A few weeks ago a good friend of mine Christian Faloppa brought up a crazy idea about racing Sno*drift. Neither of us have had any stage rally experience prior to this, so then came the few weeks of preparation. Christian slaved away with making sure his Volkswagen GTI was fully race ready, while I tried to figure out how to co-drive. After what felt like a year of wrenching and reading with stress levels at an all time high, we finally arrive in Atlanta Michigan, Wednesday of last week, that's where the fun starts.
Thursday of last week we started recce (short for reconnaissance) where we drive through all the trails and add to the notes that Rally-America provide us with. Even at 20mph I was blasting off notes like a mad man, I was struggling to find time to add our notes without losing my place in the pace notes. It was good practice for what would be at double to triple the speed the next day. We started racing on Friday in Lewiston Michigan, first stage I lost my place in the book, made a wrong call and we end up about 1' into a snow bank that we couldn't pull out of. Cool. Light sweep (there were three sweeps, light, medium, and heavy that come through and yank out cars) pulled us out in a jiffy and we were on our way. Not that big of a deal. It was our first time, first day, first stage and rally driving is the most intense racing out there. We didn't have better luck on the second stage of the day either. Going through "The Ranch" we ended up with two flats since the trail was absolutely brutal to the car. We had one spare in the car and that was flat as well, shit. Light sweep provided us with an air compressor so we were able to fill up the spare and replace the front punctured tire. Then we started our way back to service on a punctured rear tire, which ended up coming off the wheel completely. After service on Friday we started the night stages, Christian and I started getting into the rhythm of things. We started driving more as a team towards the end of Friday.
Saturday morning we meet in Atlanta Michigan for Parc Expose. From there we take off to our first stage, which felt terrific. Moving on to the second stage of Saturday and a combination of ice and a slightly late call put the car into a tree, but this is rally so press on regardless. Light sweep pulls us out in a matter of minutes and we're back on our way with a smashed front end. Nothing was leaking so back to going FLAT OUT. We get back to service after two more stages with a smashed front end. Christian along with our pit crew use the Audi S6 to yank out the core support on the GTI. We gathered a crowd at this point as they all stared at Christian work his magic. What an experience.
Sadly a few unfortunate events took us out of the rally later on Saturday, we were 2 stages from finishing the rally. To sum up what it feels like to be a rally co-driver, it's an experience. It's stressful, and fun at the same time. From the moment you get into the car until the moment you step out you're always doing something. Whether it be navigation from the end of one stage to the beginning of the next or making sure you provide your driver with the proper notes to make sure he can drive the corner to the best of his abilities, and let me just tell you, Christian is an extremely talented driver. Rally was easily one of the best experiences I've ever had, and hope to get the chance to do it again! Huge thanks to rallycarparts.com and our pit crew Joe Verla and Anthony Cuthbert. Couldn't have done it without you guys. On to some pictures!
Photo Cred: Steve Pham, Scott Wolforth, and Erik Olsen.