Posts Tagged ‘Rally’

Driving in Southern Snow without Snow Tires.

Friday, January 8th, 2010
Driving in Snow

Wild Oak Road In snow

I live in Tennessee so we rarely get snow. When we do, it is usually not like the snow they get in colder climates. When I worked the Snow*Drift Rally in Michigan, I got to see what driving in real snow was like.

Here we normally get slush. In colder climates, the snow is more powdery and from my experience in Michigan, actually has some traction. The ice however is about the same both places. Except in Michigan, it seemed at times to actually get cold enough for the rubber to stick to the ice. Here, it never does.

In colder climates, they use soft siped tires like Nokians that get great traction in the ice and snow. A set of siped soft compound tires would not last long here as the roads get warm and dry pretty fast.

This morning I woke up to 17 degrees and about 1/2 inch of snow on the driveway. The ground was solidly frozen underneath. This is rare for Tennessee. Normally the ground will still be slushy under the snow.

I actually considered mounting up the Kumho Rally tires to my Jeep, but correctly guessed that the snow would only be on my half mile long dead end road. Once out on the main road the snow was packed to ice. My BFG AT’s get poor traction in snow and ice but the Kumho Rally tires are not much better on ice.

I used the part time setting of my NP 242 transfer case which locks the center differential as I headed down the steep hill of my driveway. The snow and frozen gravel gave plenty of traction. As I made the transition onto pavement, I found it a bit slipperier but still fine.

As I turned off my dead end road onto the secondary road, I found it covered in ice. I could see from the tire tracks in the ditches and from the number of downed signs and mailboxes that it must be pretty slick. I had no trouble accelerating even up hills in Part Time four wheel drive, but I knew stopping would be another matter.

Just before I topped a steep hill, I tested the barking traction and found indeed it was very slick. I was glad I had topped the hill slowly as I saw there were lots of skid marks on the down slope. I am glad I did not meet whoever was trying to get up earlier and left all the marks in the oncoming lane.

One I made it out to the State Highway which had been salted, I found the normal slush and mostly just wet pavement. Here, I switched the NP 242 to Full time opening the center differential. This allows the transfer case to compensate for my unevenly inflated tires and allows cornering without binding.

As I got closer to town, the pavement was mostly dry with occasional slick spots. With the open differential I was able to remain in four wheel drive for added security all the way to my office.

[phpbay]Snow Tire, 10[/phpbay]

Rally in the Rain

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Rally in the Rain

This weekend, I ran the Georgia Sports Car Club May rally. I partnered with Robert Harvey and drove his BMW.

The rally master seemed to have some logistics problems which he explained were a lack of support from his partner. Most evident was the fact that the route instructions were printed on recycled paper. By recycled, I mean form the trash can with stuff written on the other side.

We knew we would have to excuse a mistake or two along the way so we were prepared. Or so we thought.

When Robert arrived at the start, I had already read the general instructions. Traditionally the general instructions have been made available prior to the event so that people could prepare both mentally and equipment wise for the event. This tradition has all but disappeared in the last year or so.

I noticed that bullet point two of the general instructions prohibited the use of our rally computer and gps. Robert had taken time to properly mount both of these the morning of the rally. We had to take time to dismount and properly store them before the rally started.

Our fun started on the odometer calibration leg where we had to turn around twice to read the signs for gimmicks included in the leg. Thanks to Robert’s excellent navigation and math skills were still able to calculate the correction factor for our odometer. At least as best as can be done considering his BMW has a digital dash and I had to just guess how far into each tenth I was.

On leg one we managed to completely miss a turn while getting the gimmick that preceded it. We drove several miles out of our way before turning around and finding it. There we found another rally contestant who had been circling the block for the whole time as the instruction clearly did not work. We tried it a couple of different ways and met back up. Soon all the cars in the rally were sitting together wondering what to do. I had seen one of the referenced road names on our off course loop so I knew which way we need to go. Finally after a few turns, our group got back on the course.

We felt we were doing pretty well until we ran out of instructions and then out of road. As the whole group again gathered we were able to contact the rally master via prohibited cell phone use and learn that he had forgotten to give us the second page of instructions. We all finally made our way to his location to start the next leg.

The next leg was a timed section. Just as I was about to let out the clutch to start the leg, our friend and competitor knocked on our window. Considering what we had just been through, I paused to see what he wanted. He was confirming our start time as he expected to start before us and was assigned a later time. I dashed off; making up the few seconds late quickly in the 25 mph assigned speed. I was a bit confused as the route instructions led us onto the interstate. However the 65mph CAST confirmed it was the right route. Merging into traffic in a driving rain storm I quickly got later and later as Robert quickly punched his calculator. I finally worked my way over to the left lane and with the wipers on their highest setting, started to make up the time. I had us pretty close to right when I had to slow and fight my way back to the right lane for our exit.

At the end of the ramp we found a truck waiting for a safe opening into traffic. We were given a pause but it quickly ticked away before the truck moved. I was about ready to drive around him when he finally decided to go. Just across a bridge, we saw the checkpoint and I was still late. Using all the power of the BMW, I closed the gap as much as possible between the traffic in front of us. I knew we would be close but maybe just a bit late. We got a one!

The final leg of the rally had us looking for signs again. The rain was really coming down hard and visibility was very poor. At one point I had to turn around and get out of the car to read a sign. We finally made it through missing only two signs. By that point we had decided that we were not going back to look for them in these conditions.

When the scores were finally totaled as we ate at a very interesting Greek restaurant, Robert and I had finished first. Not only had we scored very well on the timed leg, we had found more correct answers than any other team.

Our waitress kept asking what trophy she would get. So after it was all over, I peeled off the engraved plaque from the first place trophy and gave the blank trophy to her. She held it high over her head as she ran through the restaurant showing it off to all her co workers. A much better use on the trophy than having it sit in my garage until the next yard sale.

[phpbay]BMW, 5[/phpbay]

Jeep Girls Do It in the mud.

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Jeep Girls do it in the mud

This weekend as I was driving Janice’s Jeep I was amused at the various reactions that we got to the sticker on the back of her Jeep Cherokee. The thumbs up we got at 11:11 was the inspiration for this article.

I got this sticker for her after the Cherokee Trails International Rally. At the time is was common for even large scale performance rallies to begin late. I take great pride in my logistics skills, so I was determined that I would have my rally start on time.

One of the common failings is getting control workers to their stations on time. Getting a bunch of cars guys going early on Saturday morning is just too much to ask. My solution was to use a bunch of car women.

This particular group of women is very skilled at making things happen. I knew they were my best hope for having things ready to go early on Saturday morning.

Janice was in charge of getting the finish crew to their location. So they could have a bit of extra sleep, I arranged for them to come in from the opposite end of the road. This is easy when it is dry. However this particular day it was not dry.

The finish crew girls were faced with a very muddy climb to their location. Luckily they had their Jeeps for transportation. Well, one girl actually had a Samaria, but it made it too. By the time the course opening cars made it to them, they were set up and even had a tarp stretched across their hatches to make a nice cover to work under.

The Jeep girls got it done that day. My rally started exactly on time. And the all girl stage crew was a hit with both the contestants and the press coverage of the event.

Jeep Girls doing it in the mud

I get amused however at the responses she gets to the sticker. The ones that seem to find it the most risqué are church people. She even had someone leave her a nasty note while her Jeep was parked in the First Baptist Church Parking lot.

If anyone had had the balls to ask me about the sticker, I would have asked them about the Apostle Paul’s advice to pray without ceasing. Jeep girls do it in the mud.

Sports car people and off roaders are normally the ones to give thumbs up as they pass. There is often a surprised look on peoples’ faces when they see me driving instead of Janice.

One night while waiting for my son to get out of a ball game I heard some high school guys walking up behind the Jeep and read the sticker out loud. They tried to be cool as they walked by the window, but I heard one of them say;” Yo, that was a dude driving!” I could not stop laughing.

When we first started attending the Metaphysical Church where we go now, the guest speaker that day – who had passed us on the Interstate – wanted to know who Jeep Girl was. She thought the sticker was way cool and wanted to meet the person who owned that Jeep. She appreciated both the innuendo and the attitude represented by the message.

As I learn more about people and especially about the different ways that people express their spirituality, I continue to be amazed at the inconsistencies. It seems those that preach love and tolerance are the least likely to show it. People who express themselves through their vehicles are much more tolerant and caring about others.

Having lived on the fringe of social acceptability but still on the “safe” side of the fence for years, I had been led to believe that the “others” were a mean a vicious lot. Only evil could come form associating with people who believe differently than I do. I was taught to fear people who looked different from me or practiced and different traditions.

Now that I have crossed over and begin to mingle with people outside the Southern Baptist umbrella, I see that there are people of all types who are much more loving and accepting than the Baptist I grew up with. I learned a lot in my Baptist studies, but not very much about love and acceptance.

I still love the attitude expressed by the “Jeep Girls do it in the mud” sticker. It is an attitude of doing what ever it takes to get the job done. The, “I am not afraid to get dirty to accomplish a task.” attitude. The allusion to sex in the mud also brings on a naughty smile.

[phpbay]jeep sticker, 10[/phpbay]

From Street Car to Rally Racer to Rock Crawler.

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

From Street Car to Rally Racer to Rock Crawler.

The metamorphosis of a Jeep Cherokee

Scuffy II started out as an ordinary little Jeep Cherokee. When I was ready to build my rally racer, I wanted a two door Cherokee with a five speed transmission, six cylinder engine and 4 wheel drive.

An Ebay search turned up almost what I wanted. There were only two problems. The Jeep was an 88 with the Renix engine controller and it was in Pennsylvania.

However, the price was right so I made a deal, hooked up the trailer and headed north. My dad and my son went along for support.

We arrived early in the morning to pick up the Jeep. We were expecting to have some fun loading it because the owner said the clutch would not disengage. This was one reason it was being sold cheap. I noticed that even though it was very cold out side, the little Jeep started up very easily.

I had my dad drive the trailer down the street a bit and drop the ramps. I put the Jeep in low range and hit the key. Sure enough it lurched forward and started up just fine. I had just enough room to line it up with the ramps and drive smoothly onto the trailer. I cut the key and the Jeep stopped at just the right spot on the trailer.

The owner who had gone inside to get the title came running out asking how I had fixed it so quickly. My dad just smiled and said; “He is good with Jeeps.”

This is how it looked when we first got it home:Rally Jeep Beginning XJ Cherokee

To sort it out I did a few rally crosses with it:Jeep Cherokee XJ Rallycross

I even raced it in one autocross. It really looked funny on autocross tires. It drove even worse.Jeep Cherokee Autocross racing

Soon I was ready to make the commitment to building a true rally racer. I decided on the SCCA PGT class. This class was for four wheel drive vehicles over 2.5 liters and less than 5.0 liters displacement. Minimum weight was 3000 lbs. It seemed a good fit for the Cherokee

The trouble was everything about the engine and body had to be completely OEM stock. This was tough and expensive on an old Jeep. There were many simple mods that I could have made that would have been cheaper than the stock parts, however, they were not allowed. Turbo cars were allowed external engine computers that upped their power output greatly. This put the Jeep at a horsepower disadvantage to the Subarus.

More Ebay searching turned up approved racing seats and harnesses. I traded for a roll cage and borrowed a computer and driver’s suit.

RallyJeep was born. A quick coat of racing white paint and a set of SCCA decals and we were ready for our fist race.

Rally Jeep Cherokee 100aw

Between rally races, I began enjoying the sport of off road driving. I built a cheap jeep to see how much I would enjoy the sport.
Jeep Cherokee off road XJ

Just as I was beginning to see that off road driving was huge fun and I was meeting lots of interesting people off road, the sport of rally racing took an unexpected turn. SCCA dropped their rally series and my favorite race – Cherokee Trails – was canceled forever.

An assessment of my situation showed me I had a very nice and expensive Jeep that was pretty much useless to me. I had a cobbled together collection of parts that was lots of fun to drive and a great support group that was fun to meet with.

I decided to make the commitment and convert my RallyJeep into Scuffy II the off road Jeep. This would put my lockers and 4.7 L Stroker engine to good use. And I would not have to deal with a weak carbureted engine and slipping transmission on my off road trips.

First I mounted the ARB equipped D30 front axle in place. Knowing I would add lift later, I modified the area above the control arm mounts for extra droop.
Modified dana 30 axle

Next I installed the ARB compressor.
ARB Compressor Jeep Cherokee

I also installed a lock rite equipped 8.25 in the rear that had been living under my Daily driver Jeep. I did make a couple more rallycrosses before adding the lift. The lockers really helped in the mud on rainy days.

I finally made the ultimate commitment and pulled the lift kit off Scuffy and put it on Scuffy II. My first off road trip was to Beasly knob running the 30“ tires form my daily driver. The lockers made a big difference but the small tires were just too limiting in the rocks.

Next came fender trimming and the 35” tires. The front was easy. I just traded fenders between the race Jeep and Scuffy’s already trimmed fenders.Lifted Jeep Cherokee fenders trimmed

At this point I could still go back to rally racing with about four hours work.

However, the rear tires simply would not work without more clearance than the stock wheel well provided. It took a bit of soul searching, but I finally made the commitment to irreversibly modify the rear wheel arches. Actually, I can probably still cover the mods with the stock flares and race it again if I ever choose to.

Here is how it looked with the winch mounted:
Jeep cherokee XJ off road

My first real off road adventure with the new set up was to Harlan, Ky. I was really happy with the extra control that the manual transmission gave me. Especially when going downhill. I also got to test the new winch pretty well as we used it to pull a Dodge Ram pickup up a very step muddy hill.

The most recent modification to Scuffy II has been to make the doors removable. Having the doors off greatly improves visibility and add to the open air feeling. The two door doors are also very heavy so there is a noticeable performance improvement with the doors off.
Jeep Cherokee removable doors

This Jeep gets way more use now than it ever would have as a rally racer. Driving off road has taught me many lessons about life and helped me build many great relationships.

Also, I find the thrill of conquering obstacles off road gives me every bit as big of an adrenalin rush as racing through the woods at speed. I feel really safe with the rally spec roll cage protecting me off road. Knowing the cage was designed for a seventy mile per hour impact give me a lot of confidence at fifteen MPH trial speeds.
Jeep Cherokee off road XJ 33

Overall, this Jeep has given me a lot of fun and adventure. I expect to have many more fun adventures as I learn to drive the Jeep and keep reinforcing the weak spots.

Acceptance

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Life Lessons from off the road

Acceptance

My first automobile race was an autocross in a parking lot at Tennessee Tech University. The race was held by the Golden Eagle Sports Car Club.

I popped off the hubcaps from my Datsun 710 and aired up my Michelin XZX tires. I was quite sure that I would be able to score at least a class win it not the fastest time of the day driving around the little course made up of construction pylons. That is, if I could just remember where the course went.

My heart was pounding and my palms were sweaty as I pulled up to the timing light to start my run. I soon learned a lot about my car and my ability to drive it as I found out that no matter how far I turned the wheel, if I entered a corner too fast, my car would just go straight. I had just discovered under steer!

Watching the other drivers maneuver their cars around the course, I was amazed at the control they had. I was sure they had made huge modifications to their cars to make them handle like that. I was convinced that it was tires, or shocks or a million other expensive parts that they must have hidden in their cars.

It took me quite a while to accept that it was really just their skill at driving the car that made them faster than me. Either through instinct or more likely by lots of study and practice, they knew how to make a car maneuver around a tight twisty autocross course.

Before I finally began to accurately perceive the reality of the situation, I spent a lot of time and money trying to make my car go faster and handle better. I read books on how to make a car handle and how to improve my suspension. I entirely overlooked working on the big nut behind the wheel.

I never made any real improvement in my autocross times until I accepted that I needed to work more on my driving skills and not so much on the car. In fact, I had pretty much lost interest in autocross racing before I fully accepted this fact of life.

My next great motor sports adventure was Road Rallying. Jeff, my former college roommate, became my navigator. Together we developed a computer software program to aid in our time keeping. We did not put much effort at all into studying the products that were commercially available because we felt they were out of our budget. We simply focused on what were could build with our limited resources and the features we wanted in our computer.

We became successful quite quickly. We even took home a couple of first place trophies in National Championship level events. We probably could have been competitive on the national circuit had we been willing to invest the time and money into travel needed to compete in events scattered all over the country. Our work situation made it very difficult for us to both be gone the same weekend, so we let a lot of those things get in the way of pursuing our hobby.

What we did not realize at the time was that our little computer program had a few features that the commercially available computers did not have. After some of the top competitors saw what we could do, they forced the main manufactures to add those features to their products. We, of course, got no credit for our ingenuity.

In this case, we never really accepted how good we really were. We often lost rallies right near the end due to our inexperience or sometimes we would frustratingly loose them in claims after the rally. Had we accurately perceived the reality of the situation, we could have made a much larger contribution to the sport and had a lot more fun.

As it was, our inaccurate perception allowed us to let other interests take over our passion for road rally. We never really tried to market our computer program. Had we accepted just how good we really were at that sport and what natural talent we had, I am sure we would have made some money and had a lot more fun.

My next automotive endeavor was organizing Rally Races. These events were huge fun to be involved in. Lots of people came together from various backgrounds and with various skills to make the event a success. The highlight of this phase of my life was the Cherokee Trails International Rally. It was a three day event in the Cherokee National Forest. Racers from all over the world came to challenge the gravel roads of east Tennessee.

The event was won by an Irishman on St Patrick’s Day. There was much rejoicing.

Again here I failed to see the level of my own skill. I did not have the confidence to speak up where I saw things that were not being done properly. Since I did not have as much experience as some of the others, I deferred to their ideas. I failed to accurately perceive that these people really did not have the skills needed to maintain an event of this caliber. I also did not accept that my social skills were not good enough to build strong relationships with the key players so that they would listen to my ideas.

Again, I found myself wasting effort working on the wrong things due to my inaccurate perception of the reality of the situation. I failed, or more likely refused, to accept what I was observing.

The rally organizing led me to building my own rally racer and racing it in several rallies. At the same time, I was enjoying the new sport of Rally Cross racing. By this time I had learned that the most critical element of this type of racing was driver skill.

Picking a good line through the course was also very important. I learned quickly that getting familiar with the course was way more important than tire pressures or weight distribution. I also accurately assessed that there were people who were much better at creating a new line through the grass than I was. I always tried to walk with them when possible and I definitely watched their runs to see what I could learn.

Through accepting my strengths and weaknesses in this sport, I was able to win many class victories as well as a few “fastest time of the day” driving my Jeep Cherokee against what should have been much faster cars.

I also enjoyed the sport of Rally Racing. Pumped up by the success of Rally Cross racing in the Jeep, I decided to build a dedicated race Jeep. What I failed to accurately assess about this reality was how heavy and underpowered my vehicle of choice was. It’s handling and reliability were great, just not the power to weight ratio. I also did not accept my inability to drive at high speeds with very little control.

I enjoyed the races and I did pretty well in events where the roads were tight and twisty. I did really poor where the roads were more open and top speed became a factor. I was just not willing to maintain momentum over crests and around curves where I was not sure what was on the other side.

It took me a few races to fully accept that I was never going to be the next Colin McRae. I did spend some more money on the Jeep just in time for my favorite race – Cherokee Trails – to be cancelled forever.

It took a few more months for me to accept the fate of the Rally Racing Jeep. I had just met a new group of friends who shared many common values and a love for Jeeps and driving them off road.

I quickly built a Cheap Jeep to see how I would enjoy the sport of off road driving. I did a couple of trips with this Jeep before I accepted that I really did enjoy off roading much more than any form of motor sport I had tried up to that point.

After that second trip in Scuffy, I went home and began converting the rally racer into a true off road machine. It took some commitment to finally cut the rear fenders to clear the big tires. But, by then I had accepted that I would never really be competitive in Rally Racing. Also, through a lot of encouragement from my new friends, I quickly accepted that I have a lot of natural skill at off road driving that I could quickly build from.

Getting Scuffy II’s first dent was another lesson in acceptance. I was surprised that it really did not bother me much. In fact I saw it as a badge of honor. A battle scar! Now, I look forward to each outing to see how much more I can push myself and enjoy building my off road driving skills.

Learning to accept the reality of a situation is the key to improving it. This concept is critical no matter what process you are trying to improve.

Whenever you are trying to improve any aspect of life, be sure to accurately assess the situation. What are your real strengths and weaknesses that are factors? What skills do you need to develop? What machinery or automation will make the process more effective?

Acceptance is the first step in process improvement. Learning how to properly assess the current state of a situation is one of the most import lessons I have learned from driving off the road.

To learn more about how to apply acceptance to your personal development see http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/06/self-discipline-acceptance/