After a year-plus of trying, I finally scored my first rallycross class victory this past weekend at Badlands Off Road Park. This event was hosted by Indiana Rallycross, an independent group of enthusiasts who’s motto is “Make Life Epic.” With a massive venue (50 acres+) and no pesky SCCA safety requirements, this competition straddled the gray area between a traditional rallycross and a coefficient 1 rallysprint. The course was over 1.7 miles in length and took me a little over 3 minutes to complete. With a large turn-out of 50 competitors, we were able to get in a total of four runs. This group does not follow typical SCCA classing norms, instead opting for a simplified 4-class system. As the owner of a “moderate powered AWD car” I was put in class B to compete against similar cars as well as “modified 2WD cars.” There were 11 cars total, ranging from a highly modified Honda CRX to an Audi Allroad Quattro to various iterations of Subaru WRXs with modest modifications.
The course was essentially divided into 4 sections. The first and largest section was a 30+ acre field of hard packed dirt with a couple tight turns but mostly high-speed sweepers and offsets. At the end was a tight kink which led to a very steep downhill path cut through the woods to a lower field of about 15 acres. The course through the lower lot was tighter and more technical, appropriate for the softer soil in the area. The last element was a blast up a long, slightly arcing trail from the low field through the woods back to the high field and the finish line.
The morning session was uneventful. I felt decent about my performance the first couple runs. I over-drove in some sections, under-drove in a couple others, but generally maintained good momentum and didn’t seem to be hitting many if any cones. Since there was no PA system and no provisional results posted, nobody knew what anybody’s times were. The only thing to do was go as fast as you could, or at least as fast as you dared, and hope that in the end it was enough to win.
Things were a little rougher in the afternoon. On the reconnaissance lap I bottomed the car out on the descent and dislodged the left front fender liner. I pulled off the course, grabbed it, threw it in the trunk, and rejoined the parade. Not being one to learn a lesson the easy way, I went even harder down the descent on my first competition run of the afternoon. Half way down I felt a sharp impact from beneath . When I got back to the grid I got out and was alarmed to see that my left front mudflap was protruding at an odd angle. I soon realized it was because my fender had sustained a sharp blow from the bottom and was significantly deformed. My heart sank.
It took a moment for the “OhMyGodIJustWreckedMyCar” feeling to pass before I was able to do a quick mental calculation and come to the conclusion that I was only looking at a few hundred dollars of damage. That’s not insignificant, but hardly devastating. I actually got a few admiring looks from some of the other competitors. Body damage is a badge of honor in the rallycross community. Several fender liners had been shucked that day and a few bumper covers damaged, but I was the only one to actually wrinkle some sheet metal. I went with the flow, basking a little in the sudden notoriety. With a little help from one of the event staff members, I was able get the mud flap off and the fender bent back closer to its pre-impact shape. I didn’t want the flap or fender to get caught by the tire and cause additional collateral damage.
With little to lose, I tried to push a little harder on my last run. There was a little too much “red mist” flowing through my system, however, and I lost time in several sections to over-driving. I felt content that I had given it a good effort but didn’t think I had done enough to win the class. Without knowing anybody’s times, including my own, my best guess was I had finished somewhere around 3rd. And so I was caught quite off guard at the awards ceremony when my name was called as the class B winner. Besides the glory of a job well done, I received a $250 gift certificate to RSD Performance! I can’t get a replacement fender from them, but I can choose from a nice assortment of goodies for the WRX, some of which I’d already been eying. Perhaps its time for a performance exhaust system as I can’t really hear the engine note very well with my helmet on. Or maybe a set of fancy swaybar end links, a center gauge pod, or a short shift kit. Whatever I decide to buy with the certificate, it’s great to walk away with something more valuable than a trophy or T-shirt for winning. This is the best prize I’ve won in 20 years of racing. Many thanks to RSD Performance for the support.
In the end, after 7 miles and nearly 13 minutes of racing, my margin of victory was .54 seconds. Third place was just .49 seconds behind that! While I’m still slightly chagrined that I damaged my car, at least I can say it was necessary for the victory. If I had backed off just the slightest bit I would have fallen to 3rd place. My cumulative time was 6th fastest overall and fastest of all the cars not on true rally tires.
I think I’ll wait to fix the car and show off my battle scars for a while. True rally fans will recognize the significance. Up next on the 34Three motorsports schedule? An SCCA National TSD RoadRally with my wife in St Louis, Missouri on Jun 15. If we can score a victory there, I’ll be 1/3rd of the way to another National Championship. Check back next month to see how we did.