Latest

We Are On Our Way!

IMG_1518

Well, Sabrina and I leave this weekend for 24th Edition of the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, and we couldn’t have done it with out all the help of our friends, family, and partners!

Special shout out to Resqme, who came in at the last minute to help us with the truck rental. They make a fantastic handheld recovery device, with a seat belt cutter and a spring loaded hammer to shatter a window. We all hope we won’t ever need an emergency tool, but having one of these on your key chain is an easy insurance policy. www.resqme.com

howto

You can follow us in real time while we’re in Morocco! Starting next week, just go to www.aichagazellerally.com and you can find daily photos and videos, see how close we are to the checkpoint, and even send us messages! We are team 183.

Other US teams are 107 The Hoehn Sisters, 172 US Nomads, and 182 Team X-Elles.

We thank each and everyone of you who helped us get to the Gazelle Rally. We are entered in the Media Challenge, with the chance to win 15000 Euros for FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered. We’ll be blogging back to www.tflcar.com as much as we can.

Again, thank you, everyone! We’ll do our best to make you proud!

press release sponsors copy

 

 

Battling at Primm

Web credit Phil Kaos

Photo: Phil Kaos

 

This update is a little late.  It’s been a little crazy what with preparing for Gazelles and completing projects at work. At any rate, we had a great time at Battle at Primm February 21-23. We decided to do qualifying trials this year, so I took off for Las Vegas Thursday night, happy to leave my heavy coat at home in DC!

Based on what we learned last year, we decided to lighten our load a bit by not running a spare and by running smaller tires in the rear. While we were getting ready to get in line to qualify, we asked Dad how much gas was in the car. He assured us we had 4 or 5 gallons, plenty to get us through the 2 1/2 mile qualifying run…or so we thought.

As we were in the infield about 20 cars back from starting, we ran out of gas! WE RAN OUT OF GAS, PEOPLE! Mark jumped out and pushed me out of the way, then took off running to where Dad could meet him with some fuel. Meanwhile Dad isn’t answering the radio so I’m calling him on my phone (luckily I had it on me) and yelling, “WE ARE OUT OF F***ING GAS!” So Dad comes tearing across staging, trailer still attached to the truck, spare tires bouncing about, Mark grabs a pail of fuel and jumped in the official SNORE UTV to make his way back to me waiting in the car.

We were able to get refueled and not lose our place in line. We later learned that Dad forgot he had traded 3 gallons of gas out of the car for the use of the smaller tires. This is what happens when bartering goes horribly wrong.

We took off for qualifying and she sputtered for the first 1/4 mile or so, but then came to life and was going great. This was the first time I’d driven with these tires and they were great! They made the car, already nimble to begin with, much easier to turn. It’s like the steering ratio improved by 25%.  Wonderful!

1901905_631318653584662_581684429_n

I drove on Saturday and had a great race except for losing 6 minutes when I put the car on its side. I came into a corner pretty hot and started sliding on the hard packed clay, then we hit the loose dirt and BING! Over we went! Other than that, Saturday was great, but we ended up towards the end of the pack.

roll-over-screen-shot

Mark took over on Sunday and we ended up in an epic battle with three other cars for 3 laps. We would keep up with them in the technical stuff but in the straights they would pull away from us. We were pinned but they just had more power. Fortunately there was enough of the rough stuff for us to catch up and we’d get back in the fight in the infield. In the end the leaders finished way head, but we finished in the middle of the pack with the other guys.

We think we have a few problems figured out. First of all, we were able to weigh the car at she’s WAAAAAY too fat. We have to lose 250 pounds at least. Second, the engine has 1000 race miles on it. If we had money we’d get a new one but we don’t, so she’s getting the top end worked on. Third, the tranny must have the wrong gearing. Other cars should not be pulling away from us like they do in the straights. So the transmission is apart already and in Ensenada, getting worked on.

1012042_631454406904420_1103065078_n

Photo: Phil Kaos

Next for me is the Gazelle Rally in Morocco. We’ll have the 1600 out again hopefully in April or May.

I have some GoPro footage, but Dad somehow ended up with one of the SD cards, so I’m waiting for him to ship it to me. In the meantime, check out the highlight reel from Race-Dezert.  I get an interview!

 

 

LeMons: The Fun Way to Fail

ku-bigpic

I’m a dirt racer.  Put me out in the desert and I know exactly what to do. Put me on the pavement, well that’s another story. I figured the easiest way to get some pavement experience was to join a LeMons team.  That’s how I found myself under the tutelage of Speedy Cop and his Gang of Outlaws.

Calling ourselves the DC Delusional Racers, we bought Speedy Cop’s old Suzuki x-90 and found a 1996 1.8L Miata engine with 50K miles on it.  Our Haynes manual became well worn, we drank way too much beer, but we finally got the damn thing to start up.

We all had high hopes for the Real Hoopties of New Jersey.  Things started with more wrenching as our fuel cell didn’t pass tech and we needed to modify the support frame.  Which meant welding.  Which none of us could do. Here’s the thing about LeMons: everyone is fucking awesome.  I had not one but two teams offer to help.  I didn’t even have to bat my eyelashes, they just…helped.

The next morning we were ready for the green flag.  We decided to put our Australian driver in first because he A) has never driven the car B) has no race experience and C) has never driven a manual with the shifter on the right hand side. What could possibly go wrong?

ku-xlarge5

He took the green flag and had an astounding 20 minute run, but came back into the paddock behind a tow truck.  The water hose rubbed against the exhaust manifold, melted,  and you know what happened next.  Ka-BOOM went the head gasket. It had taken us months to get this engine into the car.  Now here we were at the track with limited tools and time.

But true to LeMons, a veritible Miata God came out of the sky and led us through quickly changing the head gasket and checking the valves. Right around 3pm I got suited up, thinking, “Dear Lord, I know I’m kind of a heathen but please don’t let this car blow up on me.” My prayer was for naught as she wouldn’t start.  We started back at it, replacing the fuel injectors, the fuel regulator, and modifying the timing.

ku-xlarge2

At 1am she still wouldn’t start.

We fell into bed exhausted and out of ideas. The next morning we rustled up a compression gauge (yes I know we should have done this the day before.  Shut your pieholes, I’m learning.) and found that while we had fuel and spark, we didn’t have compression.  Miata God said he would help us pull the engine and look at the bottom end.  After a few hours we got the engine and transmission out, checked the pistons and found them scorched, the bearings shot, and the rings not very happy. We finally had to admit defeat.  Well, first the team tried to pull the engine out of my Miata.  I said GTFO and don’t go near my car, THEN we finally had to admit defeat.

ku-xlarge

Now we have a LeMons car scattered about the metro Washington DC area (Speedy Cop has the car, the engine/trans are in one place and all the spares at another) and we are basically back to square one.  Actually, we are back to square 1/2. But you know what?  It was the most fun I’ve had at a race in a really long time.  Sure, we were working our butts off in the heat, but everyone was helpful, everyone offered encouragement, and everyone wanted to see us succeed.  The guys next to us even offered us a 30 minute stint in their Mercury Cougar, another old Speedy Cop car.

When the track went cold, the beers came out and the music came on.  Everyone was willing to share what food, drinks, and knowledge they had.  Desert people are the same, but not to this extent.  This really was a special weekend.  I don’t know when we’ll be back, but we will.  The x90 will rise again.

 

All Jacked Up at the Freedom 250

Coming through pit row.

What’s worse than one flat tire during a race?  How about three?  Or how about three flat tires AND NO JACK?!  That is what happened to us this weekend at the MORE Freedom 250.

I arrived Barstow late Friday night (side note: sometimes I feel a bit like Robby Gordon…I just fly in/fly out for races.  Good thing the team is on it!) and fell into instant sleep.  The next morning we got out to main pits, did a quick tech, grabbed our gas from F & L, and set off on a quick pre-run.  I have a bit of an advantage as my clean up driver, Mark, usually helps MORE lay out the course.  He also knows every inch of that desert like the back of his hand.  It’s kind of awesome.

Sammy the Bull from Dezert Outlaw Motorsports was pitting right next to us and wanted to pre-run the 29 mile loop with us in his class 1450 truck.  We stayed together until the Mile of Danger, which is really more like Three Miles of Danger, when Sammy had to slow down.  We stopped and waited, radio-ed back to make sure he was okay, and continued on when we heard all was good.  Mark guided me through the course.  We did a few turns twice as they were a little tricky, and got back to pits in about an hour.

An hour after that, Sammy still was not back.  Here’s why:

Yep, broke the whole damn spindle off the truck.  Needless to say, he didn’t race (or did he?) and the Lady Bri is still out there waiting for her knight in shining armor to come rescue her.  If anyone has a winch, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with The Bull.

Russin and I getting ready to do werk.

I was off the line at 4pm with the Russian in the co-dawg seat for the first time.  We picked off a competitor before race mile 2 and had the leader in our around race mile 16 or so.  We chased him for a bit until BAM!!  Flat driver’s rear tire.  We pulled over, Russian got out, and…no jack.  What the WHAT?  All I can think of is we lost it in the Mile of Danger somewhere.  It’s never really fit all that well in the car and that section was really rough.

So….what to do?  No jack, big flat tire.  Russian lifted the back end a bit and I stacked some rocks.  Then we dug under the tire but it was so rocky there we couldn’t dig deep enough.  As luck would have it (for us, anyway), Nick Tonelli picked that moment to have electrical issues (I think) about 100 yards from us.  We limped over, borrowed his jack, shared a tool, and were on our way.  All told though we lost about 20 minutes.

Lap two was clean.  Unofficial time was 48 minutes, which is an average speed of 36 mph, with a quick pit.  The good family team of Bradley Racing was there to guide us safely into pits and lend a hand.  Lap three brought another flat, again lucky for us near a chase vehicle.  Not OUR chase vehicle, mind you, just A chase vehicle.  Big thanks to team 1280 chase who jumped out of their truck, impact wrench in hand, and changed the tire for us.

Lap 4 was clean, but at this point, I was toast.  I was not feeling well.  In fact, I was pretty sure I was going to barf.  I had wanted to try to stay in the car the whole time, moving over to co-dawg for Mark for laps 5-8, but I knew I was spent.  I radio-ed back to see if  back up co-dawg Pepper, whom I knew was coming late from work, was there yet.  The answer came back negative.

I came in just before 8pm and look who was all suited up and ready to co-drive?!  None other than Sammy the Bull.  I literally fell out of the car and stumbled over to a chair, willing myself not to throw up.  Martee is always on hand with a cold bottle of water and this time was no different.  I eventually laid down on the trailer until my body stopped humming.  It took about an hour for me to feel back to normal.

pleasedontbarfpleasedontbarfpleasedontbarf

Mark and Sammy had a bit of trouble with a loose distributer cap on lap 5, but he had a fast 46 minute lap 6.  Alas, the Mile of Danger took it’s toll on lap 7, with another flat.  This time there were no strangers on whom to rely on their kindness.  Chase was called out, but by the time they got to them, we had timed out.

Official results aren’t posted yet and I’m not sure if we’ll get a DNF or just a low ranking.  I do feel very proud of myself for the clean laps I drove.  A former Gazelle told me that after going to Morocco I would be a better driver, and she was right.  I was definitely more comfortable and relaxed.  I was better at picking lines and fixing mistakes when I made them.  Was I perfect?  Oh hell no!  I picked the same damn wrong line every lap in this one section!  But, overall I felt very good.  We were on the pipe quite a lot in 4th gear and I felt very much in control of the car.  There are still times when I am cautious; downhill and sharp turns being the worst.  Much of that is seat time.  Practice practice practice!

Mark, me, and The Bull

So what’s next?  Well, I need many new tires, the transmission could be re-geared a bit, the motor has a bit less than 1000 race miles on it, and I noticed one of our limiter straps is wearing.  Plus we need new bushings, the shocks always need work, and goddamn it I want a new race suit!  I wanted to run the Chili Cook Off in September but I don’t think we’ll have the coin.  We may just squeak through Powder Puff in October and then do a complete tear down in November/December.  We’ll just have to see where the $$$ is.

Thanks to everyone who showed up to help, including Dawn and Andrew, Pepper, Jesse, Chris, Steve, Russian, Mark,  Dad, Martee, Dale, Gary, and new pals Bradley Racing, Big Sam, Pirate Hooker (I swear that’s her name!), Carly, and some guy named Rut with a great red flashy light.

And PS to all my female racers:  Check out how you can be in the 2014 Women of Off Road Racing calendar!

 

Rap Star Gazelles

It wasn’t all technical driving while on the Gazelle Rally.  There were times where we were driving on roads.  Of course, we couldn’t go faster than 50 km/hr, so we had a lot of time to kill.  Sabrina is a professional singer and I have dabbled in musical theatre, so we often sang.  We sometimes rapped.

Badly.