Black Bear – Finishing is a form of winning

If you follow our results with a big chart on your wall then you won’t need a reminder, but for those of you not institutionalized we will remind you that we have never finished the Black Bear rally. Until this year.

We entered twice before and failed to finish. It was the first rally we entered; that time our tow van broke down on the way and when we finally got there – without being able to do any recce, although that might not have helped – we crashed the Lada.

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Another year the fuel pump died 5km from the end of the final stage. Which wasn’t as heartbreaking as having the car die on the transit back to finish the rally, which has happened to two people we know at this rally, but still pretty annoying. Then one of us somehow got roped into organizing the damn thing so we didn’t enter for a few years. This year even that didn’t stop us from entering, breaking something, and still finishing. Go us!

Bear has a great schedule, at least for us. Get there Sat afternoon, recce, do tech, have a BBQ with everyone, then race on Sunday and head home. No time off work, everyone is actually at the ‘banquet’, food is good. The roads are pretty awesome too, although typically there are some rough patches. This year a lot of effort went into the grading and road prep and apparently they looked great…right up until the only the second torrential downpour of the summer – the first was before Galway – which messed up the hills again with runoff the day before the rally. The relatively flat parts were still great but the uphills and downhills were a bit rough. Not as bad as they have been, but a bit rough. And as you’ll remember from our adventures at the Galway Cavendish rally, The Manchurian has a bit of an issue with rough bits at speed.

We put our new recce car into use at this rally; the former daily driver Volvo with winters on it is the only thing we collectively own that can do these roads at speed. The Jeep can do them but not fast or comfortably (and dusty; oh, so dusty) and the other vehicles are either too low, too new, or too minivan (respectively). Although we did use the minivan once. Thanks Janet! Anyhow, the Volvo’s Scandinavian heritage came through and it was great. We did have to pull the prop shaft before we left to make the banging and shaking stop so it’s actually only 2wd but other than that, no problems.

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The above is the road after the rally was done and we were looking for a missing GoPro that the bears are now enjoying. Don’t worry, we re-grade them after.

The first stage went well until right at the end, when we were pulling out of the time control and the drivers side rear tire wasn’t turning. After about 5 feet there was a ‘poink’ noise and then the tire started turning so we assumed a rock in the caliper and drove to the start of stage 2. Pulling in there the drivers side rear tire was locked for the last 10 feet, which didn’t bode well. The end of stage 1 is on the end of this video.

Sure enough… One of the caliper mount bolts had worked its way loose so the caliper was being pulled into the rim when the tire rotated.

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We briefly considered proceeding but decided instead to drop out of the stage and fix it. Ryan made remarkably good time getting to us, threw a spare Subaru bolt in (quality!) and we drove back to service for an extra long pause while everyone else finished stages 2 and 3.

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(We think the problem was the scraper that goes inside the wheel to clean dirt out got bent, then vibrated against the rim enough that it worked the bolt loose, as the bolt and the scraper were gone and the inside of the rim was a bit chewed up, but who knows).

So after that it was back out to the stages. They were super fun and nothing bad happened that is worthy of report. There is some video of us having fun here.

The only other damage was to the exhaust, which was new when we got there (literally, Ryan just finished rebuilding it after it got crushed at Galway) and we destroyed it again. Sorry Ryan. Throw another scraper on there, would you? Since you’re there anyway…

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Oh and here’s what the inside of a rim looks like after 3 stages without having a scraper in it.

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Note our professional driving shoes in the picture above.

One thing we have learned from destroying two exhausts and two rims in two rallies is that our suspension is getting overwhelmed on high speed impacts. The car actually bounces around a fair bit side to side so although it’s been good to start we are thinking we need to get off our wallets and get something better. (Yeah because rally is so cheap otherwise, right?). So that’s in the plan for next year, but not before Pines unfortunately. We will try to get all the other stuff done and off the list for Pines at least, so that way we hopefully have to spend less time in the freezing cold shop over the winter.

Updates will be provided and hopefully we’ll see everyone at Pines!