Rallycross North Augusta 4 Oct 09

The last rallycross of the season with the Motorsport Club of Ottawa was held once again at North Augusta Motorsports Park, about 45 minutes south of Manotick. I had prepared the Mazda by replacing a seized rear brake wheel cylinder and installing the rally gravel tires. I loaded it on the trailer the day before so I was ready to go first thing in the morning. The day began with heavy overcast and intermittent light rain, which would result in three events in a row taking place in wet and muddy conditions. It’s become a tradition.

I got to the track at the same time as Greg, the organizer of the event. We looked at the track, which is laid out like a 0.6 km dirt oval with high banking at the ends and a fair-sized hill on each straight. There had been a recent truck race on this track, in wet conditions, and it was pretty badly chewed up. There were deep ruts, large accumulations of sandy soil and very large puddles which were growing as we stood there. Greg took his old Subaru sedan for a test lap and decided that the track was not usable, since the bottom of his car was dragging all the way. The 2WD cars would have a really hard time completing a lap. He called the track’s owner and asked for his help to groom the track. The owner came a few minutes later with a tractor hauling an I-beam and dragged it around for three laps. This smoothed out the ruts and mounds of earth, but the soil was so wet that traction would still be very difficult, especially since it was still raining.

After some discussion, we decided to use the adjacent field and parking area, which is bare earth with some rough grassy areas. The owner dragged his I-beam around once to describe a track of just under one kilometre, using about 200 m of the oval track for the finish. Then we laid out cones to define the turns plus the start and finish boxes and we were ready to go. For the most part, the new track was much drier than the oval, although there were several places where the sandy soil was quite soft and muddy. The finishing section in the oval included a huge puddle at the bottom of the banking, with at least 6” of water, followed by very soupy mud all the way to the finish box. About halfway through the new route, we placed the cones in a manner which defined a series of three esses, to keep speeds down and to increase the difficulty.

By this time it was about 10 o’clock and all of the competitors had trickled in and registered. There were 16 in total, with several sharing cars. In the AWD category there were a couple of old Subies with at least four drivers, plus a very nice Toyota Celica Turbo coupe. In RWD there was only Chuck with his 1982 Lancia Monte Carlo, since the guys with the old Datsun 510 couldn’t come. That left about 11 competitors in FWD, including myself, a VW Scirocco, a Saturn wagon and a VW Golf rally car, all shared by multiple drivers. Theoretically you can run a street car in rallycross, but hardly anyone does, because of the potential for damage and the guarantee of a major coating of sticky mud on everything.
We began with a pace lap to learn the layout of the course and then the fun began. All the cars were assigned numbers (two for shared cars) and released one at a time for a single lap of the circuit. It was till raining lightly and pretty cool, so the driving was challenging, the “paddock” became a muddy mess and it was cold and wet just standing around waiting or marshalling. We use three marshals on the course to watch for any cones that might be hit (which score a four second penalty) and to be nearby with a fire extinguisher in case anyone has a problem. All the drivers must wear helmets, but windows could (and should in these conditions), be all the way up.

I was car number 4, so the track hadn’t been chewed up very much when I took my first run. My time was a little over 1 minute 20 seconds, which is an average speed of about 45 km/h. That doesn’t sound very fast, but with tight turns and the muddy conditions, it feels a lot faster. Within a few tenths, that was my fastest time, since the track got worse before it began to dry out a bit in the afternoon. Fastest time for the day in FWD was about 1:18, from Vince in the VW Golf. During the worst conditions – just before and after lunch – everyone’s times went up, with my slowest being around 1:29. This was caused by getting into deep, soft sand in one of the turns, where there was very little traction in spite of my off-road tires. The AWD drivers were turning times around 1:11 to 1:15, while Chuck in the Monte was just a little slower than I was.

There were a couple of times when cars got stuck in the soupy mud in the finishing section, but no one needed a tow. In these situations, their run time would be three minutes or more! Going through the esses, more than one car hit a cone, as they were trying to carry too much speed and tried to go through a gate sideways. This happened to me once, but I somehow missed the cones and finished with a time of 1:29. At the lunch break, I was fastest of the 2WD cars, by a margin of about 5 seconds (cumulative) over Vince in the Golf. The method of scoring is simply to add together all of the run times, so he would have two or three afternoon runs in which he could try to make up this deficit.

As it happened, he was able to catch and pass me, due to a miscue on my part, some great driving on his part, and the fact that his car weighs about 1000 lb less than mine, with more power. The Mazda weighs about 3300 lb while the Golf is a little over 2000 lb, so it’s tough to keep up. Vince competes in stage rallies with this car (with Chuck as his co-driver), which has been stripped of all but the essentials (including Lexan windows), and equipped with a roll cage. So I feel pretty good about my ability to stay close to him. My last run of the day was about 1:20 – similar to my first run – still about 2 seconds slower than Vince. In spite of the worsening conditions, I had improved my technique by using the hand brake on three tight turns and going very wide on a particularly sloppy corner to find traction off line. At least the rain had stopped and the sun peeked out after about one o’clock, so the conditions became a little more comfortable.

We stopped running about 2:30, picked up the cones, licked our wounds and were awarded trophy plaques. The AWD drivers took the top three places for the day, while Chuck won RWD (since he was alone) and Vince and I finished first and second (fifth overall) in FWD. Although a couple of cars had lost small parts during the day, everyone was able to drive home – or trailer home, in three cases. All of were carrying about 100 lb of mud, which took me about an hour to spray and brush off when I got home. There was so much mud under the car that at first I couldn’t find the tow hooks to strap it to the trailer! After I change back to street tires, I will take the car to the local self-wash to use their pressure washer under the hood and finish removing the mud from the underbody. My pressure washer has decided to stop working and I’m not sure my driveway drain can handle any more mud! Apart from the dirt, the Mazda is fine and looking forward to three more rallies before New Year’s.


Pictures are posted here:


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