ValourUnbound New Reader
6/5/19 7:09 p.m.

I was going to post this in this thread, but then it turned out to be 5 pages before pictures, so I made a thread here.


Well, it turns out I didn’t take that many photos, so this will be mostly text.

Background: Last year the driver (not me) decided he wanted a rally car. So he bought a used rally CRX from a coworker and raced that for three events. He finished the first, DNFd the second and third for a broken axle and a rollover, respectively. He wasn’t done yet, so he found another used car, this time a WRX.

I was initially disappointed that we were now using the most popular car, but there are some advantages. One is the entry fee discount (about 38%). The other is the economy of scale. No matter what happens, someone in the service park knows how to fix it, and if you’re lucky, someone will have a spare.

As for the event, this was our second time at Oregon Trail. This is also the second event for the WRX. We found some problems at Olympus and have fixed them, but we’re still learning the car. The crew consisted of the driver/owner, the co-driver, me, and a real mechanic.  This mechanic was amazing. There is no way we would have been able to finish the rally without him. With him, my purpose was regulated to logistics, lunch and fluid checking.

For those who don’t know, Oregon Trail Rally takes place over three days at three different locations. The first day is on a pavement/gravel track called Portland International Raceway (PIR). The driver and co-driver showed up around 10am that day in order to get through scrutineering and the parade lap. I showed up around 4pm, bringing with me shade and water, two things they were lacking. But before that, I was already working. The driver told me he needed some street tires, and I unfortunately had just purchased an older Legacy. We thought they might work, so on my lunch break, I hid the car behind my fence and ripped the wheels off. Then I realized they don’t fit in my already loaded car. Thankfully, my parents were coming to watch the PIR stages and have a minivan. Problem solved.

Back to the track. I show up, set up the tarp, shade, sunscreen and water bottles. The forecast for the weekend is sunny and upper 80s, so these provisions are a must. The driver then comes to me and says that the WRX is broken and we need to fix it ASAP (he has a flair for the dramatic). He says the car is leaning to the driver side, and he thinks the strut needs to be adjusted. We jack the rear up and measure the strut length. 29.5 cm on each side (the driver only uses metric). This is where Javelin found us in his picture below. With that, we lower the car and he runs the stages uneventfully.  I’ve heard it said that you can’t win the rally at PIR, but you can lose. There is jump on the stage, and with jumps come broken parts. Thankfully our driver kept his cool and didn’t break anything.

The next stages take place in Goldendale, WA, two hours away from PIR. The stages at PIR historically have ended around 10pm. We had some discussion about how we wanted to handle this problem. Last year I woke up at 4am in order to get to Parc Expose on time, so I voted that we drive over Friday night. In addition, we decided to get a hotel this time instead of camping. Showers are nice folks. We ended up getting to our hotel around 1:30am (we decided to eat at a Portland restaurant and they were slow). Trailer parking was a hassle, but the hotel staff seemed happy as long as cars could get past us.

With Parc Expose only 5 minutes away, driving Friday night was the correct choice. We got to sleep in until the leisurely time of 7:30am. Naturally, we all woke up before that. We were in our cars by 7:45am with full bellies and clean teeth. Nothing interesting happened at Parc Expose, but here are some pictures.

After Parc Expose, it’s my job to set up the service area. The mechanic and I drove the 40 minutes to the service park and set up the tarp, canopy, tools, foodstuffs and walk the gas over to refuel. Then we wait. Rally has a lot of waiting. 30 minutes before the service, the mechanic gets a call. I’ve been conditioned to think that any calls before service are bad news. The last such call I had received was notifying me of a rollover. The mechanic told me that it had been the driver (he answers all calls in Russian) and that the driver rear strut mount had broken. Now we know why the car looked uneven the day before! Unfortunately, our spares were limited to fluids, assorted bolts and zip ties. This should have been the end of the event for us. With a few minutes before service, we started looking around for a solution. Five minutes later, the mechanic was holding a slightly used strut top mount that another crew had let him have (I do not know who it was, but thank you!).

When the car rolled in, we immediately got to work. We had 35 minutes to replace the strut mount, change tires, check fluids and feed the crew (not critical but it helps). We jacked the rear driver up, throw in a stand and let the mechanic get to work. He is very experienced but he has not worked on this car before, so there was some experimentation as he tried to remove the strut. While he was working on that, I got to work on everything else. The biggest priority for me was tires. These were the tires that I ripped off my Legacy the day before, and we were not sure if they would fit. I had tried to find information about the wheel offset, but all I could find was that the bolt pattern was the same. The reason we wanted to use these tires was to reduce wear on the expensive gravel tires, as the next stage was on tarmac. With the rear already up, I used another jack to carefully lift the driver front and take that wheel off. We test fit the Legacy wheel and it does not fit. It catches on the brake calipers. This was a disappointment, but we can deal with it, so I put the gravel tire back on. At least my street tires will survive the rally J

At this point the mechanic told me that he needed a 7/8” socket to loosen the strut top nut. Another thing we did not have, so the three of us not under the car began to wander in search of one. Eventually we got one and work resumed. Next, the mechanic noted that the CV boot was ripped and that the axle was dry. Guess what we didn’t have. Yup, axle grease. Commence wandering. The same team that had the 7/8” socket also had axle grease (Thanks to crew 503 for all the help!). After struggling to get the strut back into the top mount, we finally got the car buttoned up and move on to regroup (AKA service out) and refuel.  

At refuel I learned about our penalty. 4:50 for being 29 minutes late out of service. Bad, yes, but significantly better than a DNF. Refuel goes smoothly and the car is off. Back in our service bay, we eat and tidy up the hand tools that had been thrown about. We then decide to try and watch a couple of stages. Anyone who has been crew at a rally knows how difficult it is to actually watch your car race. We made it to two stages and watched our car run. Nothing seems broken. We are happy with that. I only have pictures from one of those stages, Maryhill.

After that, we went back to service and awaited the car. Went it came in, we asked the driver what we needed to address this service. Nothing! The fluids were good, the strut mounts were holding and everything seemed fine. The mechanic took a screwdriver to the passenger side strut to see if it was on its way out. He announced that it was good, so we sent the car back out. Then we packed up the service area, as the service on Sunday is in another location. We had some time left, so we headed out to the Oak Flag spectator area. We got there in time to see the Subaru Rally team do their thing. After a few cars, the mechanic's phone rang again. Throughout the day he had been getting other calls from work and family, so I wasn’t as nervous. I should have been. It was the driver. The passenger strut mount had blown. He was going to take it slow through the last stage and we were going to fix it overnight. With that, we began the search for another strut mount.

After this stage was another Parc Expose, this one at a local pizza parlor (food included). We could not work on the car until after that (7:30pm), so the mechanic and I looked over our options. It was currently 6:50pm. There were two auto parts stores in Goldendale. They were both closed until Monday. There were three stores in The Dalles, 40 minutes away and near our hotel. One of the stores was open until 9pm and had the part. In order to reasonably make it, we needed to leave Goldendale by 8pm. With that, we decided to head back to the service park (20 min) without seeing our car and see if there was somebody who would loan us their spare.

7:14pm: We decided to head straight to Parc Expose. When we had left the service park earlier, everybody near us had already cleaned up and left. At least all the drivers would be at Parc Expose and we could see who had a ~2002 WRX. And there was free food. We got to the pizza parlor and watched as the cars came in. We asked anybody who looked like a match. Some indicated that they had one and would be keeping it while others said they weren’t sure if they had it and would have to check with their crew. Phone numbers were exchanged. Another car came in that looked like a match. Car 503! We checked with them and while they did not have any strut mounts, they did have some whole strut assemblies from a GC8. We thought that might work, so we thanked them, got some food and went back to the service park to fix the car.

8:15pm: The GC8 strut mount does not fit. We begin scrambling to find another solution. We call the parts store in The Dalles to see if they would be able to stay open a few minutes late if we paid in advance. Their answer was “we might be open at 9:15pm, we might not.” We decided not to drive 40 minutes on that promise. There were a couple people still in the service park, but few of them had a WRX. Wandering around the whole park, we were walking past the Dirtfish trailer when our driver decided to ask them. Subaru Rally Team couldn’t help, their cars were too new, but Dirtfish runs older cars. Lo and behold, they had something that might work. It was a custom aluminum mount. Our mechanic was able to make it fit, but decided that it would vibrate too much. He had brought along what looked to me like a pool noodle. He claimed that it was pipe insulation. We cut off a 3” section of it and stuck in on the strut as you can see below. What he is currently spraying is roofing paint, which he swears is better than Loctite. He’s either a genius or insane, but luckily we need a little of both to make this work.

10:08pm: We were able to repair the whole thing before dark and make it to the hotel at a reasonable hour. This was the first time I had ever gotten 8 hours of sleep at a rally. Miracles still happen.

The next morning, I got up before the rest of the team so that I could buy some water bottles as we had drank our entire supply. After that we drove off to Dufur for Parc Expose. Once we got there, we checked the struts and the ride quality and everything checked out. The only interesting thing we did was load in a second spare tire. The goal was to have more weight in the back for the infamous Boyd Jump. That ended up being meaningless, so we won’t be doing that again. But man was the crew prepared for a flat now. For the rest of Parc Expose we relaxed in the shade, knowing that there wasn’t much to be had.

 (not my photo)

After the cars got rolling, the mechanic and I went off to find our service area and set up. I was not looking forward to this as last year our service area was extremely tiny. The original map had put us in a field that had grown past my knees and when we pointed that out, we were then put in the shadow of the Hoonigan truck. Thankfully, we didn’t have much in the way of gear or supplies. This year I was expecting worse, as there were almost twice as many competitors this year. When I got to the service park, I found the service coordinator, who showed me the map. We weren’t even in the service park! We were across the street! Initially I was disappointed until I remembered who much space was over there and how few teams we had to share with. We ended up with possibly the best service area ever. We were under a shade tree and had the entire field to ourselves.  One other team showed up, but there was plenty of space for the both of us to spread out. In the picture below, we are between the gold car and the white truck.

Our mechanic had to leave early that day, so we went out to the Boyd spectator area. We just missed our car, but we saw several others. We then went back to wait for the car. This service went extremely smoothly. There was nothing broken, so we checked the fluids and ate a relaxed lunch. After this the mechanic left and I prayed that nothing major would break in the next service.

 (not my photo)

Rather than rush around to spectator spots, I stayed in the service area and enjoyed the shade. I heard over the radio that car 503 had surrendered their timecard, so I went over to return their strut and find out what happened. Turns out they broke a brake line on Boyd 1, replaced it with a spare and then broke the same brake line on Boyd 2. They didn’t have another spare and didn’t feel like fixing it again, so they threw in the towel.

When the car came in for the last service of the even, something was clearly wrong. The bumper was missing! The driver told me about more pressing matters. The exhaust was dragging and the fuel tank skid plate was loose. We jacked up the car and got to work. The co-driver went to the rear to wrap some wire around the exhaust to keep it out of the dirt while I drilled some holes in the skid plate so I could twist some wire to hold the skid plate up. When we had both finished our time was up and off the car went. That was a particularly rewarding service.  It went quick, I got to do more than fluids and nothing terrible went wrong.

With that out of the way, I packed up the service area. I did not have a helper anymore, so it took me a bit longer. At one point, the service coordinator came up and asked if I was the crew for car 360. He was accompanied by a 4Runner that to me looked like it might have been a sweep vehicle. The service coordinator then asked me if we were missing a red WRX bumper. I confirmed as much. He told me that they had found it. What a relief! I was worried that they had found the car in a ditch but they were just returning the bumper.

When I was done cleaning up, I noticed that the Subaru Rally Team cars had driven by, so I walked down to the Parc Ferme and waited for the rest of the team. When they arrived, we reviewed the times to see if they were going to podium. Unfortunately, car 503 was the only car in our class (4WL regional) to retire and we were in 5th place. We wanted to get home before midnight, so we decided to leave before the podium ceremony.

The WRX had finished its second rally though we were so close to failing. If folks had not been generous with their parts we would not have finished. If we had not had a real mechanic we would not have finished. But they were and we did, so we finished. Overall this rally went much smoother than any other, as this is the first rally I have done a second time. It really helps to be familiar with the rally and its surroundings.

Thanks for reading all this way and I hope you enjoyed the ride smiley 

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) PowerDork
6/7/19 11:30 a.m.

Most of the pictures aren't showing for me.


Ransom GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
6/7/19 11:34 a.m.

In reply to DeadSkunk (Warren) :

Same here, I'm afraid.

EDIT: I think I went through the same issue with linking from google photos working for a while when it hadn't before, and then apparently stopped again. I had to download the images linked in one of my threads and upload them to GRM.

ValourUnbound New Reader
6/7/19 1:27 p.m.

Odd. I'll give that a shot.

Javelin GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/7/19 1:37 p.m.

Hey, I recognize that guy in the first photo!

That was a pretty awesome write up about a pretty epic journey. Finishing a really like Oregon Trail as only your second event as a team and with the car was pretty amazing.

What's on the docket for the rest of the season?

ValourUnbound New Reader
6/7/19 2:25 p.m.

Pictures should be fixed, thanks for pointing that out guys.

@Javelin: The only thing left this year is Tour de Forest in September. It's just one day this year but it'll still be good fun. That's what ate the CRX last year so we'll see if the WRX can handle it. One of the major issues was mud, which shouldn't be as big of an issue in September (last year it was in October).


Ransom GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
6/7/19 3:36 p.m.

More fun with pics!

Hey, that actually sounds like fun! I think while the driving aspect of rally has been intriguing occasionally, I have the general impression that for every fifteen minutes on stage you get five hours of rebuilding broken stuff. Maybe it's only half that crazy...

ValourUnbound New Reader
6/7/19 10:44 p.m.

In reply to Ransom :

It's not nearly that bad. At least, not for the service crew. There's only so much the crew can do in 35-50 minutes. Maybe owners would have other opinions as they get to drag the poor car home. For example, I just for off the phone with the driver and he gave me his to do list:

  1. CV boot, replace
  2. Strut top mounts, buy and replace
  3. Brake line got nicked, needs to be replaced
  4. Bumper fell off, pretty scratched up and cracked but complete. 
  5. Need to buy a matching brake caliper (for some reason the front driver and passenger do not match, no how that happened)
  6. New brake pads
  7. New fluids

Sounds like a lot, but I'm an hour away, soi that's no skin off my back.

I would highly recommend crewing for a team (in general and) before building one and driving. Then you can see the sort of things you'd have to deal with.

ValourUnbound New Reader
6/9/19 1:01 a.m.

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