We made a return trip to Paris, Tx over Memorial Day weekend, 2004. This trip was very different from the last as this time there was no snow in Memphis and this time we were towing my Race car (jeep) instead of meeting a car and driver there.
Co driver Josh Aslinger arranged for us to use his father’s big red turbo diesel crew cab F250 and arranged for his brother to help crew. Rally racing is truly a family sport for us.
We hooked up the trailer, loaded the Jeep and headed west. We broke up the trip out there by stopping to pick up crewman Travis and checking on my farm in Pontotoc, Ms. We ended up answering lots of questions as we added diesel in Mississippi. We did however, fit right in with the big truck. For the return trip, we drove straight through. F250 kareoke helped pass the time after 11 hours on the road. The Ford has a great sound system even if it is the world’s most complicated CD changer.
In Paris, the Miller’s showed us great Texas hospitality. We got registered and teched with no problems at all. We did insist on waiting for our "don’t mess with Texas" stickers to arrive before we left tech. The tech site is a huge wrecker service area and we did see an interesting parts car come in while we waited. We asked where there was a rock big enough to roll a Jeep, but they told is it was influenced by alcohol.
Back at the hotel, we gathered in the Rivergate Motor home and watched in car video of Randy’s drive in the MR2 in 2001 Paris Rally. Then back to Josh’s room for some x box rally racing before bed.
We spent the morning setting up our new VS camera mount – personally delivered to us in Paris by Rivergate racing. We set the tire pressures, charged the battery drained by a dome light malfunction and wandered down the road to Parc Expose in the Home depot parking lot. We chatted with a few locals and put our new Hot Wheels decals on the doors. We were all ready to go racing so the time spent in the parking lot seemed like torture even though it was well set up.
Once at Camp Maxey, we found our crew – Janice, Scott and Travis – had our pit set up on the wide concrete strip allotted for service. They had conveniently set us across from the Rivergate motor home so we could all swap supplies. The single paved service location was a real treat for Janice and Scott after having made the numerous moves of 100AW. Also, there was a spectator area set up that was accessible during the stages so the service crews could go watch and come back to service the car. The big red truck became the shuttle for the Tennessee teams.
After calibrating our odometer, we attended the drivers meeting and Richard Miller reminded us all of what Memorial day really means as we looked around at the remains of the WWII prisoner of war camp where we had our service area.
As we launched on stage 1, Josh learned why my Road Rally navigator had written LEFT and RIGHT on the windshield of the TSD car. I was staring at the long sweeping left in front of me as Josh was saying "That was our right" - "right back there." I was soon back in the game as we reached a long straight. The high speed gremlins from Missouri were back as the Jeep refused to go over 70. This was going to be a long day. I botched another turn while looking down the road at the VW that had also missed the turn. They looked stuck so I went to check on them but they waved us off so I made a quick U turn and went back to racing. Randy set the fastest time on stage one exactly one minute faster than us. I don’t think they took as long of a route asus either.
Stage two was a repeat of one. Except this time without the turn around. We still had a serious lack of top speed and at the finish control the engine died. When it finally restarted, it idled at 4000 rpm. Luckily service was only a few yards away and after a noisy entrance to the MTC we coasted to our pit stall. After checking everything under the hood and tapping on the idle control solenoid, I restarted the engine and all was fine.
On stage three the gremlins must have been spit out as now our top speed was somewhere down between M, P and H on the speedometer. The roads were smooth and very easy to drive. The square turns connecting them were exciting as brakes are not a Jeep’s strong point. Stages three and four did include one very Jeep oriented obstacle. We called it the tank trap as it was a low water crossing designed to test the skills of tank drivers in training. The path consisted of flat rocks spaced a few inches apart leading down to a creek bed made into a V shape with concrete and more spaced rocks on the hill coming out. We approached cautiously the first time but crossed with vigor on stage 4.
Stages five and six had us lapping the tank test facility in reverse direction from the first four stages. The same start and finish locations were used, just reversed in function. An early turn on the course included a big mud puddle marked with a "Don’t Cut". I stayed away from it the first time, but on the second pass I dove in to what we called the ‘sippi hole. The Jeep looked much better covered with mud and it turned out to be a fast line with our good clearance.
Stage seven was the most fun of the day. We mounted our lights as it was dusk and they may have helped a bit. We were all ready to race more on the fun roads but since the Camp Maxey folks were packing for Afghanistan we turned their roads back over to them and headed for the awards party.
In the end, First overall went to an Open class Subaru driven by Eoin McGeough. Second overall and first in PGT was Loyd in a "LASER" running Jeep wheels. Third overall and First in G2 was Randy Bailey in Stinky. Everyone commented on how much fun the event was. All twelve cars were running at the end on the event.
So thanks to the Millers for a great event and we hope to return in December. Oh, I did get to see the Eiffel Tower with the cowboy hat this trip.
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Content by Mike Strawbridge