Spinning Wrenches

Posted on 19. Dec, 2011 by in Features

A behind the scenes look at rally service crews - Erik Ockwell, Special to Flatovercrest.com As is often the case in motorsports, the drivers (and navigators in the case of rallying) get the glory. The truth of the matter is, that in most cases, without the service team keeping their machines in top running condition between and during the races, the competitors would not be able to get the peak performance out of their cars. We decided to follow two service teams around at the Rally Of The Tall Pines, the final round of the Canadian Rally Championship. Rocket Rally Racing, who maintain the Subaru Impreza STIs of Pat Richard/Alan Ockwell and Max Riddle/Aaron Neumann.   Open Road Motorsports, who are a sponsor of Peter Kocandrle to service his VW Golf GTI. Peter's co-driver is Alex Kihurani. Open Road were also servicing the Subaru Legacy of Matt Oldford and Andrew Proudfoot, who came all the way from Newfoundland to compete.   The prep before the rally consists of setting up the service area,   And giving the cars a once-over to make sure everything is ready. The alignment on Pat Richard's subaru is checked.   And adjusted by technician Gord Ryall.   Rocket rally keeps their spare parts neatly organized and mounted to the wall racking in their massive trailer.   While Peter has his organized plastic tub system.   During the pre-race festivities, Peter and Open Road Motorsports' Glen Clarke check out the competition.   While Gord keeps Pat Richard entertained and attempts to psych out 2011 Canadian Champion Antoine L'Estage.   Andrew Sorenson charms the crowd and sells Subaru Swag.   Service crews have to be quick thinking and prepared for the worst. As Peter arrives to the first service of the day, he informs the crew of an issue with the drivers' side driveshaft.   As soon as he pulls into the work area, the crew dives in and starts the repairs.   The driveshaft is removed and the inner axle repairs begin.   Things are all systems go with Pat. Only minor suspension setting changes and brake bias adjustments are requested.   Meanwhile, the inner axle on Peter's GTI is repaired and secured.   Final items are checked as Peter gets ready to head back to the stages.   The refuelling is completed in a designated area after the car has left the service park.   The timing of the services is very closely monitored by the co-driver. Open Road only had 20 minutes to complete the axle repairs.   Alan Ockwell uses a specific sheet to track any ongoing issues and notes to relay to the service crew when they arrive.   Between services, the crews take care of odd jobs, from cutting rally tires to alter the tread pattern,   To hanging sweet cereal themed clocks.   The second service for Rocket Rally was a bit busier, having to replace one the front shock absorbers on Max Riddle's after a hard impact caused the shock to fail.   While Pat's Subaru started to show the scars from hard driving on the bumpy forest roads.   Working around the TV cameras is a normal experience for the Rocket Rally guys, providing of course the cameras stay out of the way.   Sadly for Peter, his axle failed again on the third stage and he was forced to withdraw from the rally. This is where the poor VW sat for the rest of the day.   Max, however was all fixed and still in the running for a solid top ten finish.   Let's take a look at some of the other drama going on around the service park. The rough roads and unpredictable weather at this rally always keeps the service crews busy.   Welding control arms together is never a predicted service activity.   Nor is cutting a strut apart with a hack saw. The Nissan 240SX of Martin Walter and Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff was having a rough day.   Flat tires plagued many teams throughout the day. Martin Donnelly does it in style.   It's important to have a good set of spare parts around. The team of Ryan Huber and John Vanos was prepared. Their service crew, like many other small budget teams, consisted of family and friends. No paycheques here. Pizza and beer are accepted methods of payment instead.   Rocket Rally had to replace the transmission and rear differential on Pat Richard's Subaru during the third service of the day. As usual, the guys did an amazing job and got it done in under 20 minutes.   The Open Road guys' day was not done, however. The front wheel shoved into the fender is not a good sign. Oldford/Proudfoot made it through the day though, and made history by being the first Newfies to complete a round of the Canadian Rally Championship. Nicely done, boys.   Sadly for the Rocket Rally Racing team, their day came to an end on stage ten. Pat's second gearbox decided to call it a day, and Max crashed his Impreza into the scenery. It was time to pack up for the day and collect the broken cars from the woods. I hope you enjoyed this look into the challenges of a rally service crew. These guys have to endure long days, long nights and deserve all the credit in the world for their dedication and versatility.  

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3 Responses to “Spinning Wrenches”

  1. Dee Searancke

    19. Dec, 2011

    AweSome article Eric!!!

  2. wallbanger

    06. Jan, 2012

    Well done. Luv the updates

  3. Eduardo

    15. Jan, 2012

    Very well done. Love it. Keep up the good job. 5 star documentary.

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