As summer time approaches, the 2012 STPR (Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally) was the next event on our rally calendar. This would be the first time Mark and I have entered this rally. STPR is well known for its high speed and very narrow roads, with car wrecking trees lining the road’s edge. We knew going in we’d be at a disadvantage to others who have run this event before, but we felt that we could place high in our class, given our past performance against the rest of the drivers entered.
The weeks leading up to the rally were spent repairing and upgrading the bug. At Magnum Opus we experienced a rally ending engine failure, with multiple valve guides loose in the heads. They were damaged beyond repair so new heads were purchased and installed, along with minor maintenance on the car. Just after the previous rally we also received in the mail our new 5 speed transmission. The addition of another gear helps immensely with acceleration and staying in the peak power band for the engine. Mark and I installed the new transmission and engine in time before the rally.
STPR is a 2 day national rally, held in Wellsboro Pennsylvania through the Tioga state forest. Mark, our Dad, and I left for the rally at 4:00 pm on Wednesday, making it to Indianapolis for the night, and finishing the drive on Thursday to arrive at the headquarters in time for Tech Inspection that evening. The bug passed tech with no problems, so we packed up to head to our hotel and later grabbed a bite to eat in downtown Wellsboro.
The weather forecast for the rally included moderate temperatures, great news, but also forecasted was widespread rain. The rally started off with a large Parc Expose’ in downtown Wellsboro. Mark and I mingled with fans and fellow competitors, with our car getting a fair amount of attention, luckily while the rain was holding off to the north.
The stages for Friday consist of two runs on the Waste Management road and once over what was the practice stage, but in reverse. The Waste Management stage road is very tight, twisty, and extremely rough in spots. With the new transmission in the bug we decided to be a bit conservative at the start of the rally. During the first stage we started to hear odd rubbing/grinding noises under braking and hard left hand turns. In addition, the new transmission wasn’t cooperating 100% and shifting from 1st to 2nd gear made a grinding noise. These issues along with our conservative approach cost us a lot of time against our class competitors. We ended up going much too slow and lost over 30 seconds. The stage also took its toll on our car, causing the left rear shock to blow out, and leaking oil everywhere. We managed with the problem, but the rear of the car was bouncing somewhat on the rough sections.
By the time stage 3 rolled around, the rubbing/grinding noises that we heard on stage 1 went away, but the transmission problem persisted. The rough road inflicted even more damage to our car near the end of stage 3, with a bent wheel as the car took one of the last corners and hit a large embedded rock. Later in service we found the cause of one problem, with the right front fender pushed in slightly causing the tire to rub and make the noise we heard earlier.
The day ended at the Tioga county fairgrounds with 2 runs on the super special stage. This type of stage is meant for easy spectator viewing, with grandstands and a short stage all within sight. It’s also unique in that you run side by side against another car. For this evening we were paired up with Steve Nowicki and Jimmy Brandt, driving a 1980 Plymouth Fire Arrow. Our cars were evenly matched, which made for good racing. The firs t stage, Nowicki got the best of us, as Mark overestimated the grip level and overshot the second corner, crashing into a banner. We had to back up, causing us to lose a lot of time and the first stage. The second stage was a lot more successful for us, as Mark got accustom to the grip level. We narrowly beat Nowicki, crossing the finish line a few tenths ahead of him.
As we drove back to our hotel, the rain that was forecast finally moved in, with a huge downpour. Lucky for us, it held off until after our run at the super special, but the rain made for loose road conditions on Saturday.
Day 2 started off with another Parc Expose’ in downtown Wellsboro around “The Green”, their town square. Lots of spectators showed up, with Mark and I handing out posters and signing autographs.
With our slow first day performance behind us, Mark and I decided to pick up the pace and start the day off on the right foot. Stage 6 is fairly fast, with a great spectator point about mid way through, going over a bridge. We end up setting the top G2 stage time, an awesome run of 10:00.8, about 8 seconds ahead of Kevin Turner. Towards the end of the stage we noticed that our car was running hot, so we decided to correct the problem by changing the carburetor jets during the first service. Stages 7 and 8 were slower than we had wanted, since Mark went easy on the car, to avoid any wear & tear due to the higher temps.
Service for Saturday is held at Germania, a small town southwest of Wellsboro. We had 30 minutes to fix the overheating and do our basic maintenance on the car. This was just enough time, as we pulled into the control right on our minute.
The second leg of the day started with stage 9 “Lebo”, a great smooth stage south of Germania along with a spectator point. We set an ok stage time, only 10 seconds off of our competition, and the car was much cooler after the jet change. Stages 10 and 11 were canceled because of a wreck so we ended up going back to service for our second break. Nothing major needed repair so Mark and I took it easy and relaxed before the final 3 stages.
Stage 12 was a repeat of stage 9 and we decided to try and pick up our pace and finish out the rally strong, but this was not to be. About half way into the stage on a straight-away, while Mark is in 4th gear, the throttle sticks wide open. Mark quickly decides it is best to turn off the car and pull over to investigate, because at the time we didn’t know exactly what had happened. After a minute looking over the engine Mark thinks he has fixed the problem with the throttle linkage and we try to start again, but when he goes to start the car, the starter solenoid will not engage. Luck for us there were 2 guys where we stopped at and they helped us push start the car.
We limp through the rest of stage 12, trying not to go full throttle, for fear of it sticking again. Before stage 13 we look over the throttle and think it might have caught on part of the engine tin (this later turns out not to be the cause). We have a few tools in the car and Mark tries to correct the problem by hammering on the engine tin. We start the stage and not more than 1/3 of the way in the throttle sticks open on a right hand turn, spinning the car 180 degrees backwards. Luckily the road was wide in this spot and no trees were on the outside of the turn. I rush up the road to place a triangle and Mark tries to restart the car. After about 2 minutes of cussing at the car, Mark manages to bump start the car by rolling it backwards down a slight hill, so off we go again.
We manage to finish the stage and start stage 14, never going over half throttle. Our finishing position is down the drain, but at least we finish the rally.
Once back home, we investigate the source of the throttle sticking and find that the new transmission is slightly different than our old one, causing the engine to be rotated a few degrees. Because of this, the backside of the carburetor is now rubbing against a hose clamp on the fuel line. This in turn could snag on the throttle and hold it open.
When all was said and done, we ended up finishing 5th out of 15 for the Sherwood Forest regional rally and 12th out of 15 for the Finger Lakes regional rally.
Up next, Nemadji Trail 1, on June 23rd.