The Wednesday stages have come and gone and we are now preparing for the Super Special stage on Saturday. Wednesday was a day filled with a lot of ups and downs.
I always get butterflies before a starting stage but Wednesday's starting stage was preceded with big butterflies!! Stage One is only 3.17 miles so not a lot of notes but somewhat busy...a good way to get our feet wet in the new car. Everything will be coming at me much quicker. The stage went well the car is $%&^&&^ fast out of the corners with the turbo anti-lag keeping the turbo spooled up for almost instant torque. We had one big moment... I think a right 3- over crest that I may have been a little late on the call. We went off slightly with the car popping up on two wheels on Tanner's side. It was an "oh shit" from Tanner and I was waiting for the car to roll over. Tanner's stunt driving skills kicked in... the diff's did their job and the car pulled back on to the road. We finished the stage with the 2nd fastest time... unbelievable... it felt fast but... we beat Colin Mcrae by three seconds! Pinch me I think I'm in the middle of a bizarre rally dream. There were 8 more stages and 35 racing miles to go. Stage 2 is little longer at just over 5 miles. The car felt good and my note delivery to Tanner was improving. This stage included a fast section with notes like (from foggy memory) "jump 100 jump 150 big jump 100", the numbers indicating distance in meters to each instruction. Well the big jump was a really big jump!!! As we launched off it at over 85 miles/hour the car became quiet.... from my limited rally experience when I am able to "hear" the quiet of flight we have gone big!!! Unfortunately, we jumped passed the landing area and bottomed the car out. I was looking down reading the next note when we hit. My head was slammed into my lap, my glass's were popped up to my forehead, and wipers came on. I could feel the ligaments in my back and neck tweak. Normally, landings are surprisingly soft… this one was painful. As I type this I can hardly turn my head.
The electricity of the event is so apparent. Two helicopters follow us on each stage. There are 15 cameras on each stage to capture every moment for ABC's coverage on Saturday. At every start and finish cameras are instantly at the windows. We were 4th fastest on stage 2 putting us 3rd overall...8 seconds off the pace of Pastrana. Not a bad start. No doubt we will give up time on the more open stage's as the other VSC cars are open class cars with more horsepower.
We gave up a little more time on stage 3 dropping to 4th overall, 11 seconds of the pace. As we pulled up to the control zone at stage 4 we had a few minutes before our entry time so we jumped out to inspect the car. The front bumper was trashed and hanging down almost on the ground. We grabbed zip ties and quickly re secured it. We entered the control zone and were informed that there was a slight delay to the start. As soon as we got out of the car Colin (Mcrae), 4 cars ahead of us and slightly up hill called down on the radio "tanner have a look at your left front tire it looks a wee bit flat!" Sure enough we had a slow leak caused by small rocks jammed under the bead next to the rim. F$!#&!! our rally was over basically...to change the tire in the control zone is a ten-minute penalty. Pat Richard walked up and commented "hell, change it.. it's the x games, they won't penalize you.” We call Derrick on the radio and he consulted with the stewards at service and yes it would be a penalty. We discussed running the 5-mile stage with the flat, but after talking it over with Derrick, the teams head tech, we decided to start the stage with the flat and change it on course at the first safe pullout. No sense in risking further damage to the car or the occupants. We started the stage and with cameras capturing our every move Tanner and I changed the tire somewhere under 4 minutes, but our hopes of finishing in the top 5 were dashed. Forgetting stage 4 we finished the remaining stages: 5th fastest, 3rd fastest, 3rd fastest, 5th fastest, and taking away the tire change on stage 4 would have ended the day in 3 place overall. Oh well that's rally, Damnit!!!
The Rock Star Energy car performed beautifully… what a ride. On stage 8 I looked down at my speedometer: 119 mph with a 5- 200 meters ahead and helicopters on both sides; the black one out my window less than 100 feet off the deck (or so it seemed).......whoa!!
Our plan is to hang it out on Saturday and give the crowd a show!!! More later!!!