British Columbia, Canada.
Thomas and John Felstead Car 29.
I arrived in the USA on Saturday
10th Feb to be met by Jamie at Seattle Airport
after 16 hours of travelling, I was very tired
and fighting my way through customs, trying to
explain why I was over was fun, not!
They were not making my life
easy at all. I don't think they quite understood
what a rally was and I didn't want to have to
explain how Jamie and I met, as that would certainly
blow their minds.
Anyway, after what seemed
an age of questions and bag searches they let
me through and I could finally meet up with Jamie.
We headed off down to Oregon
for the weekend to stay at some friends, so by
the time I stopped travelling I was pretty exhausted,
did I sleep that night.
Sunday was just what I needed,
I spent a few hours working on a Pro-Rally Subaru
then we hit the beach for a while, that was fun,
my first time in the Pacific, amazingly its wet
Sunday night we headed back
to Seattle, about a 3-hour drive, Jet lag was
really kicking in then so I was grateful to be
at my home for the next 2 weeks. Thoughts then
went to the work we needed to do to Jamie's new
Impreza to get it ready for the rally.
The original plan on doing
the rally was to compete in Jamie's Legacy GT,
sadly that was destroyed on new years day so there
was a possibility we wouldn't make the rally at
all. We were both determined that we would though,
with Jamie's determination and my Rally Prep experience
I knew we could make it, nothing was going to
stop us, that's for sure.
Jamie had installed the DMS
rally suspension and skid guards to her brand
new Impreza before I arrived but we still had
spot lamps to make brackets for, mount and wire
in. We needed to get the snow tyres mounted on
some rims, map light installed, computer system
for the stage timing programmed and linked in
to the ECU, 110V inverter to source to power the
laptop, tow rope, warning triangle, fire extinguisher
etc to install, so plenty to do in 5 days.
As the car is Jamie's daily
driver it meant doing the work in the evening
so it left us very little time to play with. I
mounted and wired the final pair of spots on the
Friday morning, just 2 hours before we headed
off for Canada.
Having the spot lamp brackets
made was an adventure in itself; I went up to
Glenn Wallace's place to have a look at his Rally
car to get the dimensions from his lamp brackets.
These were Glenn's own design and look really
neat, only take 15 minutes to remove from the
car and you can't tell they were ever there. Great
simple design that works!
Richard Squire and I then
spent the next day trying to find a local machine
shop to make us a pair, that was quite a struggle
as the bends required needed some quality sheet
metal work to achieve. We had quotes for $65 per
bracket and we can have them next week! ermmm,
we need them like now!!
We finally found a shop in
down town Seattle who would make them as we waited;
the guy did them in 15 minutes! When I asked how
much I owed, as quite frankly I didn't care at
that point, I just wanted them now, he said as
I was an out of town visitor I could have them
for free, just buy him a beer sometime. Talk about
top US Hospitality. I am going back there this
week with a huge case of beer for that guy.
So I now had the brackets
made, I just needed to drill them, buy the mounting
bolts and spacers, paint them (Jamie wouldn't
let me just bang them on until they looked right)
and then get them on the car. I then wired up
the lights using some proper Hella wiring looms,
one loom per pair of lamps. Although we were tight
on time, nothing was bodged; we did the job properly,
which is the only way I can work, even if it means
it takes a few hours longer.
I was doing all this in sub
zero temperatures with a stinking cold in the
dark but we had a rally to compete in, I have
done this a hundred times before and no doubt
will do it again, its just something you have
to do if you really are keen to compete.
Very few people really understand
the effort required to go rallying until they
try it themselves. I have a huge amount of time
for any rally competitor because of the dedication
So we now had the lamps sorted
out, I now needed to get the laptop computer loaded
up with some seriously trick rally timing software
Glenn and Richard had developed themselves and
the ECU wiring tapped into to give us a speed
trigger. To do this we popped up to Glens place
with the car and connected up the wiring, this
in the middle of a snow storm, this was turning
into one cold week!
Glen then gave me a 15-minute
crash course in running his software, which quite
frankly blew me away, it didn't all sink in but
the essential stuff did. It was fun just booting
the laptop as it is running the latest version
of windows from Microsoft, which isn't even released
for a few months; I wonder how we got hold of
So Friday lunch arrived rather
quickly, we were ready to set off for Canada.
Unbelievably Friday morning
Seattle was hit by the biggest snowstorm for years,
we had 9" of snow at Jamie's. The thought of having
to drive 500 miles to BC in that was not a fun
Amazingly once outside Seattle
the roads were completely clear so we managed
to set a great pace on our way north, we went
in mini convoy, Richard and Glenn in one 2.5RS,
Jamie and I in her Impreza 2.5RS. That made quite
a sight compared to all the American and Import
Cars on the road, 2 rally prepared Impreza's.
I doubt its something seen that often on US roads.
We made great progress and
arrived in Cache Creek, British Columbia around
7.30pm, half an hour early for first registration
so we booked into the hotel and hit the local
Bar for a quick pint. It was bloody freezing though,
just 10F degrees (-12C). Something I would get
very used to in the next couple of days.
After registration Richard
gave me another crash course in the timing software,
which I needed badly, then it was time for bed,
we would be up at 6.30am on the Sat Morning.
Day 1 - Leg 1
We started the day with tech
inspection which consisted of checking the car
was safe and all the requirements like lamps,
extinguishers, tow ropes etc were all in place.
We will be driving in some of the remotest, inhospitable
roads in Canada so we had to be prepared for if
things went wrong. We sailed through that and
it was nice to see that our car looked one of
the best prepped there.
We then completed the signing
on and received the rally decals and number squares
to apply to the car. Even that isn't an easy task
in 10F degrees, what would normally be compliant
sticky back plastic turns very brittle at that
temp, making it quite hard to apply without it
We then had a novice drivers
meeting to go through all the rules and procedures
followed by the main drivers briefing where we
received the first days stage routes. These are
in the format of tulip diagrams and text instructions
telling us the required speed through the different
parts of the stage. We then had 30 minutes to
program the computer with all the instructions
before we had to set off for the first stage.
Richard and Glenn were running
car 1 and Jamie and I were car 29, this meant
I was on my own as I wouldn't see them all day
so I was a little nervous I would screw up the
computer system, I had only received 30 mins tuition
in something that takes years to master fully.
Jamie and I managed to program
in all the stages bar one before we had to leave
for the first stage, that took a lot of pressure
off getting most of the programming out of the
We then had a 31Km road section
to stage 1; this is used as an odometer check
to set up the factor required to calibrate the
PC to the tyres. The PC was setup as default for
195/65 x 15 Hakka 10 studded snow tyres, we were
running 205/65 x 15 Hakka 1 studded snow tyres
so I was expecting the calibration to be out.
Sure enough, after the odocal
section the distance reading on the PC did not
match the true rally distance but I was buggered
if I could remember how to modify the calibration
setting, I was incredibly frustrated by this as
it was essential to get this bang on, otherwise
I could not give Jamie the accurate info she needed
to stay on the correct pace for the stage.
It's probably a good idea
to explain quickly how a TSD rally works. In the
stage instructions you are given the route through
the stage with Tulip diagrams, that is easy for
me to follow, I have used them since I was 17.
Unlike Special stage rallies however, you are
also given a set speed to attain through the stage,
this is known as the CAST, one stage may have
multiple sections of different cast's and it is
my job to tell Jamie whether we are bang on the
correct speed for that section, down to the 0.1
of a second. Also unlike a special stage, a TSD
stage has more than one time control and these
are hidden from the competitors, so its essential
you keep to the set speed all the way through
the stage. Now you imagine being given a set speed
to attain of 72km/h through ice and snow covered
hairpins with 1000ft drop just a few feet away,
it's not easy. What you find yourself doing in
some sections that have nasty bends is say 30km/h
but then having to make up the lost time by doing
120km/h plus where it is safe; it's a hell of
Teamwork is absolutely essential because I have
to make sure we don't go too fast or too slow
to the second through a stage that may be 120Km's
long. Just think about that, 120Km's of driving
accurate to the second; pretty amazing task on
tarmac, never mind snow and ice.
Anyway, back to the rally.
So I now am in the position
where I know my odo reading and therefore speed-reading
is out, but I cant think for the life of me how
to change this! I quickly worked out that the
calibration was 2% out so we set off through the
first stage with me trying to adjust the times
in my head by 2% from what the reading on the
PC told me. Headache, tense nervous headache!!!
On top of this I was reading
the instructions to Jamie, trying to help her
read the road a little as driving on snow and
ice was new to us both, read the tulip instructions
as to when a turn was coming (the stages had NO
arrows like a UK special stage) and try and work
out a way for us to communicate efficiently as
a team, this was the first time we had attempted
a rally together and it takes a little time to
gel as a team.
Things were going pretty
well for our first stage considering I was trying
to calculate what our true speed was in my head,
we then came upon a crashed truck driven by a
local who was driving against rally traffic, unlike
a special stage rally, all the stages were still
open to public traffic so the danger of a head
on was ever constant. Fortunately everyone was
OK and 2 competitors had already stopped at the
scene so we pressed on. The first stage was 44km
long called DEADMAN, great name to settle you
in gently, not!
About ¾ of the way
through we started to catch the car in front,
a Mazda 323 GTX 4x4 car driven by a rather experienced
crew so I thought, ****, I have my calcs miles
out as we shouldn't catch anyone so I asked Jamie
to back off and loose some time. I was so wrong
to do that, it was them that had screwed up, not
us, they were running too slow but I doubted myself
and so made a mistake. We completed the stage
intact and I was really pleased with the way Jamie
had driven, she had never taken her new car off
road before so was learning how it handled as
we went and she was doing a great job of it, never
taking risks but still getting it sliding where
it was safe to get a feel for the handling on
snow, it was a lot of fun to sit and watch her
work it all out.
At the first checkpoint we
were just 5 seconds off perfect time, so my brain
was working pretty well, but at the 2nd checkpoint
because I had asked Jamie to back off we were
30 seconds off, so at the end of the first stage
we had 35 seconds of penalties.
It was now essential I worked
out how to reset the Odo cal for the 2nd stage
if we were to stand any chance of a decent result.
I thought of a bodge to the software I could use
by editing an .ini file that held the default
calibration factor, so I modified this value by
2%, the problem was I didn't know if I should
go up 2% in value or down 2% so it was 50/50 whether
I would get this right for stage 2. It turns out
I chose the wrong way so instead of being 2% out;
I was now 4% out. *sigh*
We had a 84km transit to
the start of stage 2, even the transit roads were
ice and snow covered in the main, just on base
tarmac rather than forest tracks. The transit
roads have no timing to them; you just have to
ensure you are at stage start on time. Also unlike
a special stage rally, there is no one at the
stage start to count you off, it's up to the navigator
(me) to start us on time, as the first hidden
control could be just 100yards up the track if
The 2nd stage was 47km long
of more twisty snow covered roads, with 6 cast
changes, after about a mile I realised I had gone
the wrong way on my speed calcs so I was now trying
to work everything in my head but this time 4%
out, did my head hurt!
Again we caught the car in
front and I was convinced I had screwed up big
time so again I asked Jamie to back off, a big
mistake. We lost 97 seconds in that stage. Unfortunately
we didn't get any times till the end of the day
so I couldn't clarify the times.
At the end of the 2nd stage
I reprogrammed the Odocal factor again on the
PC and this time I got it spot on. I managed to
clarify its accuracy using the transit distances
to stage 3 so for the first time I was 100% confident
in what I was telling Jamie. Sadly by now we had
accumulated 132 seconds penalties which is very
frustrating as Jamie was driving absolutely to
my instructions, I was pretty amazed quite how
well she was driving, that side of the car had
no problems at all and I was enjoying being in
the car, watching her confidence grow as the miles
The next transit was 34Km
long, not a lot happened except me clarifying
the PC accuracy was now spot on.
Stage 3 was 42km long and
about ¾ of the way through we caught the
Mazda yet again, this time I told Jamie to pass
the bugger as he is screwing up, I was convinced
100% I was right and they were wrong now. It was
amusing to watch this guy try and pull away from
us once they realised we were catching fast, they
decided to pull over and let us by after nearly
stuffing it big style trying to keep to our pace,
that made me giggle a little and gave me a lot
of confidence in Jamie's driving as she could
easily beat these guys without any dramas at all,
yet they were all over the place, we had the makings
of a good team I thought after seeing that.
Well, what a difference a
calibrated PC can make, in that 42km stage we
were exactly 1 second off perfect time!! 1 second
in 42km of snow and ice, that's pretty amazing
for a brand new team, I am really chuffed with
We then had a 41km transit
to a petrol halt, filled up and were immediately
into the next transit section of 34km. The time
was now 5.25pm, we had set off at 11am and been
up since 6.30am and we still had 4 hours ahead
of us, this is proper Rallying, non of this daylight
WRC wuss stuff.
Stage 4 was 69km long with
8 cast changes, again another challenging stage
with some really fast sections followed by tight
and twisty sections, we passed an Impreza stuffed
into the snow, way off track after launching on
a snow bank, plus the Mazda 323 off on the other
side of the road at the same junction. We were
making great progress, staying within 1 second
for 99% of the time with relative ease and not
making any silly mistakes. We then came upon a
Range Rover that had rolled on a tricky downhill
series of bends; they were OK so we pressed on.
At the end of this stage we had been 0, 3, 0 and
7 seconds off perfect time at the 4 checkpoints,
again pretty impressive for complete novices,
which is what we were at this sport.
We then had a 22km transit
to the next stage start. We were now into a great
routine, working well as a team and having a great
laugh along the way. We must have been the coolest
rally team out on the road sections because we
went from one stage finish to the next stage start
with Jamie's Trance Music CD's blasting away as
we winded our way through the stunning scenery
Stage 5 was a short and sweet
16km, I don't remember much happening in there
at all, we were again just 1 second off setting
a perfect time.
We then had yet another transit
of 12km to the start of stage 6 which was just
10km long, again we were 1 second from perfect
time. We were getting good at this stuff, Jamie
was driving with great skill and confidence now,
we were really getting into this.
We then had another transit
of just 5km then to stage 7, a rather challenging
Stage 7 was one hell of a
stage for us for one simple reason, the computer
power failed, I just couldn't believe it, we relied
100% on it for telling us distances for when the
turns were coming plus keeping our speed correct.
I made a mistake of not getting Jamie to reset
her trip meter on the dash, although inaccurate,
it would have given me some clues as to how far
in the stage we were. Well, it took me what seemed
an age to reboot the PC and then use a point on
the road book to recalibrate the mileage we were
at in the stage as the odo reading was a mile
out on the PC when it came back up, I used a cattle
grid that was marked on the stage book to recalibrate.
It was at this point I realised we were 3 minutes
down on time, Jamie had been driving blind for
quite a while whilst I tried to get the damn PC
working and we had dropped a huge amount of time.
Well all I can say is the next 10 miles were scary
as hell from where I was sat as Jamie drove superbly
to claw back those 3 minutes, unbelievably by
the last 2 time controls we were back to zero
time, we had a massive 72 second penalty for mid
stage though! What a bummer.
I had such mixed feelings
at the end of that stage because I was so disappointed
that the PC had screwed us up, at the same time
I was just chuffed to bits Jamie was capable of
clawing back such a huge deficit, if anyone ever
doubted that women can drive they should go sit
with Jamie because she is bloody good and shows
one hell of a lot of determination, I was impressed
and I have sat with some top national rally drivers
in my time in the sport.
Anyway, trance music back
on for just 5k's then it was time for the last
stage of day one. This was a fairly short 11Km
that we dropped just 2 seconds on. We then headed
off to Williams lake on the final transit of the
day, just 10k's to the hotel. It was now 9.30pm!!
We had a very welcome hot
meal, quick pint in the bar with some American
rally legends telling their stories like only
American's can. (I love the yanks, they make me
laugh so much with there open conversations) then
it was off to bed. Phew!
We had the 2nd day drivers
meeting at 8am, we were up at 6.30 am again to
make sure we had breakfast and were awake for
the days motorsport. The crash of the local on
day one had caused a few problems in that stage
which we were due to run again as the final stage
of the rally so the organisers decided to cancel
the last stage. This meant we had some major route
book changes to make plus we were started off
30 minutes later than originally planned so we
had to be very careful programming the PC with
the correct times and route instructions.
The first transit was just
30km so we decided to sit in the hotel car park,
finish the PC programming then make our way to
stage start. That meant I could relax and forget
about having to enter the instructions prior to
We then tackled the first
stage of day 2, a 65km stage that was full of
huge exposures on tight hairpins of sheet ice,
now that was great fun to sit and watch Jamie
tackle, she really had a grip on it now, I had
absolute confidence in her abilities, I am just
glad that stage was on day 2 because it had some
incredibly dangerous sections. If we would have
gone off there, as Eric Carlson's codriver once
was heard to say, our cloths would be out of fashion
by the time we hit the bottom of the canyon. (Copyright
Satch Carlson, haha)
In the 4 checkpoints we set
0, 4, 0, 0 time penalties, pretty awesome numbers,
just 4 seconds off perfect in a very challenging
We then had a 30-minute brake
where we went and had a look at an amazing suspension
bridge over a beautiful frozen river in a canyon,
just breathtaking views.
We then tackled the mother
of all stages, 122km of the most diverse forest
roads you can imagine and in the thickest snow
of the whole event, this stage was going to work
us hard. The biggest memory I have of this stage
is when we were down 30 seconds, it was simply
impossible to stay on time, making that time back
up in deep snow over blind crests into sweeping
continuous flowing corners I think will live with
me for ever, it was the only time I thought we
were going off as the car had a mind of its own
at times, jumping from one rut to another in the
deep snow. Jamie fought that car all the way through
the really tricky deep snow section that lasted
a good 20 miles; I thought it would never end.
Absolutely fantastic stuff to watch, I wish I
could have just sat back and enjoyed it but I
was very busy on the road book and PC. The end
of the stage brought a big grin from us both.
Again we had set some great times, for the whole
of day 2 we had just 29 seconds of penalties.
If day 1 had not had the issues with the PC calibration
and power loss we would have finished well inside
the top 10, we actually finished in 17th overall
out of 57 entries. I am pretty sure we were the
highest placed first timers on the rally even
with our problems; I don't think you can ask for
more than that.
The competitive rally was
now over, the fun certainly wasn't though. Whilst
the organisers worked out the results we were
all sent off to play Ice Racing on a frozen Lake.
Now that is a laugh. I got to drive Jamie's RS
for the first time on the Lake, my first ever
experience of LHD with a manual shift was on the
start line for the Ice Racing Track, nuts or what?
We then had the prize giving
which meant we didn't leave Cache creek till 7pm,
we then had a long drive back down to Seattle,
I got the 3rd degree from the US customs yet again
on my way back into the USA, god knows why? We
arrived back in Seattle at around midnight. Now
that is what I call doing a rally, brilliant stuff!!
It seems Jamie and I made
a great team, I would love to come back over and
do another event with her because I think we would
be very competitive. I need to find us a sponsor
to pay for a few days off work for me to let me
do that I think. Any offers?
I would just like to end
on some thanks, firstly to Jamie for agreeing
to compete in this Rally with me, especially after
the loss of her Legacy, to get a new car ready
so quickly shows what huge character she has,
I am so chuffed to call her one of my best friends,
she is very special.
Also a huge thanks to Glenn
Wallace for all the help in getting the spotlamps
sorted and especially the computer software, absolutely
amazing stuff Glenn.
Also, thanks to Richard Squire
for putting such a crazy idea in my head on last
years Network Q Rally over a beer or 5. It's real
easy to talk about doing this stuff but never
actually carrying it through, thanks to everyone
who helped make it become a reality.
Finally to the Organisers
of the Rally, thank you for running a great event
and allowing a Brit to enter. I'll be back!