WCRA website promoting Stage and TSD Rally Sport in British Columbia


 But what else would you expect by a team composed of a lawyer and a car dealer?  The 2000 Thunderbird was to be AlCan practice for this latest iteration of Team ARF -- for the Pup to learn to use a Timewise, and Steve Norman to see if he could stand more than half a day in a car with the ever-yapping creature.

The T'Bird has become Big Time -- One of the best of the "brisk" TSDs in North America.  This year the organizers, Paul Westwick, Tony Latham, the Mahwinneys, and their dedicated crew who have spent 13 years polishing and perfecting their rally-production skills, were rewarded with the largest field yet for one of the "modern" T'birds -- 45 cars!  The measurements were accurate, the route was interesting, grueling, and well-paced, the scoring quick and accurate, and some substantial sponsorships with very nice prizes.

 The route from Cache Creek via Jesmond, Rail Lake, Beaver Valley, the shorty under the railroad tracks that Jerry always uses, and Meldrum took us to the overnight at Williams Lake.  We were elated to find ourselves in second with 18 points over 20 controls, behind the unflappable Fouse and Wende with only 9, but closely followed by Nispel/Nolte at 20, and then three more experienced teams between 21 and 28, including the Breazles with 26.

While most agreed that Saturday's speeds had been a bit conservative, we knew that Paul had a reputation for stepping it up a bit on Sunday to allow the field to spread out.  Just a little too late we saw Ted Wilkinson with a video camera high on a snowbank above a downhill right then left, and gave him something to shoot when we plowed into the soft snowbank on the navigator's side.  While we were frantically shoveling out, a small SUV stuffed even deeper over the bank behind us, generating more entertaining footage.  Twenty minutes of frenzied digging, assisted by a push from Ted after he used up all his tape, got us back on the road, and we hoped to catch up by skipping the 15 minute gas stop at Lac La Hache, some 45 km ahead.

We were making good time about 3 km further on when we saw a warning triangle at the end of a long straight, and Steve began slowing, as we could not see what was over the little downhill lefthander.  As we crested, we noticed that the road had become very, very shiny, extremely shiny, with greatly reduced traction.  We also saw a red Mazda GTX halfway off on the right, and a nice young couple looking round-eyed at our sideways car sliding directly toward them.  The quick reactions of the driver saved the day, as he got it straightened out and pointed directly at the four-foot snowbank to the right, launching us in a truly beautiful yump, snow flying over the windows, and two big THUMPs coming from below. We landed clear of the Mazda, well clear of it -- and better than 40 feet off the road. Congratulations were exchanged all around, no underwear had been damaged, and we quickly dug out the Mazda and had them back on the road in five minutes.

However, the Sweep crew were still involved with SUV extrication back up the route, so we worked on our tans, skated back and forth on the icy slope, assuring ourselves that we had indeed been deceived by a tricky patch, and poked a bit more at the snow under the car to uncover some sizeable logs and one very solid stump (the louder of the THUMPs, I suppose).  Two hours later the Mahwinneys rolled up in the Sweep truck, with some friends in another rig.  Our heavy-duty 25-foot tow strap didn't come anywhere near the road, and a second strap positioned the truck to attempt a reverse jerk up the nasty little slope.  A dozen or so increasingly firm tugs finally got our car out of the deep stuff, with a heartening lack of tell-tale stains in the pure white, well-packed snow it left so reluctantly.  The only damage appeared to be a bent front rim, and after a tire change we were on our way back to Cache Creek.

 We fell in with the rally on the way, and briefly (0.0005 min) considered joining them for the final regularity, an ice race on a frozen lake (at least I assumed it was frozen), but loyalty to our good friends Satch and Russ, and morbid curiosity about rumors of a blown engine in their car, compelled us to seek shelter at the Wander Inn, almost an hour ahead of the rest of the jolly adventurers.  We had our tales well-rehearsed by the time they began straggling in with reports of the front runners becoming stuck in a ditch when they politely moved over to allow the lads from Down East to pass them.  As the full import of this amazing set of circumstances dawned on us (Oh, No!  Iffa, coulda, shoulda,  . . . ! )  we became increasingly philosophical, with mutual assurances that we had accomplished our truly paramount goals of developing team procedures, computer skills, shoveling muscles, knowledge that the jack is stored under the second of the spares, etc, etc.  We slunk away before final scores were posted, so we really don't know much more at the time of this scrivening.

A quick check with the vehicle's owner this morning yielded the information that a seam in the belly pan had separated (the revenge of the stump), and was being welded as we spoke.  A few other detail items, and Red Dog will be ready for the longest, coldest, toughest winter rally in the world.  I hope we are. - --the American Pup

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