Rally Sputnik Pt 2 – (Birth of) Repo Man
AKA Flirting with communism
When we last left our heroes (see here) they had just embarked on their performance rally career with a $500 van, a borrowed trailer, and a used Lada.
This is of course THE Lada, a 1991 Lada built by Lada Canada as a rally car – one of two – and which had the crap beat out of it for 18 consecutive years of rallying, including by such notables as ACP,. It requires a massive amount of human interaction every time you stop for gas but fortunately you don’t have to do that much, and it is a great car to learn how to rally in. This is important because our heroes (Ed – again?) know nothing about how to actually compete in a performance rally. With no race experience beyond motorcycle track training (thank you FAST school – highly recommended) and practical experience limited to being paid to thrash underpowered front wheel drive cars (thank you Hertz and Avis Ottawa and the late 1980s) they attend Navigator school as a way to lure unsuspecting, umm, er, interested parties into the world of rally.
Of course, our heroes (Ed – sigh…ok, I give) also don’t know how to fix the car or tow the car – or fix the tow car, come to that, and then there’s the trailer – but figure they will learn that as needed. Which it is. In fact, the list of what they DO know is pretty short…
Fortunately for all involved – and their families – The Lada is a very forgiving car to drive and fun even at low speeds. This is fortunate because low speeds are what you are going to get. So time to throw a license plate on it and go racing! (Note: plating and insuring a rally car is actually not quite that easy, but if you think some of this other stuff is tedious you don’t want to get us started on insurance and safeties and clean air tests…).
At this point it is worth noting the origin of the REPOMANN plate. As part of the wise overall vehicle purchase strategy one of our heroes owned the Lada, the former TSD rally Jeep, the fan boy WRX, the Rally van, a Honda CBR 954 motorcycle, and a 1976 Buick LeSabre. What he did not own was a driveway. Eventually the Buick was sold and the REPOMANN plate, a tribute to one of the best movies of all time, got moved to the Lada. This created consternation at the Princess Auto among Keswick residents who believed that the driver must be a repo man, with whom they apparently had lots of experience with and hated passionately. It also caused a false positive with the po-po, whom pulled over our heroes at the Lanark rally one year on a transit when they ran the plate without a second N and flagged it as un-stickered. Always exciting to watch the rest of the rally traffic go by you while there’s an OPP with the cherries on explaining that he made a mistake. So now it was time to enter all the rallies that bank accounts could sustain!
And how did that go, you ask?
- Lanark Highlands Rally: 21st overall (first rally ever)
- Galway Cavendish Forest Rally: 17th overall
- Black Bear Rally: DNF (first crash)
- Rally of the Tall Pines: 24th overall in the Regional event, 1st Production Sport. We finished! (NTD: add video link)
In 2010 we won the overall OPRC Production Sport class, which was not highly contested, but still, go us!
- Peirce Neige: DNF (stuck in snowbank)
- Lanark Highlands Rally: 12th overall (of 22), 1st Production Sport
- Galway Cavendish Forest Rally: 10th overall (of 17), 1st 2WD, 1st Production Sport, 1st Classic
- Rally of the Tall Pines: DNF (broke rear sub-frame, rim and more)
We still won the OPRC Production Sport class and – now that the Lada was 20 – came second in the Classic division. Go us again!
2012: In 2012 we only entered two rallies, it seems.
- Galway Cavendish Forest Rally 10th overall, 1st Production Sport plus video
- Black Bear Rally DNF (overheated, among other things)
- And one Car Show!
In short, between learning to tow, leaning to rally, learning to make notes, learning how to fix a 20 year old Russian car, and learning how to fix a 10 year old GM vehicle we had a good number of adventures. Remember the test day where we had a Lada vs. Canadian Shield contest and had to fix it in 2 weeks using structural stickers so we could race, only to hook up the fan backwards and overheat? Remember the mystery fuse? Oh yeah, good times.
We had a great deal of fun in three short years but even using the vaguest definition of ‘safe’ we were reaching what we considered to be the limits of the Lada. As ACP put it, “The Lada has been a great training ground and has helped me refine techniques like left foot braking that I never used on the Volvo. But by the time we would go whole rallies without lifting the throttle pedal, it became evident that we needed more car.” Not that we’re saying we’re at ACP’s level, but there were some similarities in the experience.
We were also getting to the point where we needed to put more work into it…which we were willing to do that if we were going to keep racing it, but given we were at the limits of performance that seemed foolish. As did trying to get more performance out of it, although there are some awesome turbo setups for these things in Eastern Europe. So sadly, to make room and money it was time to sell the Lada.
What we decided that what we needed most was something that was going to get us into trouble at a much faster speed. Enter…The Manchurian.