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2012 Perce Neige - Martin/Ferd Nissan 240SX in-car videos

Posted by Ferdinand 
The Feb 4, 2012, Rallye Perce Neige 2012 was chock-a-block full of adventures. So many stories...

Our adventures started on Friday with a full day of two-pass recce, followed by tech inspection, and new this year a shakedown stage. Shakedown was run on the lower half of the icy Des Eaux stage. Sadly I have no video of any of our shakedown runs, because I had already earlier filled the video card during recce.

Shakedown is a useful exercise because it allows us to test the car's setup using different choices of tires, which is all very useful stuff before having to commit to a particular setup to start the rally with.

We ran the full day of recce on Martin's ice tires, which look something like this. These are normal winter street tires, soft rubber, with lots of little siping cuts which act like little fingernails to grip icy surfaces. These tires work great on glare ice, no so great in deep snow though. That's because at higher speeds the tightly packed tread pattern gives the snow no place to go and the tire tends to float up on the snow almost like hydroplaning.



This year for the snow stages, Martin bought a brand new set of very expensive Yokohama A034 winter rally tires. These tires are magic. They have similar soft rubber tread blocks with siping cuts for acceptable ice traction, but the tread blocks are spaced very far apart allowing them to clear lots of snow. The other advantage is that, unlike the thin vulnerable sidewalls of the street tires, these rally tires have ribbed and armoured sidewalls that are much better at resisting punctures from rocks when sliding sideways on rough stages.



The only drawback of these tires, as we discovered during shakedown, is that the A034 tires have significantly less traction on glare ice. Surprisingly less, as it turns out.

After three shakedown runs with the ice tires, we switched to the A034 tires to give them a try. And man oh man did we ever clout a snowbank! A frozen, hard as rock, snowbank. The car took a beating bending all the body panels on the left side of the car, before we'd even started the rally. That was educational.

photo by Claude Lamoureux

February 14, 2012 06:26PM
SS1 - Marie-Anne 1 -






This first stage is just an easy little 2 km run, but it's notorious for catching teams by surprise. It is always treacherously icy. We started on the ice tires, and chose to take a conservative approach in these first two icy opening stages.

As expected, our conservative pace saw us only 32nd quickest of the 41 starters. But surprisingly we were 2nd quickest of the 2wd cars, tied with


Peter Kocandrle and Angela Cosner, and about 2 seconds behind the Fiesta R2 of Thierry Menegoz and Guillaume Béchard.

Peter is the one to beat in 2wd. He is extremely quick. I suspect the only reason we managed to match his time on this stage is that Peter has learned to treat this deceptively simple opening stage with a large dose of healthy respect. A few years ago Peter lost a lot of time going off into the snowbank on the very first corner of this stage.

At the finish control we stop to joke with Peter Watt who, the night before, had been working the start control of the shakedown stage. Then I told Martin to turn Tee-Left onto the highway when in fact we were supposed to go Tee-Right. Oops.

In the past we always used to run the following Des Eaux stage starting at the north end. Now it's run starting from the south end. We knew that, since we already recced the stage twice the day before. As we turned North, as usual, we encountered another rally car coming the other way. Why are those guys heading the "wrong" way??

Duh.

They were coming back into town from the north end of Des Eaux, having already completed the second stage. It's us going the wrong way. How embarrassing...
February 14, 2012 06:28PM
SS2 - Des Eaux 1 -






Already much discussed on SpecialStage.com, and reiterated at the drivers' meeting before the start of this event, there are new rules and penalties imposed this year regarding safety triangle procedures. Violations are subject to 10-minute time penalties and $500 fines.

It is in our own best interests to be able to rely on our fellow competitors to stop and render aid in the event of a competitor crashing out. If no warning triangle or OK-sign is displayed, the following competitor MUST stop to check on the condition of the stopped team. If a triangle is shown, following cars MUST slow. On the other hand, any team stopping and failing to place a warning triangle or OK-sign are also subject to the same penalties.

During the drivers' meeting we were told that some stupid teams even post self-incriminating in-car videos on YouTube, which can subsequently be used against them to assess penalties.

Hey, wait a sec! That's us. WE are one of those stupid teams who post all our in-car videos. Are any of our videos going to be used as evidence against us? Maybe we should stop posting videos altogether.

There were lots and lots of incidents during this rally. Each and every time Martin and I passed another car we were totally paranoid over whether or not we had reacted appropriately in each situation. The first of those situations presented itself on this stage.

Already before we were allowed to start into this Des Eaux stage, there was a very long delay as emergency crews responded to a crash involving Car #14 which rolled after the jump near the finish line. I think that's the same spot where Andrew Kulikowski rolled his Juggernaut Focus last year:






At the start line, it's Nic Narini giving us the countdown and waving us on our way. Nicola and brother Massimo, of MaNic Racing fame, were last year's Regional winners at this event. But they broke their car at Tall Pines and still haven't fixed it. Instead here's Nic volunteering to help, and doing a great job.

Car #21 is lucky to get away with a high-speed spin on this stage at a very slippery corner: see 1:15






Vittorio Barres, in Car #27, starts into the stage a minute ahead of us, and crashes at that same slippery fast corner. At 2:56 in our video we see his co-driver Mark Vartanian running back waving his warning triangle. He gives us a thumbs-up as we pass. We slow down and find Vito's red Audi jammed into the snowbank. We slowed for the triangle, and saw a thumbs-up, but no OK-sign yet. So techically, were we supposed to stop here, or not? Sheesh.

At 5:45 we pass the abandoned #14 car. We were informed of this incident before starting, so we knew we wouldn't need to stop for this one, but we still slowed for the triangle until we could be sure the road was clear for us to pass by the incident.

After the finish line Martin mentions how he spent the entire stage worrying about whether we should have stopped or not at Vito's incident. All those dire warnings at the drivers' meeting and threats of penalties and fines made us so paranoid that we kept fretting about this stuff for the entire rally. It was very distracting as there were a LOT of incidents to react to under a wide variety of conditions, every one of which required us to make snap decisions, and sometimes we weren't at all sure whether we had made the correct decision.
February 16, 2012 08:24AM
The in car videos are great, it would be awfull to no longuer have them available here.

Keep them coming, and keep up the good driving!
:rally:
February 16, 2012 10:01AM
Thanks Jose. There are plenty more videos still to come, 16 stages in all.

It was a tough event starting with 415 kms of recce already on Friday, The rally is run on Saturday and covers 245 kms over 16 stages run at competitive speeds on snow and ice (no studded tires allowed), plus 265 kms of transits travelled between stages, for a total of 510 kms. It starts at 9am, runs all day, and finishes near midnight the same day.

Some of the US teams who came up to try it for the first time were impressed at the magnitude of the challenge. They said that, in their experience, US events of this scale would be run over two days.

This one really is an endurance event. Of the 42 teams entered, only 18 completed the last stage.
February 16, 2012 10:56AM
They are great, just as the stories. If only they wouldn't make me lose so much time...
February 17, 2012 03:49PM
There's not much to be gained on those first couple of short stages, Marie-Anne and Des Eaux. There's no point in going banzai on these. Sure you might put a couple of seconds on your closest competition, but it's just way too easy to stuff the car into a snowbank and lose a ton of time. It's much too early in this long endurance event to be taking any big risks just yet.

Our strategy is working well for us. After the first stage we were tied with Peter Kocandrle in 32nd place overall out of the 41 starters. Despite our conservative pace on the second stage, we've already moved up to 27th, Thierry Menegoz 26th, and Petey K 25th.

There is a short service stop, and now we head out on a much longer loop. First a repeat of the two short icy stages Marie-Anne and Des Eaux, then the loooong 33 km forest stage of Kitigan Zibi, followed by the always treacherously icy Farley stage and Blue Sea/Bouchette before returning for our next service stop.

Tire strategy is not obvious for this loop. For sure the A034 snow tires are the best choice for Kitigan Zibi, but the other four stages are guaranteed to be very icy. We played it safe and chose the ice tires. We're giving up time on the long snowy Kitigan Zibi stage but, after our crash during shakedown, we're not feeling all that confident about the performance of the A034 on pure ice.

SS3 - Marie-Anne 2 -






We're taking it easy. Not taking any chances here. Thierry stuffed his Fiesta R2 at the spectator hairpin and lost a chunk of time. Of our 2wd competitors, Petey K is 25th overall, we're 27th and 12 seconds behind Peter, and Thierry has dropped to 31st and 33 seconds behind us.

At the finish of this stage we make sure to turn Tee-Right this time, on our way to the start of Des Eaux-2.
February 17, 2012 03:51PM
On the first pass of Des Eaux, Car#21 spun, and Car#27 Vito Bares stuffed his red Audi, both at the same corner.

On this second pass, that same corner is even more slippery, and now it's our turn to whack the snowbank at that same corner...

At 1:50 into the video, it's R5+/Cr and "whoa!", is that ever slippery!! Good thing the snowbank is relatively soft, because we sure went into it hard.

A couple of interesting things to note there. Counting our near-roll at Tall Pines on A2-Upper Hastings, and the fender-crumpling hard smack into the snowbank during Friday night's shakedown stage, and now this high-speed bash into a snowbank, each of the last three times that we've gone off have all been on the driver's side of the car. That's breaking one of the cardinal rules of rally driving, you're always supposed to crash on the co-driver's side.

Martin soon set to work rectifying that streak on our next crash. But that's coming up a little later...

The other thing to note, regarding this soft snowbank, the only reason this one is so soft now is because multiple cars have already been into it before us. The most recent was the Mitsubishi of Michelle Laframboise and Dean Hopkins. They must have bounced off the snowbank on the left, skipped across the road, and then stuffed their car into the snowbank on the right, because they and their car are still there now!

Michelle and Dean started into the stage several minutes ahead of us. They're holding up their OK sign and are both obviously fine. But why the heck don't they have a warning triangle out? We didn't even see them until we'd already lost control of our car. They were not the cause of our crash. But, had there been a warning triangle placed before this corner, we would certainly have approached it slower and likely not crashed at all. Luckily we didn't skip off the snowbank and straight into their car.

Again, after that morning's drivers' meeting and all the dire warnings and threats of penalties and fines for improper triangle procedures, why would anyone not put a warning triangle out in this situation? The words "Michelle" and "stupid" definitely do not belong anywhere in close proximity. On any measurement scale with "stupid" at one end, you'd go have to march a long way out to the other far extreme end before you'd get anywhere near to finding "Michelle". So what's up with that? Martin and I were a bit disconcerted.

It turns out, Michelle and Dean were probably just as puzzled by our crazy actions, thinking we were idiots for crashing here, because they actually had set out a warning triangle. What neither of us knew at the time was that another car had already run over the triangle and blown it away. Since neither Michelle nor Dean actually are stupid, it didn't take them long at all to figure out what had happened and they quickly set out another triangle.

No harm done, we're already past the incident, so we carried on from there only to find another warning triangle just a couple of corners later. Jeepers.

And again, we know this is all going to show up in public on our videos. Did we handle those situations properly? Should we have stopped in that dangerous spot? Are we good to continue? We just crashed ourselves. It was a big hit, bending more body panels, and we're still not sure whether the car is okay. That all throws us off our pace and concentration for the remainder of the stage. It's difficult to put that stuff aside and re-focus on the task at hand.

SS4 - Des Eaux 2 -




February 20, 2012 02:15PM
Our fuel strategy didn't work out quite as planned, eh.

I calculate our anticipated fuel needs based on the combined lengths of transits and stages between available fuel stops. Those distances are the only numbers I actually know for certain. Everything else is estimated. Things like our fuel consumption rate on stages vs transits vs recce are all based on estimates which may or may not be accurate. The biggest mystery is always how much fuel is actually left in the tank to begin with before we've even started the weekend.

None of this is made any easier by the fact that the flippin' fuel gauge doesn't work in this car.

The calculations were further complicated since we used the rally car all day for recce. What we decided to do was deliberately let the car run out of fuel somewhere during recce, so we'd know for sure we were starting our calculations from empty. Except I really didn't want to run empty somewhere way out in the woods on Kitigan Zibi or Tortue. So we calculated enough fuel to get us safely through recce for those two long forest loops, then theoretically we should run dry somewhere closer to home on Lapointe, or the last two recce loops of Marie-Anne and Des Eaux.

Except we never actually did run out of fuel.

Oh well, let's assume it's only running on fumes now and we'll start our race calculations based on that assumption. If anything, we're safe, because we'll be carrying a bit more fuel than we thought. What could possibly go wrong with that plan?

The tank has an 80 litre capacity when full. That's way too much. We never need that much fuel and it's silly to schlepp that much extra weight around when we don't need it. Furthermore, Martin put much softer springs on the car for this event to improve the traction on ice. With a full 80 litres on board we'd be bottoming out the rear suspension everywhere. All of our fuel calculations were aimed at never having more than 50 litres in the tank, which should be enough that we'd never need to use any of the optional remote fuelling stops, but could still get back to the next refuelling opportunity at the full service stops.

Ya, well guess what?

Because these stages were all so extremely icy, Martin was keeping the revs down and short-shifting a lot, so we were using waaaaaaay less fuel than anticipated by any of our estimates. We had calculated we'd need to add 30 litres at the previous service stop to bring us up to our planned 50 litres onboard. That would see us around this first long loop of Marie-Anne 2, Des Eaux 2, Kitigan Zibi 1, Farley 1, and Blue Sea 1. Except, when the guys started pouring fuel into the tank, they only got a few litres in before the tank overflowed!

Crap. That's exactly what we didn't want. The tank is full to the brim, with 80 litres onboard.

The only good news is now we're 100% confident that we're not going to run out of fuel on this loop. :thumbup:

The bad news is we're heading to the roughest stage of the event, the Kitigan Zibi stage, with our soft suspension overloaded and bottomed out, and the tail of the car nearly dragging on the ground. That produced somewhat less-than-optimal handling characteristics. It's not like we really needed that extra challenge.

You can hear the suspension whacking the bump stops all through this next long stage.

Kitigan Zibi coming up next...
February 20, 2012 02:16PM
SS5 - Kitigan Zibi 1 -






After four stages, Peter Kocandrle is still first of the 2wd cars and up to 21st overall. Sergei Grishechkin and Ksenia Prokofjeva in a Golf GTi moved into 2nd in 2wd, and 23rd overall 31 seconds behind Peter. Martin and I are 3rd in 2wd, 3.5 seconds behind Sergei and 24th overall.

This next stage, Kitigan Zibi, is a BIG stage, 33 km long. The video is 30 minutes long. You don't have to watch the whole thing, unless you really need a nap. Otherwise you might just want to skip to the highlights.

Our adventures begin on this stage at 2:30 into the video on a long fast 4th gear straightaway when the overloaded rear suspension bottoms on a bump which kicks the car into a tank-slapper that almost got away from Martin. That could have ended badly, and it scared us for a moment. (Scared me anyway.)

At 3:14 we whack the first of many frost heaves and dips in the road causing the rear suspension to hit with a bone-jarring smack into the bump stops. The heavy car is a real arm-full in these slippery conditions. It's not at all confidence-inspiring.

Skip ahead to 6:15. "50 Dips & L6 Kinks 250" These ice tires work okay if you stay in the icy ruts cut by the preceding cars. But, stray out of those icy ruts, and suddenly the tires are floating on deep snow with no grip. That's scary, especially on fast L6 corners, even more so when that fast L6 comes immediately after a series of deep dips that launch our car (with no rear suspension travel) bouncing into the air... That was another close one!

Skip ahead to 10:30, where we turn off this fast road and onto the narrow, rough, steep uphill section. Surprisingly, nobody has caught and passed us yet.

After what seems like a never-ending uphill icy battle, at 14:15 we finally reach the highest point in the stage and the start into the steep downhill section. And that's where the interesting stuff begins...

At 14:35 it's steep down into a Tee-Left where you can count on someone crashing every year. Sure enough, Ugo Desgreniers and Erik Kirby fell victim to this corner. Warning triangle and OK sign, all good. Nothing we can do for them.

Immediately thereafter we're caught and passed by the flying Lachute Subaru team of Jean-Francois Kirouc and Marie-Josee Lacroix, followed right after by some questionable warning triangle procedures while passing the stuck Subaru of Craig Henderson and Lyne Murphy...

At 16:30 we slow and move over to allow Chris Martin and Brian Johnson to re-pass us. They've been struggling with alternator problems, causing their engine to die intermittently. We then have some fun for a while, driving blind in the blowing snow left behind by Chris' car.

At 17:40 we come across the warning triangle for Max Riddle and Aaron Neumann, out with a blown engine.

At 22:10 we find Chris Martin and Brian Johnson, triangle out, pulled off for good this time, their car's electrics dead.

At 24:45 we come to a bad stage note, "L4.lg.up ends@Cr". It almost sends us off into a snowbank. Left-4 is a tight-ish left bend. This one is noted as being uphill and long, meaning the bend continues for a while.

The Nissan 240 has a long nose which blocks our view of the road, especially when the car is heading uphill over a crest. According to what we had noted, the curve should end at the crest, meaning the road straightens at that point. Not so! The L4 actually tightens at that crest, then continues long into a second crest at which the road then straightens. Martin, trusting our notes, wasn't expecting that and we almost speared off the road.

At 28:35 we find the same Lachute Subaru team again, now stuffed into the snowbank just before the finish line.

We started into this loop on the ice tires, figuring those were the safe choice for the four other icy stages versus this one long snowy stage. Peter Kocandrle instead ran this loop on his Yokohama A034 tires, and man did he ever kick our butts on this stage! We did this 33 km stage in 28:24, whereas Peter was a whole 2:13 quicker than us, finishing with a time of 26:11. Sergei retired with mechanical problems, and we beat Thierry Menegoz by 25 seconds.

So, after these 5 stages, Peter K is now 15th overall! We're still okay in 20th overall, 2nd in 2wd, 2:48 behind Peter. Thierry Menegoz is 21st overall and 45 sec behind us.

Now it's off to two really, really, icy stages -- Farley and BlueSea/Bouchette. Unfortunately, Farley is where we make our first big mistake...
February 21, 2012 12:47PM
SS6 - Farley 1 -






This is the stage where it all went wrong for us. That was really very unfortunate because I think this was also the stage where Martin was demonstrating his best driving so far.

We haven't done a winter event in a while. Martin doesn't get to practise with this car, unless we're actually competing with it. On the first few short stages we deliberately took it easy, being careful not to do anything too stupid so early in the event. That strategy has been working well for us and we've steadily moved up the overall rank as other much faster teams were busy throwing their cars at the scenery.

The long Kitigan Zibi stage was great, but we obviously were using the wrong tires for that one. The ice tires aren't suited for deep snow, and we had way too much fuel in the tank, all of that making for some unpredictable handling. Consequently we were not in full attack mode on that stage.

This Farley stage is always a skating rink. We definitely have the right tires for this. It's also a fairly smooth road, so we're not quite as handicapped by the lack of suspension travel due to our heavy fuel load. In fact, the extra weight in the back might even be an advantage here as it gives us more traction. Just as long as Martin doesn't get too aggressive and gets the heavy back end of the car swinging around too far.

Watch Martin's steering inputs on this stage. You can tell, by how long it takes us just to get going, that the road surface is ridiculously icy. Until about 2:00 into the video, Martin is still experimenting trying to figure out the grip levels, jabbing at the throttle, whoa that's slick, big steering correction.

Now compare that to 2:30 onwards while watching his hands on the wheel. He's totally "got it" now. Martin is relaxed, focused, and calm. The steering wheel hardly ever moves more than a quarter turn in either direction, even in really tight L3 or R3 corners. That's all it takes. The whole time he's steering the car with smooth throttle inputs. No big tire-smoking full-lock drifto action. Just utterly calm, smooth SPEED, while threading the car through the bends. I could watch that all day.

That's why it really sucks that we got caught out by a corner that's notorious for catching people by surprise. Every year this corner is featured on the TV coverage, so maybe we'll make the show this time. At 5:30 into the video we go off deep into a big snowbank.

We realize straight away that we need to get out with a warning triangle. The fender is bent on my side and I can only push the door open halfway, not to mention I have a snowbank piled up against the outside of the door. Then it takes me a moment to get the triangle unstrapped before I can bail out, knee-deep, into the snowbank. It seems like forever, but it only took about 30 seconds before I'm running up the road with my triangle and OK sign, while Martin is hauling out the tow-strap and shovel.

Turns out, there was no hurry because the next car didn't come along for another four minutes. They slowed briefly, took one look at us, figured there was nothing they could do, and continued past. That's understandable. We would surely have done the same thing.

A minute later Alexandre and Nicholas Rochon-Oullette, bless their hearts, stopped to help. Martin clipped on the tow rope. Four yanks later and the car is oh-so-nearly almost out. One more big pull and we should be good, but our tow-strap snapped! Spectators then jumped in to help push the car out the last little bit.

I was still at the top of the crest with the warning triangle to make absolutely sure no other cars come smoking into this scene at speed. But now Martin is calling for me to come back and get in the car. First I wanted him to move the car to a safer location. I hate feeling this exposed, so I got Martin to move the car downstream a bit and to the inside of the corner, where it would be safer for me to jump back in.

I jumped in, thinking we'd right away move the car to a safer location. Because I had been in such a hurry to get out before, and now in such a hurry to jump back in, I didn't take the time to re-position my belts before hopping in. So it takes me yet another full-minute of frustrated struggling to find the ends of the belts, which I'm now sitting on, before I manage to get all buckled up again.

Meanwhile another car goes past us. These guys, Simard & Matte, heroically spent the entire rally pulling other cars out of snowbanks. See:




.

Technically speaking, a strict interpretation of the triangle rules means this team could have been fined for not stopping, since we now had no triangle or OK sign displayed. And, strictly speaking we could also be fined since we are required to display a triangle and OK sign whenever stopped on stage. But, it was obvious to everyone what the situation was here. No harm done.

We were stopped for nine minutes. #@$!
SS7 - BlueSea/Bouchette 1 -






I was hoping that, immediately after finishing Farley, Martin would pull over to scoop all the snow out of his radiator, as that would have given me an opportunity to scoop all the snow out of my boots. Instead we first did the transit to the start of BlueSea/Bouchette and only then hopped out. In the meantime a lot of the snow had already melted in my boots. This would cause me grief later that night when it started to get really cold.

The marshals at the arrival time control of BlueSea/Bouchette (quite correctly) were trying to close up the gaps and delays in the running order and were anxious to wave us in early, so we had to rush our snow scooping activities. But we were surprised when, instead of the two minutes grace time usually provided within the control zone, we were given only 30 seconds until our assigned start time. That's why we're all out of breath at the start of this video.

Other than some alarming new noises coming from the car, this stage was thankfully uneventful for us. But it was spectacularly eventful for 'Crazy Leo' when he spun at high speed and tagged a hydro pole! You have to watch the video of that crash to understand just how lucky Leo and his co-driver were to escape serious injury in such a violent crash.






At 4:30 in our video we turn onto Leo's long high-speed straightaway. At 4:59, passing the last hydro pole on the right, you can see the rear wing of Leo's car lying in the snow at the base of the hydro pole. After the Tee-Right, at 5:22, there are all sorts of black bumper parts scattered about in the road.

At the finish control we learn that it was Leo who had spread all those bits and pieces along the road. That's why he is 'Crazy Leo'.

Now it's back to Maniwaki for a 30 minute service break, during which our crew (Freak & Christoph) jump to work digging huge quantities of compacted and frozen snow out of the engine compartment.
February 23, 2012 06:18AM
A full tank is the most desired extra one can have in a car!
If I was to fill up at current prices it would cost me about 125€.
:wall:

In such case, couldn't you remove gas from the tank, with a siphon or something? There was no time for that?
Quote
Ferdinand
SS7 - BlueSea/Bouchette 1 -






I was hoping that, immediately after finishing Farley, Martin would pull over to scoop all the snow out of his radiator, as that would have given me an opportunity to scoop all the snow out of my boots. Instead we first did the transit to the start of BlueSea/Bouchette and only then hopped out. In the meantime a lot of the snow had already melted in my boots. This would cause me grief later that night when it started to get really cold.

The marshals at the arrival time control of BlueSea/Bouchette (quite correctly) were trying to close up the gaps and delays in the running order and were anxious to wave us in early, so we had to rush our snow scooping activities. But we were surprised when, instead of the two minutes grace time usually provided within the control zone, we were given only 30 seconds until our assigned start time. That's why we're all out of breath at the start of this video.

Other than some alarming new noises coming from the car, this stage was thankfully uneventful for us. But it was spectacularly eventful for 'Crazy Leo' when he spun at high speed and tagged a hydro pole! You have to watch the video of that crash to understand just how lucky Leo and his co-driver were to escape serious injury in such a violent crash.






At 4:30 in our video we turn onto Leo's long high-speed straightaway. At 4:59, passing the last hydro pole on the right, you can see the rear wing of Leo's car lying in the snow at the base of the hydro pole. After the Tee-Right, at 5:22, there are all sorts of black bumper parts scattered about in the road.

At the finish control we learn that it was Leo who had spread all those bits and pieces along the road. That's why he is 'Crazy Leo'.

Now it's back to Maniwaki for a 30 minute service break, during which our crew (Freak & Christoph) jump to work digging huge quantities of compacted and frozen snow out of the engine compartment.

Maybe a stupid question but did you removed the cabin heating from the Nissan? Don't you need some demisting at the windshield? Does the snow and ice melts away by itself when caugt in the radiator and engine bay? Sorry, I'm not used to cold climate driving...:rally:
February 23, 2012 09:32AM
Quote
Jose Pinto
In such case, couldn't you remove gas from the tank, with a siphon or something? There was no time for that?

No time, and it's not permitted.

On highway transits between racing stages, or to and from the service park, we are given a certain amount of time to drive to our next destination. It's usually enough time so there's no hurry, and no need for speeding on any open roads. But there is rarely more than a couple of minutes to spare.

Leaving the last racing stage, we know exactly how much time we have to reach the service park. Then we line up to wait for our proper time before we can check in for service. You get penalties if you check in early or late at any time control. Every minute late earns you a ten-second penalty. But being early is much worse as every minute early earns you a full one-minute penalty.

Typical service breaks are only 20 minutes long, during which the car goes up on jack stands, all the wheels come off, and everything is checked over to ensure nothing has fallen off. That's the usual procedure if there is nothing wrong with the car. Other times the activities are much more frantic. The top teams can swap an entire transmission within those 20 minutes.

Service crews are only permitted to work on the car during the service breaks. Outside of the service park, only the driver or co-driver can work on the car with whatever tools or parts are carried in the car.

No fuelling is permitted within the service park. At the end of our 20-minute service break we have to check out of the service park on our correct time, otherwise we get hit with further penalties. Immediately upon checking out of the service park, there is a designated refuelling zone. An extra 5 minutes is usually built into the transit time to allow for this fuel stop. Our crew can add fuel as needed, while standing by with a fire extinguisher, but they are otherwise NOT permitted to service the vehicle in any other manner.

So, once the fuel tank started overflowing, all they could do was replace the filler cap and send us on our way.
Quote
Jose Pinto
Maybe a stupid question but did you remove the cabin heating from the Nissan? Don't you need some demisting at the windshield?

Not stupid at all. Those are good questions.

The stock heater assembly is still in the car. However, just like the non-working fuel gauge that Martin has never bothered to fix, the heater controls are also in need of some attention... someday...

Windshield defogging and defrosting is the primary objective. Passenger comfort is only secondary.

Actually, it blows too much hot air on Martin's feet, so he has that adjusted to its minimum setting. Meanwhile my feet are cold. That's normally not a problem since I wear my warm boots. It only became a problem when my boots were full of melting snow.

Quote

Does the snow and ice melt away by itself when caught in the radiator and engine bay? Sorry, I'm not used to cold climate driving...

I was a little surprised that Martin didn't stop immediately after the end of the stage to clear the snow from the radiator, as the snow blocking the airflow could easily cause the engine to overheat.

The danger of not clearing out the snow is because the hot engine and hot radiator will only melt some of it. That water then soaks into whatever other snow remains trapped in there, and then re-freezes. So, instead of nice fluffy loose snow that's relatively easy to brush and scoop out, you get a heavy block of solid ice that won't come out until next summer.

The other problem is that the snow can't just drop out through the bottom of the engine compartment because we have a big solid skidplate underneath the car. Everything ends up piled on top of that with nowhere to go.


February 23, 2012 10:10AM
Quote
Ferdinand
Vittorio Barres, in Car #27, starts into the stage a minute ahead of us, and crashes at that same slippery fast corner...

Here is Vitto's in-car video for SS2 - Des Eaux 1:






Wow, did he ever go hard into that snowbank!
February 25, 2012 01:11PM
SS8 - Farley 2 -






After a Service break spent digging snow and ice out of the engine compartment, it's straight back to Farley and Bouchette again.

We're a bit gun shy this time on Farley. It is unbelievably icy. It's slick and slippery, hence "slickery".

We're determined not to stick the car into a snowbank again, and we finish with a time of 8:20. We might have been able to shave a few seconds off that if we'd been willing to push harder. But we've seen how suddenly that can turn around and bite you. It's just not worth the risk.

At the finish line we're caught by the Lachute Subaru car of Kirouac/Lacroix who started a minute behind us. They made up that whole minute on us but, as Martin says, "It doesn't bother me someone in a 4wd Open Class car catching me on something like that. I know that they couldn't do it in this."

And that's the whole point of competing in rallying. Sure it's nice to be faster than other teams. But ultimately the satisfaction comes from competing against ourselves and knowing that nobody could have driven this car faster in these conditions. And if that's not the case, then there is still satisfaction to be gained from the knowledge that we've at least been smart enough not to stick the car in a snowbank (again), because it's no fun to lose 9 minutes that way.
February 25, 2012 01:20PM
SS9 - BlueSea/Bouchette 2 -






Another icy stage.

At 3:50 we find Pat Richard & Alan Ockwell out with a terminal drive-train issue. This is the same stage they DNF'd on a couple of years ago with a transmission failure.

At 5:40 we come to the left turn at the last spectator location. We get a moment of understeer while braking for the turn, so Martin grabs the handbrake to get us turned into the corner. Next thing ya know, we're backwards into the snowbank on the inside of the corner.

Right away some of the people at the corner jumped into action to push us out. Had we just sat tight, they would have had us out in under a minute. But we needed to put our warning triangle out first.

I couldn't open my door as it's jammed against the snowbank. So Martin had to get out with the triangle. No sooner had Martin stepped out of the car to run up the road with the triangle, when the good folk had already lifted the back end of the car and placed it back onto the road.

Martin had to turn right around and run back to the car, climb back in, get it turned around and pointed in the right direction, we get our belts back on, and we're underway again having lost only two minutes.

All this time spent in snowbanks, 9 minutes on Farley-1 and 2 minutes on BlueSea-2, has dropped us down the standings to 28th overall out of the 31 cars still running. Ouch.

The good news is, after this next 20 minute Service stop, the rally finally gets underway for real with the long forest stages.
February 28, 2012 08:31AM
How can Martin drive with the sun low on the horizon ahead, he has some sixth sense or radar or something?!
:rally:
February 28, 2012 02:01PM
Quote
Jose Pinto
How can Martin drive with the sun low on the horizon ahead, he has some sixth sense or radar or something?!
Seeing is over-rated. That's what stage notes are for. smiling smiley

Here's a great video illustrating just how bad the visibility can sometimes get. This is the short Palomino stage on the Rallye Défi Ste-Agathe, north of Montreal, that's always run in the evening just as the sun is setting. It's from our friends John Cassidy and Jennifer Daly, she of knee-sock fame who we gave a ride to last summer down to the New England Forest Rally. I like Jennifer.

I usually don't like rally videos with music covering the engine noise, but this tune was very fitting. At 2:30 they practically came to a full stop because they couldn't see a thing.





February 28, 2012 07:01PM
SS10 - Kitigan Zibi 2 -






It's kind of important at this service stop not to forget to install the rally lights, because it's going to be dark soon. Finally, we start into the long loop of the forest stages.

This time we're running on the Yokohama A034 snow tires. They really do feel completely different than the ice tires we had on before.

The ice tires work great on glare ice, but if you overcook a corner and slip out of the icy ruts onto some deeper snow, the ice tires tend to float up on the loose snow and then you have no traction at all. You think you're doing fine, until a little slip onto the deeper snow, and then suddenly you're surfing off into a snowbank.

With the A034 snow tires it's the other way around. They're more scary with noticeably less grip in the icy ruts. But if you slip out of the ruts and into some deeper snow, suddenly the grip increases!

At 4:40 there is a tight L3 where the tires slip on some ice. But then, instead of the car just floating off into the snowbank, bang, the tires suddenly hook up with great grip as they hit the deeper snow. Martin comments, "These tires are AWESOME!"

You don't need to watch the entire 30 minutes of this video, as a lot of it is "soporific". Skip to the highlights.

Martin has been watching his mirrors for these guys, and at 13:25 we are caught and passed again by Jean-Francois Kirouac and Marie-Josee Lacroix. We're not sure what's worse -- knowing these guys are chasing us and will eventually want to barge their way past, or having them somewhere ahead of us and never knowing when we'll find them upside down and blocking the road.

At 15:20 there's a triangle for Francois Simard and Ghislain Matte, stuck in a snowbank.

And there's another triangle at the last corner before the finish line at 29:20 for Alvin Fong and Billy Machin, stuck way deep into the snowbank. With only rwd, there's nothing we could do for them. Still I feel a little bad for not trying to help Alvin, since he later gave up three minutes pulling us out of yet another snowbank...

It's not worth taking big risks. We were determined not to lose any more time getting stuck. So our pace on this stage was not too crazy. On the short little 2 km long stages, if we manage to be just 1 sec per kilometer quicker than our competitors, we'd only make up 2 seconds. But on this long 33 km stage, even such a small difference in pace still adds up to a healthy 33 second gap by the end of the stage.

Even at our relatively conservative pace on this stage, we managed to move up 5 places in the overall standings, from 28th to 23rd. We're looking good if we can keep this up.
February 28, 2012 08:18PM
SS11 - Forêt de l'Aigle 1 -






This one starts off a little odd when the timing lights fail with less than 10 seconds to go. No 5 second countdown, no green light, but Guy shouts "OK Go!". So, off we go.

This stage is quite a bit more tight, busy and technical. I had some problems with the notes on this stage, fumbling and stumbling over them.

At 3:51 we're surprised to see somebody's wheel lying in the road. Guess they didn't need that one.

At 12:35 we come to the downhill Tee-Right leaving the twisty forest road and turning onto the fast smooth road. We'd been warned at the start to watch out for a car off at this Tee-intersection. It's Keith Townsend and Jen Horsey. They had torn off a brake line earlier in the stage and were hoping to limp back to service. But they couldn't get slowed up enough for this tricky and extremely slippery Tee-Right corner. Their rally ended here.

From the Tee-Right to the finish the road is much faster and smoother, but also much icier. Although the A034 tires are awesome in the snow, we're still not at all comfortable or confident with their handling on ice. So, no heroics on this part.

Still, we're now up to 22nd overall.
February 28, 2012 09:43PM
SS12 - Tortue Nord 1 -






I like this stage. It's another long one, 29 km. But this one has a nice flow to it. We're much more confident with our notes for this one.

Except for at 3:15, it's "180 L4". Martin is startled when the corner turns out be a bit tighter than a "4". He wants that note to be changed to a "L3+". It's always awkward to make changes on the fly, because while doing that there's a risk I'll either take my eye out with the pen, or simply lose my spot and get lost in the notes. But it all worked out okay this time.

At 4:45 we turn square right off of this nice wide road and onto the fun narrow forest road.

At 7:20, there's a warning triangle. It's Jean-Francois Kirouac and Marie-Josee Lacroix, again! This is their first ever rally, and they're certainly having lots of adventures. Their car is beached high on top of a snowbank, and they're hoping for a tow. Sorry, but there's no way our rwd car will be of any use here.

At 9:45 we start into a long series of very fast L6+ turns which all look identical. It's very easy to get lost if you lose count of how many of these have already gone by. But luckily it really doesn't matter. If I get lost I can just tell Martin that they're all L6 until we eventually come to an obvious R6. But I didn't get lost this time.

This stage is fabulous. Martin is really getting into it. He's got these A034 tires figured out now. Then, at 16:30, we get a little fright at a "L4sh/Cr" when we nearly get snagged by a snowbank.

At 17:50 we spot another triangle. It's the Fiesta R2 of Thierry Menegoz and Guillaume Bechard. AND, it's the Mitsubish Evo of Martin Losier and Patrick Losier, both cars piled into each other at the same corner.

Ian Crerar told us later that he was the third car in that train, but only moments before had wisely decided to back off because he suspected this wasn't going to end well. Martin Losier lost it and wound up against the snowbank. Seconds later Thierry came over the crest and slapped his Fiesta up against the Mitsubishi.

At 21:00, another triangle. Wow. Marc Bourassa and Daniel Paquette, buried deep into the trees.

I think this was our best stage of the event. We were feeling quite pleased with ourselves after this one. We moved up another four places in the standings to 18th overall.

Now we transit back to Maniwaki for another service break. The Regional rally event finishes back at the service park. We are scored 6th overall in the Regional event.

The National rally, minus the Regional-only competitors, continues from there for yet another 2nd long loop of Kitigan Zibi, Forêt de l'Aigle, Tortue Nord, and the new Lapointe stage. We still have a ways to go...
February 29, 2012 10:11AM
Quote
Ferdinand
Martin Losier lost it and wound up against the snowbank. Seconds later Thierry came over the crest and slapped his Fiesta up against the Mitsubishi.

You can't get away with anything these days without somebody catching it on video.

See starting at 2:42 in this video.






At 0:20 there's a brief shot of Martin standing in his yellow coat, and me in my hat getting out the Nissan in Parc Exposé before the start of the rally.
February 29, 2012 11:18AM
Wow!

That hit could be serious.
Is it normal to run so close together or it was due to being a long stage?
:eek1:
February 29, 2012 01:38PM
Quote
Jose Pinto
Is it normal to run so close together or it was due to being a long stage?
Cars are started into the stage at one-minute intervals with the fastest cars at the front of the pack and slowest at the back. In theory, if the cars are all seeded in the correct order according to their expected performance levels, the gap between cars should gradually expand on long stages as the faster car ahead leaves the slower car behind.

When it's all sorted properly it works really well, because you're always running between two other cars of near-equal performance. You'll never catch, or be caught by, another car.

In reality though, things always get messy because cars will get stuck or have a flat tire, etc, dropping them out of order down the ranks. So you will often find faster cars catching slower cars. The organizers will try to re-seed cars at some point during the event, changing the running order to shuffle faster cars ahead in the running order, or hold slower cars back, based on their scores to that point in the rally.

Because we were stuck so long in snowbanks, we found ourselves running near the tail end of the order, which mixed us in amongst less-experienced teams and slower cars. That caused us to lose even more time on one of the stages yet to come...

Quote
Jose Pinto
That hit could be serious.
That's true.

Competing on a race track has its advantages in that there are marshals stationed around the track with flags to warn traffic of any incidents ahead. Ambulances and fire trucks are guaranteed to be on the scene within seconds. Rallying is not like that. The nearest ambulance might be more than 30 kms away down a narrow icy forest trail.

In the event of a serious crash, we count on help to arrive within the next minute in the form of the following competitor's car. Our Canadian rallysport sanctioning body requires all competitors to hold a valid First Aid certificate as a condition for obtaining our rally licence. (That's not a requirement in the U.S.)

Correct warning triangle procedures are vitally important. Any time you find a competitor's car stopped on stage and they are NOT displaying a warning triangle and OK sign, you are to assume that they are either unconscious or otherwise incapacitated and you are REQUIRED to stop and render aid. If you don't stop, you are subject to a minimum $500 fine and 10-minute time penalty.

If it turns out they are perfectly okay and simply forgot to put out a triangle, then they are subject to that $500 fine and 10-minute penalty.

In any situation where a competitor stops on stage, they must get a warning triangle out immediately and place it so that it is visible early enough to following cars to keep them from crashing into the stopped car.

This was all stressed loudly and repeatedly during the pre-rally drivers' meeting, which is why it was surprising to see so many instances of the triangle rules being ignored.

In this particular case, with the Fiesta hitting the Mitsubishi, it started with Ian Crerar in another Mitsubishi stuck with his car blocking the stage. Losier and Thierry stopped to tow Ian out. All three cars then took off together and the chase was on, with the Fiesta at first leading the way. Losier managed to pass the slower 2wd Fiesta and only a couple of corners later, this happened.

Luckily, knowing that two cars were closely following, the co-driver in Losier's car had enough sense to sit tight and NOT hop out immediately with a triangle, otherwise there might have been much more serious consequences.
March 02, 2012 01:48PM
SS13 - Kitigan Zibi 3 -






Encouraged by our performance on the long forest stages during which we moved up ten places from 28th to 18th overall, and refreshed by a service stop during which nothing needed to be repaired, we're looking forward to doing this same long loop again now.

Except, almost right away we get stuck again...

At 3:20 we see lights up ahead, where someone has gone off. Oh no! It's Peter Kocandrle and Angela Cosner. Going into this stage, Peter in his Group-2 VW Golf was in 12th overall, trailing the 11th place Production GT Subaru of Warren Haywood by only 1-second. He's losing a chunk of time now though.

Alexandre & Nicholas Rochon-Oullette stopped to help pull Peter out. These are the same good sports who earlier towed us out of our snowbank on Farley-1. It was especially sporting of them to help Peter because they were currently 2nd in PGT and sitting 13th overall in the standings, about 3 minutes behind Peter.

We should have stopped too, but the situation seemed to be well under control and the 4wd Subaru should have the Golf out of that snowbank in no time at all. Alex & Nick already had their car in reverse, just waiting for us to squeeze past and clear out of the way.

But then, disaster. What looked like a wide enough section of road, was actually overplow covering a ditch, and now we're stuck.

Aw, nuts! Bleep, bleep, and bleepin', bleepitty, bleep-bleep. #&%!

My door is jammed against the snowbank and I can't get out. So Martin hops out to join the party and see if he can negotiate a tow for us too. In the process Martin nearly strangles himself with the intercom cable that he forgot to unplug before jumping out, while I sit tight and amuse myself trying to reassemble our broken warning triangle.

Jean-Marc Lord and Michael Morin arrive on the scene and we enlist their help in pulling us out of the ditch. They manage to yank our car back a few inches before snapping our tow strap. That's two straps broken so far.

Alex & Nick have already left. Jean-Marc and his mighty Civic gave it a good try, but they have to go too. While waiting for Angela to come running back from half a kilometre up the road where she had been waving their warning triangle, Petey K. has time to come over to offer us his condolences before they too have to take off.

I've finally got our (busted) triangle reassembled and since we're on our own now, without Angela up the road to warn oncoming cars, we better get our own warning triangle placed. With no other urgent tasks to manage, I now have time to climb out of the car over Martin's seat.

Three minutes later Alvin Fong & Billy Machin arrive to pull us out, and that's when the comedy routine starts...

Martin is trying to hook up our tow strap, while I'm still attempting to knot the two broken halves together. Meanwhile Javor Klostranec & Emily Dowell pass by. Then the hastily tied knot comes apart, so we use Alvin's tow strap instead. All-in-all those guys gave up 3 minutes of their time while we fumbled about until our car is finally unstuck and they can escape from us.

Another minute after that, spent collecting our triangle and refastening seat belts, HANS, intercom etc, we're finally underway again having lost a total of 11 minutes.

That's 9 minutes stuck on Farley, 2 minutes on BlueSea, and another 11 minutes here on Kitigan Zibi. So far, we've thrown away a total of 22 minutes sitting in snowbanks. That's really not good, eh. A podium finish is starting to look highly unlikely.

At 13:25 our intercom freaks out, possibly as a result of the abuse Martin subjected it to when he jumped out of the car without first unplugging his helmet. It does it again 19:40.

At 28:15 I thought we were going to stuff it again when Martin suddenly says, "Whoa!", as the car won't slow on the ice for a R4.L4.

Again at 29:15, on a long downhill into a R4-, Martin says, "Whoa, along for the ride" as there's no braking available on this icy surface.

Javor and Emily must have had some adventure of their own, because at 30:00 we catch them. They had a three and a half minute head start on us, as that's how much longer we were still stuck in our ditch after they had passed us earlier.

At 30:50 there's a slow R2 corner where the road might have been wide enough to allow us to pass. For a moment there, Javor considered letting us by, but it would be really stupid if we both got stuck now. It's not his fault that we find ourselves behind him now. We're screwed anyway, so just suck it up and be patient.

After the finish control, at the stop sign where the stage road joins the main road, Javor stalled his Mitsubishi in the middle of the intersection. Their starter motor was frozen, so they couldn't restart the engine. We had an extra 5 minutes built in on this transit for an optional fuel stop which we didn't need. So we had plenty of time help Javor and Emily try to get going again. But we only had bits and pieces of several different broken tow straps to cobble together between us before eventually a sweep vehicle came along and helped us bump start the Mitsubishi.

What a crazy stage that was. With three stages yet to go, what else could possibly still go wrong...
March 02, 2012 08:18PM
SS14 - Forêt de l'Aigle 2 -






There's not much to say about this stage, other than it was yet another disaster for us.

The first ten minutes are boring, but then we begin to see more and more snow hanging in the air which means we must be catching up to another car. Martin is backing way off the throttle over every blind crest, worried about suddenly coming upon a much slower car. At 10:30 into the video we spot their lights ahead of us. Ok good, at least now we can see them.

Martin asks if we're almost to the main road yet. That's where we Tee-Right onto a wider road where it will be easier and safer for us to pass this slower car. We don't want to crowd too close to these guys yet, because there's no chance of us being able to pass them on this narrow trail. There's no sense in pressuring them into making a mistake which might collect us too. It's better if we just hang back and wait patiently until we reach the main road.

No sooner had we decided that when, around the next blind corner at 11:00, we find the Honda Civic of Jean-Charles Carrière & Catherine Asselin stuck sideways, completely blocking the road!

They're not stuck too badly. We should easily be able to tow them out. But first we need to get a warning triangle out because we're stopped in a very dangerous spot. Javor & Emily are following no more than a couple of minutes behind us.

We finally get a tow rope hooked up, only to discover that it's too icy here for us to reverse back up the hill. Much confusion ensues with more time wasted, during which Javor and Emily also arrive, before we all jump out and manually push the stuck Honda out of the snowbank. Then it takes another minute for Jean-Charles to retrieve their triangle and for everyone to get properly belted up again before we can all go.

There's another 6 minutes gone down the tubes.

Only in a very few limited scenarios can one petition the stewards for a time-allowance for time lost helping another competitor, for example in a medical emergency. This ain't one of those scenarios. This is a "force majeure" situation, which translated from French means, "you're screwed". This is rally. Stuff like this happens. Deal with it and move on.

We're no longer competitive anyway, so it doesn't really matter to us. But at the rate we're clocking up wasted time in snowbanks, we must be getting awful close to Max Late and we risk being time-barred and excluded. Add this 6-minute delay to our previous 22 minutes of stuckage, and we're now up to a total of 28 minutes stopped on stage. I think that's a new record for us.

As we're pulling away we notice in our mirrors that Javor has stalled the Mitsubishi again. With his frozen starter motor that could mean more trouble. But thankfully he manages to get the engine bump started by letting the car roll downhill.

No worries. Things could always be worse, eh?

Naturally, that principle is put into effect immediately at the start of the next stage...
March 03, 2012 07:20PM
SS15 - Tortue Nord 2 -






Because we were delayed so long on previous stages, there's now a big gap ahead of us in the running order. To close up that gap as much as possible, rather than make us sit and wait for our scheduled check-in times, the marshals at the arrival controls of the previous stages have all been waving us in early. We then ask them to record our time-in as our properly calculated time, they assign us an out-time to start the stage, and all is good.

Soooooo, still pumped up on adrenaline from our adventures on the previous stages, we arrived at the start control of the Tortue stage. There's no lineup as everybody else had already left long ago, and without thinking we drove straight into the control to ask for our proper time. Of course that's a big no-no. You cannot enter a control zone until your proper time, unless invited in early by the marshals.

No amount of pleading, grovelling, or snivelling could convince the marshal to record anything other than the actual time at which we entered the control, which happened to be a full two minutes too early.

Presto. The reward for that bit of inattention was an instant two-minute penalty!

That's added on top of our already 28 minutes of snowbank delays, for a grand total of 30 completely unnecessary supplemental minutes added to our actual total running time on stage. Sheesh.

Thankfully the entire stage was otherwise uneventful. Just a refreshing 25 minute blast up this awesome 29 km long Tortue stage.

Only one more still to go, the new Lapointe stage...
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