after the start line. We were out of the race for the Max Attack money and failed to finish the first day of the event.

The team hustled through the night after making the long trek from Portland out to the Dalles, OR where the rest of the event was based. By morning time they had replaced the passenger side hub/bearing carrier, installed an aftermarket fan, installed a new passenger side axle and had the car ready for the long day of rallying again. on the first stage of the day we began to start pushing the car hard, our tires were just a little too big for the car and we were having some rubbing issues that were distracting, but we continued to push hard through the stage until the car began cutting out and stalled halfway through the stage. We stopped on stage to check the issue and after stopping for about eight minutes, were were able to get the car fired back up again after what seemed to be a small wiring issue was holding us back.

We pushed on the next stage despite the rubbing issues and the car starting to get hot again from the extra heat the turbo was creating in the cooling system. Luckily we were able to finish well on the stage, less than a second behind local 2wd all start Cody Crane. On the next stage, the second second stage of the day there was drama again. While it appeared that we had a full tank of gas upon refueling, it was apparent that half way through the stage that we did not have enough fuel to complete the stage and upon approach to the spectator area up a large hill, we ran out of fuel. luckily a spectator had a gallon of gas that got us back into town where we were able to fill up the car without issue.

Unfortunately this pushed us way back in the order and we began running into the dust of competitors that were much slower than us, without being able to see the road in front of us and without other competitors able to see us, the rest of the day should’ve turned into a testing event for us. Unfortunately driver ego got in the way and we started to push trying to run down vehicles in front of us. In what should have been a warning to the team, we were running in the dust of another competitor with about 50 yards of visibility when we approached a series of chicanes designed to slow the car on a long straight stretch, miraculously Tom was able to navigate the chicane at 70 mph sliding through after braking without hitting the large hay bails in the roadway.

While Don and Tom were both excited about getting through the chicane unscathed, it should’ve been a warning to slow down. Driver ego took over and we set about the next set of chicanes at an even higher rate of speed, unfortunately at 80 miles per hour the chicanes were barely visible and were unnavigable at that speed. As we approached the chicanes a large hay bale appeared from the dusty mist left by the vehicle that was in front of us. Tom broke hard in an attempt to set the car up and slide past the bale, it was just too much speed, we hit the first bale with the left front wheel and front valance of the car with a great bang. A course worker observing the chicane saw us go up on two wheels and said that the first hay bale disappeared after we hit it. Hitting the first bale pitched us sideways directly into the path of the next hay bale which we hit at a much lower speed. When we landed back on the dusty gravel road Tom hit the gas to straighten the car out. Tom knew there was something wrong with the car right off the bat as the car began to start rubbing the tire on the fender of the car and we began slowing with the handbrake to avoid damaging the car any further…we made it to the end of the stage 10 but on the road section we retired after stopping and realizing that we had sheared off the driver’s side rear a-arm bolt, continuing on would have damaged the car significantly more and we knew it was time to make repairs and focus on salvaging our effort to push on day three.

We started day three after more sacrifice on our crew’s part, they stayed up all night after repairing the damage from the night before and gave us a solid running car again. Charlie, Brendan and Jake worked their buts off this weekend and we owe them everything for our result on the final day. On the way out to the first stage of day three I noticed that the car seemed a bit down on power and that we had an exhaust leak starting up. I popped the hood before the first stage started and couldn’t see anything obvious that was causing the problem. We started and ran relatively cautiously, the car began cutting out on occasion on stage and I was not confident in driving the car the fastest it could be driven. We pulled a strong stage time out of the first stage finishing less than a second behind the fastest 2wd time set by phenom Cody Crane. On the second stage of the event I noticed that the car was still cutting out and we had no boost, so power was down by a lot, we continued on and set a top stage time for 2wd, two seconds faster than 2wd all star Christopher Duplesis in his new G2 Scion. For the rest of the day we took it very easy, knowing that we had no boost, an engine that was cutting out and a bunch of things that we needed to work on before we brought the car back out for competition. Luckily we were able to finish first in G5 on the third day, finishing at least one day of the event after struggling to create a reliable car.

While it might not seem like the most successful event we had competed in, trust me, it wasn’t. Out of 63 starters, only 43 finished the final stage of the event, we were one of them. The team really came together in competition, we were able to diagnose and fix nearly every problem we came across and determined the faults and weaknesses that we needed to work on as a group to bring out an awesome team for the next event. Winning group 5 in the regional was a big deal for the team and I give all of that credit to our crew, they worked insanely hard to give the team that result and they deserve all of the credit associated with it. When we make it back out, the car will be ready to fight for an overall win.

I want to give a huge thank you to Fine Tuning for supporting the team again this year, and to RP Turbos and CTS Turbo for supplying the team with a great turbocharger for the event. Without our sponsors we wouldn’t be the team that we are, thank you both, and thanks to our many other sponsors and fans, we appreciate your support!

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