[Author Prev][Author Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Author Index][Thread Index]

Wild West Report

Hi All,

Sorry for my delinquency in getting this report out, but I felt too tired
and lazy to do it yesterday, and didn't have time during the day to send it
out today.  Anyway, here it goes:

The festivities started Friday morning with a press stage out in the woods
with some of the fast cars, including Choiniere's Hyundai, Rui's S2, Janice
Damitio's Celica All-Trac, and a few other top cars that I can't quite
remember.  The highlight of the entire event was the appearance of John
Buffum in Paul Choiniere's old Hyundai Elantra AWD.  The last time Buffum
ran Wild West was back in 1993 in the debut of the '93 S2 that Paul (AKA
Thumper)  ran for a couple of years.  I got to look at the car pretty
closely during tech and see what the drivetrain layout looked like
underneath...rather interesting.

Some of the other cars of interest were of course Rui's S2 with the "rally
whore" Ben Bradley assuming the crazy seat =).  There was also the debut of
a new TAD prepared Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV campaigned by Jamaican David
Summerbell and codriven by Michael Finnell (Henry Joy's old co-driver -
Henry was at WW doing some filming with ESPN2).  As one would expect with
any of Murray Thomas' work, the car was impeccably prepared to the latest
WRC Gr. N specifications.  This car would turn out to be one of the fastest
in the event, despite being down about 120HP to the faster cars.  Carl
Merrill also made his usual appearance in his '97 Escort Cosworth.  There
was a last minute co-driver change in the Merrill camp, as usual co-driver
and Vermont Sportscar owner Lance Smith was injured in a car accident just
shortly before the event, and could not make it.  Assuming the co-driving
duties, was veteran co-driver Ray Damitio!  There were several other cars
competing in the event with a total field on Friday night of 47 cars.

Friday night started with 6 stages deep in the woods on Simpson forestry
roads.  Paul Choinere was first on the road with his step father John Buffum
starting second.  Paul started with a quick pace, but Buffum appeared MUCH
faster.  It was very obvious that Buffum hasn't lost his talent one bit,
although everyone knew that he was going to let Paul win the rally.  Carl
Merrill was running a respectable pace behind the Hyundai contingent, with
Rui starting behind Carl.

 The evening turned out to yield quite a bit of problems for several teams.
The Merrill/Damitio Escort Cosworth hit an embankment damaging the right
front headlight assembly, bumper cover, and slightly cracking the expensive
light pod assembly (housing 6 Hella HID lights BTW (yes, these are the ones
that cost  $1K/each)).  The damage was just cosmetic and they were able to
continue.  Rui's luck didn't seem to be faring much better as through the
first several stages they forgot to lock their center diff and he couldn't
get the car to handle as well as he liked.  The other problem he encountered
was a sticky throttle cable.  I saw one of his crew members unfortunately
bend the cable earlier in a critical place, which most likely caused the
problem.  The only cars that didn't appear to be having any problems were
the Hyundai contingent and new Lancer Evo IV.  The other casualties of the
night were northwest divisional contender John Lane in a Volvo 240??, who
rolled his car several times, and cut his hands on the broken windshield.
He and his co-driver escaped with minor injuries.  The other major casualty
of the night was the ex-Sam Bryan/Rob Walden '95 Gr. 2 championship winning
Saab, which caught fire on a stage, due to a leaking transmission.  The car
literally burned to the ground and melted the engine block and wheels!!

Saturday morning, the rally contingent was down to 41 cars, to run the
remaining 10 or so stages.  The Buffum and Choinere Hyundai's were still out
in the lead with the rest of the field fighting over the remaining
positions.  Carl Merrill's luck didn't improve as they hit an overturned
railroad tie at about 70 mph and damaged the right front strut and lost the
half shaft.  They managed to fix the problems and continued on.  Rui's luck
didn't improve much either...near the end of the day the MoTeC engine
management system was cutting out on them, including when they set the top
speed of the rally at 110 mph.  He continued to struggle with the throttle
problems and later a faulty intercom.  Near the end of the event he lost his
rear brakes and almost hit Dave White's Group 2 VW GTI at the end of the
stage!  It was looking like they could have REALLY used Ron Wood's expertise
for that event! =)

The only other Audi in the event was Chris Tudor and Todd Phenneger in the
5ktq, who DNF'd Friday night for checking into a time control too early, and
DNF'd Saturday with a broken brake mastercylinder reservoir.  They were
running as high as fourth overall in Saturday's divisional before the
problems began!  Chris and Todd should be a team to watch throughout the

To sum it up, Choinere won the rally as expected, with Buffum in second.
The Mitsubishi Lancer finished an outstanding third, despite being down
about 120HP to the bigger cars (he posted a top speed of 90mph where Rui did
110 in the S2), but they were fortunate in that they just didn't have any
problems.  Carl Merrill finished fourth, with Mike Whitman and Paula
Gibeault finishing fifth in a Ford Sierra Cosworth.  Rui finished a
disappointing 8th due to his brake problems.

Anyway, there were a lot more things that happened, but this should give a
general idea.  For more info, check out Ben Bradley's rally page at

I didn't get to run in this event as the Mitsu Eclipse GSX I was going to be
codriving wasn't finished in time for the event.  The next national is in
three weeks at the Rim of the World in Palmdale, Ca. on May 8th and 9th.  I
will be a volunteer for the Gibeaults at that event, but will be around if
any q-listers can make it.

-mark nelson

PS - I have about 100 pictures that we took at WW that I will go through and
scan the desirable ones.  I will post to the list when the photos are ready
for viewing.  Look for highlights on this coming weekend's RPM 2 Night.
This event will be televised on ESPN2 on May 9...the show should include an
interview with Rui and roof shots from Rui's S2 on Friday night!