Last weekend, October 22/23, Frank Beyer and Mike Mazoway attended the International Rally of New York in Narrowsburg, NY to help out as volunteers. Frank (aka Dr. Devio) prepared the following report about that rally:
“…in one of the biggest upsets in Syracuse University history, your Orangemen have defeated the 11th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers…”. That’s how Mike Mazoway and I finished our Friday night, sitting in Mike’s truck parked in a field in the Catskills where we could get a radio signal, instead of in the Carrier Dome. (Oops, wrong sport).
Mike and I brought our 123 (sometimes seems that many) combined years of rally experience to assist the volunteer effort putting on the International Rally NY, held at the Ten Mile River Scout Camp in Narrowsburg, and, just outside nearby Monticello. Mike, newly-minted radio hand was itching to show me the pro rally radio ropes. I had recently spent a weekend up in Harrisville working timing controls on Black River Stages, and this was a chance to watch a rally develop from the “back seat”, running slow sweep of the stages, picking up the pieces that fell off rally cars, and sometimes whole cars themselves, as we cleared each stage after the cars raced through.
Twenty-five years ago Greg Gonya and I had swept Susquehannock Trail; I could see what’s changed and with the radio on board, follow the rally results in real time and observe how others administer a pro rally.
Some things have not changed: back in the dark ages, pro rally/racing was split up among various sanctioning bodies (SCCA, NARRA, CSCA, etc), and that hasn’t changed. Today, it appears that rally racing has USRC, NASA, Rally America, CARS, and who knows what else, where each group has their own rules, their own classes for cars, and a whole
set of grudges among the competitors and organizers. People, can’t we just get along? This stuff has gotten to the point where no series runs enough rallies to make for a realistic title chase, splits up the number of entries, and makes the sport tough to follow. It’s as bad as boxing!
How about a summit to get all the organizers to stop competing against each other, develop a common rulebook, a calendar that promotes competition and allows competitors to support every event, making a true national/international championship. The competitors are putting on a fine show, the car manufacturers are looking for opportunities to sell smaller cars (hello Ford and Mini); why not capitalize with a big-time, whiz-bang series? Even IndyCar did it. Why not rallying?
It takes a village (or two) to put on one of these shows. I don’t have a total of the number of people working the radios, marshalling the spectator areas, filling the specialty official positions, advertising, planning, catering and so forth, but let’s guess there are 50 folks kicking in maybe 30 hours each plus gas and travel expenses to make a rally work. Competitors are getting to play for not whole bunches of money. I haven’t been to a pro rally yet that had enough helpers, and it is starting to show in cancelled stages. The rally community needs to appreciate what it has in volunteer effort.
Organizers/sanctioning bodies need to pull together. You’re splitting up the available pool of competitors and also parsing the worker community. Get together before you argue your way out of business.
Friday’s sign-in, inspections and general schmoozing was held at Villa Roma, which appears to be the remaining Catskill resort of substance in the area now that a number of the old-time places (Concord, Grossinger’s, Kutcher’s) have faded. Tucked away in the hills, it looks to be a perfect facility for checking in for a weekend of sports and hiking the hills. We got our credentials and all the paperwork then went to the rally area, listening to the football game on the radio.
Saturday dawned brisk and clear over the Ten Mile River Scout Camp, a wonder to behold: 12,500 acres, manned by a full-time staff that oversees a jewel. This place is right in our own backyard, criss-crossed with a series of old logging trails that form the backbone of the International Rally New York course, and it looks as if we only used about a third of the whole Campgrounds. A parking lot for service crews. A big lodge/dining hall (with a much-appreciated fireplace) to relax in with food, vendors and rally communications/scoring. Parking for spectators, a separate lot for fueling, all within a minute walk. Bathrooms, even! Rally organizer heaven.
We received a blessing (a first in all my years of rallying) and introduction to the local folks who made the event a reality, plus the rally officials. I thought this was a nice touch so the competitors had a face to go with a name as the event progressed.
Seventeen cars lined up for the start, followed by Safety Sweep Gary Demasi, Heavy Sweep Brian Gager, and Radio Sweep, Mike and me. The main stage road, run a number of times in various configurations 6 to 9.5 miles long is, to be honest, a tough slog: I have only competed on one prolonged stage as rough as this one. It is an old logging trail that has not been improved or cleared in years, providing a nasty test of potholes, humps, bumps, ruts and rocks. The toll was immediate with Car #1, Mitchell Williams/Alix Hakala’s Audi 90 shredding the front left tire (and more) 2.5 miles in. Farther along, Anthony Burden and Ben Nadeau parked their Jetta along the side of the road, stuck in the mud with a broken strut (and more).
Surprise! Michael Reilly and Josh Benthien took Stage #1 in their 2-wheel drive Ford Focus by 6 seconds, ahead of Martin Donnelly & Brendan McCabe in the Erie Concrete Mitsubishi Evo, then proved it wasn’t a fluke by winning the second stage in the Ford by 2 seconds.
Stages 2 & 3 were on the outskirts of Monticello, running roads that were a combination of dirt and paved roads, much smoother that the Camp roads, providing some viewing opportunities for the folks in Sullivan County to leaf-peep and car-peep at the same time. Pretty area.
Subsequent stages allowed Donnelly to respond to the heat from Reilly by pushing harder, as he started to gradually prove to be fastest through the Saturday afternoon session. The two were tied after SS #4, with the All Wheel Drive Gotti Racing Subaru WRX of Matt Gottlieb/Austin Gager 1 minute back in third. This was the point where I started to pay attention to the Production AWD battle between Alvin Fong/Billy Machin’s Mitsubishi Evo and the Subaru WRX of Niall Johnson and Daniela Manago: the cars were 1 second apart, in fourth and fifth places.
The Subaru’s of Chris and Lori O’Driscoll and Ivan and Olga Orisek retired. Donnelly started to pull away, and it seemed as if each car was a little bit faster than the car behind as the field separated. Then a major loss: the Reilly/Benthien Focus holed the transmission by catching a big rock in the wrong place and the underdog was done. Also of note: Erika Detota with Brian Johnson in the right seat had been having an impressive rally in her baby blue, I Love Boobies, underpowered Subaru Imprezza when a major bump turned her transmission into a guessing game of gears, none of which made the car go forward (reverse worked fine). Erika hooked the Imprezza onto the tow ring and we hauled them out of the woods.
We lost the Ian Oliver/Chris Mullin Ditch Gear Subaru after Stage 7 with overheating problems. It seems that the car warms up a bit after the fan shears off due to the radiator hitting it and holes the radiator hose and the coolant goes south. Imagine that.
Now, you knew there had to be a good story coming from all this. Okay, so SS #8 is back in Monticello, a short (1.38 mile) smooth section of wide-open dirt and tarmac, starting directly in front of a synagogue on a hill; I can’t describe the site any better than that. All
day long, William Doyle and Kris Give had been roaring away from the start of every stage in their BMW 325, spinning tires and, I imagine, laughing all the way. No difference here, except that Doyle & Give forgot/didn’t see the slight outcropping of rock just over the start line and down the hill, roared into to it, over it, cartwheeling down the road. We came through shortly after and found the ball the BMW had been rolled, .08 mile from the start line. Folks, that was a condensed smashup. Not a straight body panel left. No harm to either guys, thanks to roll cages and HANS devices.
Darkness came and the remainder of the stages produced no real surprises and everyone pretty much held form, with Donnelly and the Evo 4 minutes clear of Gottlieb in AWD; third and fourth, both Production AWD’s, were held by Fong and Johnson; then the AWD Subaru WRX of Neal Liddle and J Scott Sibya, followed by the 2WD’s: Tom and Brian Barton (Mazda 323), Erik Potts/Steve Case (Ford Focus) and Daniel Spalinger/Michael Beliveau (Nissan truck). Each was separated from the car behind by at least a minute.
Another pretty day in the woods brought a surprise: three of the cars had repaired themselves and were back for more fun: Oliver and Mullen in the Subaru, Detota and Johnson in the Subaru, and Potts and Case in the Focus which was now wearing a crooked smile in the front where the bumper used to be and where the hood used to be straight.
Donnelly & McCabe shot out as if they intended to maintain the pace that had given them such a large lead, and why not? The Evo looked untouched at the start line, just a bit dirty.
Everyone settled in behind, warming up to the task of the 9.5 mile rough stage and came through in order. Or, so we thought sitting behind, listening to the times on the radio band. No, that wasn’t an error in the time for Liddle and Sibya in the Subaru; they had a flat, got it fixed, but it killed their time. And, when we got to the start of the next stage back in Monticello, they had pulled over to the side of the road, retired. (Small joke there – haw, haw, haw).
Pott’s Focus finished the next stage but was finished the rest of the rally.
Stage 16 was back to the Camp, and as we were about to pull out to resume sweeping duties, the word came from Donnelly’s crew. The Evo’s clutch had given up the ghost after all that pounding, and the car was done, a tough end to an impressive drive. Gottlieb and Gager had moved into first place with a 2.5 minute lead over Alvin Fong, with Johnson 2 minutes further back.
And, this was an end to our job. A leaky differential seal had let out all of out fluid and we had to top off some heavy weight oil and smoke our way back home. Scanning the results after we left seems to indicate that everyone remaining continued to the finish. The times indicate that there were some issues for some of the teams but that all seven made it back.
I don’t have official results as I write, but it appears that Matt Gottlieb and Austin Gager took first overall and first in AWD in their Gotti Racing Subaru WRX by over three minutes. Second place to Alvin Fong and Billy Machin (first in Production AWD) in the Mitsubishi Evo, 2.5 minutes clear of third place (2nd Prod AWD)Niall Johnson
and Daniela Manago in their Subaru WRX.
First in 2WD and fourth overall, J Tyler Rohrer/Dane Hylen in a Ford Focus were 3 minutes up on Daniel Spalinger and Michael Beliveau in the big Nissan truck (2WD). Sixth (second AWD) to Ian Oliver and Chris Mullin, proving that all you need is enough water in the Ditch Gear Subaru WRX to make it home. And, overcoming a ton of car issues, Erika Detota and Brian Johnson limped along the way, but finished, in the I Love Boobies Subaru Imprezza (2WD).
These people drove impressively to negotiate that course at speed, and to finish. Congratulations to you and to your crews, who kept you going throughout a long weekend.
Let me give a shout out to my fellow Marshals and Radio Operators, a nice bunch of people with which to spend a weekend in the woods. What an effort by the volunteers, appreciated from the back seat of the rally.