AKA The Adventures of Rally Sputnik across the 8th dimension
In September 2014 – about 2 months before Pines – we knew that in order to have a car to race there we had to forsake all other fun, friends and family, unless they liked working on rally cars.
This can be tricky but we did a pretty good job of reliably ditching everything we could. Thanks families! That got us to the point where we had a car that started and ran (badly; needed a tune) but we also had a laundry list of things to get done, and the car was in no way road worthy. Unless you think that doors and a hood are optional, having half of the bolts more than finger tight is a nice to have, an exhaust is luxury, and you won’t want wipers because there’s no windshield and besides then we’d need to buy the wiper arms, wiper transmission, move the wiper fluid reservoir and figure out how to install it, then figure out if the pump and wiper motors even work. Things like that.
Plus we’re doing that for a 23 year old orphaned car, so it’s not as easy as walking to Canadian Tire or NAPA or even a dealer and ordering a wiper assembly. We had some practice with this with the Lada and to be honest this was a bit easier: at least there are still Mitsubishi dealers in Canada, although they didn’t have a lot of parts, and some things we could either get through a generic store or as performance upgrade parts through HSL Rallysport or RTM. Most of these non-performance parts – of which there are a lot – we ended up troubleshooting and/or replacing through the awesome people on the DSM forums, who we relied on HEAVILY for both expertise and actual parts. They came through for us again on this stuff, as did Ziggy at RTM. Thanks guys!
We documented our build before – see Build Updates 1 – 24 – so for all the gruesome details relevant at this point we will point you to:
We also had to get the car back down to Rally/Race to get a windshield installed, skid plate made, light bar made, exhaust made, and HDPE armour cut/installed under it and in the wheel wells. And as of November 4th – 23 days before we had to have the car on a trailer to leave for the race where it would have to pass a technical inspection – we still had a list of 33 things still to do. That we knew of.
These were things like ‘get clean air test’, ‘get safety’, and ‘get insurance’ that would mean we could put plates on it and stop trailering it around, but they are also things that aren’t always straight forward with rally cars and which need to happen during business hours, which is yet another challenge when one is gainfully employed. And things like “Install toolkit and jack” ended up taking hours, as we needed to find a spot to put them that we could both access and offered a way to bolt to. So we were a little worried.
We ended up working until the very early hours of the morning a whole bunch in the 2-3 weeks before Pines and asking our awesome friend Brian to run around to get the car, get fire-related equipment for the car, and go to Princess Auto while we were at work more often than we can count. We were so close to the wire we delayed putting it on the trailer to leave for Pines so we could capture some WOT engine data on the country roads around our house so we could build a tune that night in Bancroft so we could actually try to race it. The haul to Pines with Drew’s truck was uneventful as we’d purchased quality tie-downs so the car wouldn’t slide into the front of the trailer again. Plus we loaded the truck up with every tire we could fit; Pines weather can be a bit unpredictable, to say the least, and it made a good cushion just in case the car moved.
Friday morning we did Recce (where we drive the roads and review the notes the organizer provides to figure out how/if we want to modify them) in ‘Princess’, which is the name the lowered WRX with the big exhaust got when we didn’t want to recce Pines with it last time. Not having that happen again! Fortunately it has a skid plate, because the Golf ahead of us smashed their oil pan off a rock during recce and that was it for that car that day. Princess was a champ and the exhaust remained attached. Hell, if Juggernaut can do it we can do it!
(Quick aside: If you don’t know, the way a rally works is at the start of the race we are given driving directions and time to get to a Special Stage. This is called a Transit. Once at the stage we check in and when our turn comes we drive through that stage as fast as we can. Stages are closed public roads where we can do what we want; transits are regular open public roads where we have to follow the rules. When we’re done the stage we get our time and transit to the next stage. Eventually we come back to service to fix things and get gas, then we do the same thing more. Since it’s not like a race track and you don’t see the road you are racing on until you show up, the day before we normally get ‘pace notes’ or just ‘notes’. These describe the road in enough detail that you can theoretically drive it flat out with the co-driver or navigator telling you what is coming by looking at the notes. The recce, when we have one, lets us modify the notes we are given with our own details, or if we want to write our own notes from scratch, and then we use those when we race. We first used provided notes, then started writing our own – after we showed up at Pierce Neige and found out there were no provided notes – and since we are still learning the car we are back to using provided notes).
While we did the recce Drew and Brian prepared the car and took it to the tech inspection. This happens for every race; as part of that the log book goes in to the organizer and it is returned when the race is finished. If the car doesn’t finish the result is recorded and if there is a crash then that area is inspected at the next rally. This gives every car a continuity/history that travels with the car. No problems there so we got back and tried to set it up for Shakedown that night. This is an optional run of part of a stage, at night, that you can use to set up the car, take people for rides (who fit into their helmet), etc. We of course signed up for this and paid the $50 because it was the first time we’d actually drive the car in a race situation and also the first time we’d read/heard notes in 18 months. The key was to not crash here because that would just be awful. And we didn’t! So that was one target down.
The plan for the rally proper was to try get a feel for the car, get used to the notes, and most importantly NOT CRASH. We were very clear on that in our minds. Finishing was good but not crashing was key. Our first stage we saw someone off the road 200 meters in, so at least we wouldn’t be the first people to go off; one potential embarrassment milestone passed. We finished the first stage and…no crash. Our first stage done! Not very fast, or at least it didn’t feel very fast, but no crash. We moved on to stage 2 and remembered to turn on the camera. And…better! The car felt great; it was understeering a lot because it needed to be steered with the throttle, and that was a bit of a problem when we weren’t comfortable with the notes in this car. Clearly the faster we went the better the car would be, and that’s what we were hoping for. Well, that and to get faster. However, even with the understeer it felt stable and planted….which is amazing because we put the steering and throttle and brakes and every other damn thing together and they were actually all working. The new bodywork, seam welding and roll cage was also paying off as the car felt stiff and solid. We were having some occasional issues with what seemed like electrical/MPI earlier but they weren’t manifesting themselves yet. Bonus!
Unfortunately, after the first 4 stages we started to have fuel starvation issues: the car couldn’t rev over 3000 rpm or take any abrupt throttle movements, like hard acceleration. This was a drag and we were inadvertently slowing down the competitors behind us so we returned to service and checked in, telling them we intended to re-start if we could solve the issue. We figured it was the fuel pump but didn’t have a spare, although we did have room for two in our fancy sender unit from RTM. Yeah, bit of an oversight there. While we were peering at it beside the car one of the head technical guys wandered by and asked what we were doing. We told him and he said “I’ve got a spare Walboro 255 – it’s in my bag. You want it?” We sure did. We threw that in, got the car inspected, and hit the road. This also removed the horribly loud whine the old one made.
We ran another stage – Iron Bridge again, going down – and were watching one of the Corolla’s die with an ECU problem while waiting at the next stage when we started to have fuel troubles again. We started the stage with the intention of calling it quits after that but didn’t get that far; the problem was way worse and after seeing some carnage we ended up dead on the side of the road about 2 km from the end. Which put us at the furthest point away from the service area, and our service crew was 15 km from that, at the Golton special stage. Sigh.
We got a tow out from some very nice Quebec volunteers who had water and snacks, and eventually Brian and Drew left Golton and got us with the truck, trailer and WRX (since we didn’t all fit in the truck). It was well dark by then but sadly we didn’t get to use our awesome HSL Rallysport lights and Ryan’s light bar other than for shakedown…although they do look pretty boss. We then packed up and headed back to the rented cottage for some drinks and some sleep.
Overall we were really happy with the car and how it performed; best guess on the failure is that it was caused by the gas tank getting banged around, crud getting loosened up and clogging up the fuel pump, then some got through and made it to the filter. When we replaced the pump even more got sucked through and the filter clogged and the car stopped. So a drag, but an easy fix. And not a crash! (Turns out that it was actually an issue with the bung we put on the second fuel pump hookup; it got chewed up by the vacuum of the new properly working fuel pump and we were just circulating fuel around the sender. Replacing the bung fixed the problem so we will put two pumps in there for the next race).
Our results from 2014 in the Talon are compared to roughly the same stages in the Lada in 2010 and 2011 are below. Not sure if they were all run in the same direction, which makes a difference, and clearly they were different lengths (e.g Upper Old Hastings was 11.48km in 2014, 10.57 in 2011, and 11.39 in 2010).
However, it appears that AWD and horsepower can overcome a lack of practice when compared to 1WD, 80hp (at best) and commitment. Iron Bridge or Middle Old Hastings were roughly the same distance both years but the Talon was over a minute faster on each. That’s all down to the car so imagine what it’ll be like when we can operate it properly!
Next steps for us are to tackle the remaining items on our list, so starting in April we will order and install the fuel pumps we need, put in the roof scoop, fix the turbo oil line, poke at the transmission, attempt to adjust out the side to side slop in the shifter (or just buy new shifter lines), adjust the brakes, install the shift light, fix up the door cards and oil the window mechanism, and figure out where all that camber in the rear wheels came from. To start. We also want to get it tuned properly, and then we’ll find out what kind of hp we have where. Don’t expect too much though – The Man requires us to run a 34mm restrictor on the turbo. It’ll still be interesting though.
This all needs to be done in April as we will be racing at the Lanark Highlands Forest Rally May 2nd. It would be great to see people there so if you can make it you should; there is a nice drive from Kingston up Highway 10 to Perth if you don’t happen to be towing a car on a trailer. (And if you’re Ross you can probably make it a fun drive even then!)
Also, before that we’re aiming to get the car out for the first ever Cars and Coffee in Schomberg, which should happen April 26. We’ll post a confirmation when we have it.
We will also continue to update the blog as things ramp up and we’ll also continue to post on F-Book at www.Facebook.com/Rallysputnik. We have a youtube channel (www.YouTube.com/RallySputnik) and even Instagram and Twitter. Which we’ll work on updating more. We hope to hit all the Ontario rallies plus some test days and car shows, and we’ve already booked the cottage for Pines 2015!
Hope to see you there.