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Wandering Star Rally
Paris, Texas
1992 Page 2

Saturday morning. The day of the big race. The driver, James Cook, let me sleep in a little since I didn't get to bed Friday night until late. About 9:30 AM I'm dressed and ready to go.

First stop is the race headquarters where I verify that we do not need to re-register or re-tech since we took care of it the previous afternoon.

Then I amble over to the car only to find out that 4 out of 5 of our gas cans were stolen from the trailer. What a let-down. We've never been stolen from before. A little digging turns up the fact that we weren't the only ones hit, the racers parked next to us also lost a bunch of gas. I sure hope the thieves enjoy running the gas-oil combination we had mixed in the gas cans!

After a big Grandy's breakfast with James and the rest of the crew, we head next door to Wal-Mart to buy some more gas cans. Since I was co-driving, I tossed the keys to my truck to Renee's boyfriend, Louis, and let him drive the truck-trailer combo out to the service area.

The drivers meeting was scheduled for 12:00 at the service area so about 11:30 or so I put on my race suit and get in the car.

We arrive at the service area in plenty of time. The meeting was pushed to 12:30 so we spent the half hour going over the car once again and planning the service stops.

Drivers meeting over, we line up for the 100 odd feet of transit to the start of the race.

"And they're off!"

The wind was up a tad so the dust problem was minimal. James and I quickly settled into our routine:

"30 left at the top of a T...  10 right..."
"20 left at the top of a T...  10 right..."
(quick look out the windshield)
"Got it?"
(James grunts his affirmation through the intercom)
(Quick punch of a button zeros the computers lower display)
"10 right...  80 ignore right..."

And so on. I swear, James and I have our own language when we race. Short, sweet, to the point. James is busy enough with the car and only wants the meat of the information when we're racing. We save the idle conversation for between the special stages.

The finish line is passed and stage one is over. We pull up to the scorer, give and receive back our score card, a quick check for accuracy of the times entered, a few directions to James as to the route to the start of the second stage, and I bury my nose back in the route book.

A driver spends the transit stages between the special stages leisurely driving down the road and feeling out the race car for abnormalities. A co-driver, on the other hand, spends the transit stages deep in math and calculations.

Stage one was good. Stage two was not.

We started out just fine. James is pushing the car, me, and himself to the limits. I'm settled into reading the route book and keeping from getting banged around too much in the car. We're on a road that consisted mostly of deep sand. More sand than Paris usually offers and the car is fishtailing pretty bad but I'm not concerned. James knows what he's doing.

We pass a pair of racers walking back towards the starting line of stage two. One of them holds up his "OK" sign as we near them so we don't even slow down. Shortly thereafter, we pass the race car they had abandoned; just another of the 10+ cars that Did Not Finish (DNF) the race. Broken down by the severity of racing.

We were still racing though, just into the first mile of stage two. We came up an a 90 degree left turn and I had just started reaching for the computer to zero it out and prepare for the next turn when it happened.

We got through the 90 degree left turn but the rear of the car kept sliding out. Next thing I know, we are sideways in the road and still sliding. I look out my side window and see the road stretching out to the right of the car. James yells "the throttle's stuck" and things started happening fast.

The car is nearly out of control by now. I glance down at James' feet and see him dancing amongst the pedals as he fights to regain control of the car. By now the car is sliding sideways down the road (why does it always seem that it slides sideways towards MY side of the car??) My window is down so I look again to the right just in time to see a wall of dust and sand come pouring into the car and onto my lap.

We grind to a stop. Sideways. In the middle of the road. Just beyond a blind curve on a racetrack. I think to myself "if we don't get out of the middle of the road, the next car coming 60 seconds behind us is going to round this curve and then we're all going to have a real bad day."

About the only good thing going on now is the fact that the throttle is no longer stuck. The damage was already done, though we didn't know it yet.

James jockeys the car a bit and gets it facing the right way again. I shake the dirt off of the route book and give him the next instructions. We save any more conversation for later.

We get near the end of the stage when I notice that the car feels wrong. A totally wrong instruction keeps me too busy to say anything yet as I am trying to make a decision that will make or break us.

Correct decision made. Two instructions until the end of the stage (about 20 seconds.)

Finish line. I inform James that we have 4 minutes to go about 1/4 mile. He informs me that we have to go to service because there's something wrong with the car. I thought it was a flat so called the service crew on the radio and tell them we're coming in on an unscheduled stop for a tire change. Fortunately, we were right next to service anyhow so we didn't have to waste time traveling there.

We pull into service and James tells me that it's not a flat, but rather something wrong with the engine. James hops out, opens the hood, and starts looking for the problem. I stay strapped up in the car and do more math to figure out how much time we have before we start collecting late minutes.

In Pro Rally, you start collecting late minutes for every minute you are late to the start of a special stage. Every minute late is counted the same as if you added it to the time to run a special stage. Not good. After you are 30 minutes late, you are "time barred" and automatically lose the race. No points, no nothing.

We were about 5 minutes late when James asks about the next special stage. I tell him it's a short one with a 45 minute service scheduled after it. He decides to limp through the next special stage and work on the car during the scheduled service.

We start the next stage. The car is barely running. I started giving my instructions to James when it dawns on me that we are going REALLY slow. Finally I say "Take a right up ahead somewhere." The tension broken, we both laugh and settle back while we limp through the stage.

Finished stage three after a leisurely ride through the country. We pull into service. I get out, looking like Pig-Pen as I try to brush sand off of me. James and the service crew are heads deep in the engine, trying to figure out what's wrong. Finally James pulls the plugs and has a look inside the engine. He has us push and pull the car a bit as he looks at the condition of the rotors through the sparkplug holes. Finally he straightens up. "That's it, its over" was all he said, or needed to.

My first DNF after 5 odd years of racing.

It turns out that the stuck throttle caused the engine to over-rev, which destroyed the seals in the back rotor of the rotary engine. Kind of like blowing the piston rings in a conventional piston engine.

We entertained the idea of putting in the spare engine (not enough time), or even going ahead and finishing the race with the bad engine (wouldn't make it), before we figuratively threw in the towel.

No points this year for me. Hopes of even placing in the winners list dashed.

That's it. James is going to re-build the engine or replace it with a bigger one. I'm going to see about upgrading the intercoms to something more reliable and rugged.

So, did you like the information on this page?
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Pro Rally Display
The competition.



VW - Paris

Heading out to race.



Mazda RX7
Lannom in his truck.



Race Image
Before the race.



Race Image
At one of the Service Parks.



Race Image
At a remote Service Park.



Race Image
People we need to beat.



Race Image
More people we need to beat.



Race Image
More to beat.



Race Image
Will it never end?



Race Image
Lined up and ready to go.
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