ESPR 2015 FULL RECAP: CO-DRIVERS EDITION
By Heather Littlefield
So this was my second event co-driving after BRS 2014. Something I learned to do as a co-driver is, before the race, to ask your driver what their goals are from this event. My driver, Jeff Carl, was looking to finish. Our DNF factor was VERY high however as we only had one spare tire (a street tire at that) and virtually NO spare parts for this event. We ran in a 1981 Mazda Rx-7. So after discussing his goals, I knew that my goal was to slow him down so we didn’t break anything. If his goal was to go as fast as he can, to see how far he can get and had a decent stash of parts, my duties as a co-driver would have been a lot different.
Before the event, I sat in the silly seat in Jeff’s car and could see over the dash. I was very excited because at BRS 2014, I could not see over the dash of the Porsche 944 and I was reading tree lines that entire event. I was excited because now I could reference to the road.
This was my first event running without a Terratrip or odometer. I was using a GPS odometer app on my tablet but it was more of a problem to deal with. I decided to run without using it. I was nervous about this, but because of the set up of this event it wasn’t as necessary.
I spent most of the night before the event, highlighting stage notes, whiting out the +/-, tabbing pages, reading all the notes out loud and going over the transit routes. I spent about 3 hours doing this while my rally mates kept checking on me to make sure I was ok. Organizing is something I highly enjoy, I was in my element.
DURING THE EVENT:
We ran ALL stages minus the ones that they canceled. Day 1 was very uneventful but for us, this was good. For some reason on Day 1, I didn’t feel focused enough reading notes. I wasn’t getting the adrenaline rush I had experienced at BRS 2014 that helped me maintain focus. It was harder for me to get into the mindset for some reason. I believe that reason was that I was adjusting to being able to see over the dash. I learned that I have mixed feelings about needing to see over the dash. There is good to it and bad to it. The good, you can reference to the road. The bad, you can get distracted by what you see. My rally mates that I was sharing lodging with, ended up DNFing doing about 75mph into a tree. They were okay thankfully and somehow managed to drive the car back into service. We finished Day 1 in 15th overall, 4th in class and 6th in 2WD. The car was in decent enough shape to hopefully push us through Day 2.
Day 2 I found my co-driver mindset. I figured out that it was adjusting to seeing the road that was distracting me so I worked on burying my head in the books a bit more. On Day 2 we experienced some minor issues (finally). My speakers weren’t working in my helmet but my intercom still was, so at least my driver could hear me. They reseeded Lajos Jonas and Gary De Masi behind us on day 2. Knowing that they would catch us, we tried to push them both in front of us in between arrival and start whenever they got behind us. Gary ended up passing us on stage at one point and kicked up a few mini boulders that luckily didn’t smash our windshield and only took off a side mirror. Lajos Jonas was able to pass us on stage as well, which was a little iffy but we pulled over to let them by.
On SS16 we lost our muffler on a big bump and Jeff could no longer here me. On SS17 I shoved the intercom to my lips and screamed out notes.
On the last stage, about 2 miles in all of a sudden there was a thump-thump-thump noise and I knew we had a flat and only 1 tire left to get us back that was a street. If we pulled over to put the street on and then punctured that, we’d DNF. Unable to hear over the muffler and lack of speakers in my helmet, I told Jeff we had 4 miles to go and we should finish it. So he threw on the flashers and recce’d it until the end (believe we let 3-4 cars pass us on stage). We finished the stage.
After the SS18 finish, we got out to check the car and it was indeed a front driver’s side tire had gone flat from a puncture in the sidewall. Knowing that we still had to get to MTC before finishing, I began running around in the road like a squirrel about to get hit by a car. As I turned to run back to the trunk to grab the impact gun, Jeff was below me attempting to jack up the car and I ran right over him, falling face first into the dirt. You see, I still had my helmet on. And then, a flashback to NCO occurred, from BRS 2014, when Kristopher Marciniak said that the most injuries occur outside the car with helmets on when you’re running around. Yep, he was right. So after kissing the gravel, I got up and continued on to get us into MTC and we finished.
We took 16th Place overall (out of 33 cars). Took 4th in Class (of the 6 cars) and 8th in 2WD (of the 16 cars). We were only 7 minutes away from a podium finish for our O2H class, not too bad.
WHAT I LEARNED:
Some things I took away from this event is that slow is fast. We placed well because I slowed us down. I felt horrible telling my driver to slow down but I knew that our goal was to finish and to not break anything as we had no parts. My driver listened well to my instructions and we worked really well as a team.
If your car off’s in the middle of the road, it’s not a viable reason to throw a red cross. Get the triangles out there and stand in a spot that’s safe for you, but where drivers can see you use the slow down hand motion.
WHAT I NEED TO LEARN:
Bogey times. I’m still unclear on these. How are these calculated? Where do these numbers come from?
I won’t be able to afford to co-drive again next year as I am graduating college this May and moving with my son half way across the east coast so my savings will be invested in this move. I will however consider any offers from people who have a seat paid for and are in a bind last minute. I am always willing to help out where I can.
THANK YOU TO:
PC Nitrous LLC for being our light sponsor. We ran an amazing light bar set up. These lights cut through the dust trails during the night stages very effectively and helped us gain faster speeds. https://pcnitrous.com
The photographers who came out and took incredible photos. Most specifically:
Jake Peters Photography
Gary DeMasi of http://v8rallyranger.com/ for his generous crew that was out there helping everyone. It was great to see you out there racing again and having a great time with Lori. I love seeing your smile at every event.
Jeff Carl (my driver) for listening to my instructions and trusting me when necessary. Thank you for helping me get another finish on my co-drivers record. You will do amazing things in this sport and I hope that you stick to it. Your team and crew are an amazing group of people.
Matt Carl for getting the car through tech, being there for all of our service times, making sure we were fed and hydrated and for being a truly awesome crew member.
Charli Tameris I’m not even sure where you were most the time, not a shocker though. But thank you for showing up, helping us out when needed and for helping out everyone else. It was great seeing you and I can’t wait to see where your rally adventures bring you.
Dustin Thompson thank you for being there for all service times and working to ensure that everything was done that could be done. Thanks for the smokes also, I probably owe you a pack.
Anna Chau it was great to meet you! I wish had more time to get to know you and discuss our career paths. I hope we meet again, perhaps at another rally event! You got a good taste of what rally is about and I hope you enjoyed it.
Mike Minneman thanks for sharing the lodging with us. You were truly blessed with a great group of people to experience your first event with. I hope you are feeling better soon and I hope our paths cross again at a future event.