The Next Phase

I suppose I didn’t grow up as a car person. I tinkered, but I was always so reliant on my car that I never really felt comfortable taking the big step of completely incapacitating it by tackling the large projects. In the last several years I have been really ramping it up, but still, the majority of my labor has had to do with fabrication projects not engine repair, not replacing clutches or any of these odds and ends. Recently I started noticing the clutch in my Subaru was beginning to show signs of wear. A few sounds when the weather is cold and I know that it has seen a bit of abuse. With that being said, I know that I have a bit of time so I have some options.

After a bit of research I decided I may try to use this opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Why not save some labor money and apply it to a new toy, then use that toy to get around while you are replacing the clutch on your main car? So I started looking for a BMW. Yes, a BMW. The idea? To have a fun car that I can get cheap and use for RallyX for a while as well. Since we build the Kerns BMW recently I am reasonably familiar with it as well so it give me a bit of a leg up I guess.

I decided to casually look for one, if I found a cheap one that was in good shape then I would consider it. After a few weeks of looking in Colorado, Arizona and Utah I came up with one, the first that I found that was Manual and also priced within my zone. With a straight body and the promise that it was a runner I started the process of looking at buying it. My friend Rhett, who crewed at Pikes Peak with Valentin and I, is absolutely the best person to take with you to look at a car. Not only does he know every detail of every car (no, seriously) but he also has the technical skill to be able to identify issues as they crop up.

This is where I tell you, yes, I brought the car home. It needs some work and it will be a good project to get started on, but with new tires, a tune up and a few other odds and ends it will be reliable and ready for anything I can throw at it. Fortunately with the 318’s that are currently being buit as rally cars there are a lot of free parts floating around so this project is coming along. Finally, this has gotten me really motivated to sell my Kart too, so that is nearly gone!

Anyhow, without any more delay, here is a photo of the new car. It’ll look a bit better soon!

BMW 318ti

BMW318ti

Check back, I’ll post up some more photos of the car and of the projects that are coming up. Here is the list.

  • Replace a few gaskets
  • Replace all fluids
  • New tires
  • Get the drivers side window back on the track
  • Replace the struts (with struts taken off one of the rally cars)
  • Replace a few trim pieces
  • Remove a bunch of wires that have been tangled throughout the car for various lights and stereo components
  • Tune up
  • Remove door cards and replace them with home made plastic panels. (the door cards are all torn up)
  • Fabricate and add a skid plate
  • Finally and this is purely for recreation

  • Go junk yard diving for a 4.10 LSD to add some pep!
  • Make some mud flaps
  • This is going to be a fun and very educational project for me. Do I know how to do all this? No. But I am itchin’ to learn and I have some good friends to help out.

    Messing around at Georgetown

    Well, yeah, we race on the lake, but I guess we also tend to have a pile of fun while we are out there. After our races the other day we were running some practice laps and Kubo decided to film… well, we couldn’t just let him stand out there all alone!

    After that, well, strap a camera to the hood of your car because Kubo needs to drift while drinking a tasty beverage.

    Ahh, Ice racing… how fun is that!

    The cover photo is by Steve Nelson, the man with the camera and thick soles on his feet. He stands on that lake all day to make some awesome photos happen!

    Gone Racin’

    Whenever you are heading to spend a weekend on a lake in the mountains I think the first thing that people think is fishing. Well, you may know by now that I don’t fish. But I do enjoy racing on Georgetown lake. Recently I was featured in a story about the racing club check it out on KDVR’s site:

    I will say this though. I know that I said that I wasn’t the most competitive on the lake, but I don’t think I said I wasn’t good at it.

    What does a rally co-driver do?

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    Well after my experiences Co-Driving with Valentin Ivanitski and Roger Matthews this year at Pikes Peak and Lands end it has become a definite desire to continue this effort. I have always been a fan of rally and now is a good time to take the opportunity to try it out. I knew there was a lot more to Co-Driving in stage rallys than meets the eye so I started looking into it. I like to be organized and show up with my a-game when I am doing new things and try to start things at an “intermediate” level so research and practice are going to be the key to making this happen. You will be able to keep track of the Rally Jetta soon on Wild Hare Racings new site, but you will have to check back to get the link. I know you have watched countless in car rally videos and you have heard the codriver speaking incoherent sentences to the driver but what does a codriver really do? Turns out it is a lot more than you think. A driver can win a rally, but a codriver can easily lose a rally! So lets break it down.

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    Before the race. A codriver must know and pay attention to all rules and is also responsible for all movement plans for the race car as well as the pit crew. (check out Christian Edstrom’s movement plan examples here) Rally is a very time sensitive sport. Time clocks at checkpoints often called controls can make or break your race. The rules are different than nearly any other type of racing and knowing the ins and outs of the rulebook is critical so you do not cost yourself a time penalty. In addition, unlike most racing, the pit is mobile. There are various pit locations and your crew needs to know not only where the pits are, but when they need to be there and what service is allowed to be performed at each service location. Larger teams will have a specific logistics person, but the majority of teams rely on the Co-Driver to plan all of this. The Co-Driver needs to be highly organized and keep everyone on track. If you would like to read more about timing controls click here.

    During the race the codriver syncs to the official race time in order to keep the team on schedule. They check the team in at controls at precise times, typically with a margin of error of only a minute. In addition to checking in, they must keep time and make sure that the time they are provided at the control is correct. During stages the codriver does what they are most known for. They call notes to the driver. Depending on the rally these notes could be provided by the organization and run mostly blind or they could be written by the driver and codriver during a recce run. (there are also some combination of these two as well) All drivers prefer a certain amount of time before a turn that they want a note called. This can be even a few turns out if the driver is comfortable with that. The tricky thing for a codriver is to read the road as they read the notes. It is easy to look down for a second at the next line only to look up and not know if this is the next r3 or the last r3. Being calm, patient and organized helps keep this from happening. In addition working with a driver and becoming comfortable with their style is also very important and putting all of this together from the creation of the notes to the delivery of the notes is an art of cooperation and the key to success.

    So what are these notes that the co-driver is rambling off anyhow. What is an r3 or a “r5 /cr 500 !! R2”? This is shorthand for road descriptions and to confuse things even more there are multiple methods this can be written. To start r5 /cr 500 !! R2 is read: right 5 over crest, 500 double caution right 2. So what does that mean? Right five is high speed, the number has a loose relation to the gear you could be in. So you are going fast and the road is bending to the right. There is a small rise called a crest. At this speed you are likely to get off the ground! Now your wheels are going to touch down and you have 500 meters before your next call. This is quite a way and you can really gain a lot of speed, but the next call is a right 2! This is really tight after such a long straightaway so a warning is given so the driver doesn’t over cook the turn. Often the co-driver will read the whole line in one breath then pause and identify a few of the more notable corners for the driver to keep them oriented. If you want to learn what all the symbols mean there is a great resource here for you to Check out.
    Of course there are several systems that people use for calling notes. Descriptive notes that tell the corner based on how you should drive through it. FR+ Instead of saying you should be in 6th gear on a slight right, this says: Flat out to the right. There is the system listed above, there is another system that uses the first number as a degree, so R3 means Right 30 degrees. This system typically goes to 9. Another system rates the corners saying 1 for the fastest and 6 for the slowest. Check out some other notes here.

    Check out this video with a Recce Run and pace notes being called.

    Where do these notes come from? Well, it depends! Rally in the US is sometimes blind using computer generated notes from a system called jemba. This system generates notes that describe the course from a vehicle mounted system using accelerometers. The vehicle drives a set speed on a stage and the computer prints out the forces it feels. This system can register a lot more than what a driver would ever care to hear about so it can be a bit too much information. Other rally’s provide an opportunity to recce. This means you are able to drive the road, often in a line of cars. You are provided a brief slow drive of the road and you note every important turn, distance and condition. This is an art by itself. Getting accurate notes, in order without any missing details is critical since you will surely regret it when you discover an inaccurate note at speed!

    Check out this video on Collin McCray talking about pace notes

    In addition to these tasks the Co-driver shares responsibilities on the vehicle. When allotted only 5 minutes for a tire change the driver and codriver must work together and get tasks done fast and efficiently in order to eliminate additional time penalties. When the driver is frazzled by a bad corner or a scary moment the codriver needs to calm their nerves to make sure that pace is maintained safely and only experience of working together is going to help the team know how to identify and solve these types of problems. I have been told that the calm clear delivery that I have used in my experiences helps keep the driver focused and calm as well, however I have seen videos that the codriver is very quick, snappy and aggressive and I suspect that there are drivers that require that style to help drive them to push the car harder through the stage.

    I hope that you find this to be helpful. I have been doing research and I find writing these posts helps and motivates me to learn more as I go. I know I am not a pro and I can assure you that with more experience I will probably revise or even start over on a new post on this stuff, however here are a few more links and a great video to check out if you are interested in learning more.

    Andrew Bargery’s website
    Pacenote.com
    Christian Edstrom’s Website
    Subaru Drive Performance

    Up We go, into the Wild Blue Yonder!

    Well, after a few times crewing for Michael Hill he offered to take me up in the balloon. I have never been up in a hot air balloon and I was pretty happy about the chance to do that. I had the chance to bring Martha along and she was really excited about the opportunity.

    We headed out at 5:30 am to head to Castlerock to meet Michael Hill. When we arrived we helped to set up everything and get the balloon prepped for takeoff.

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    Martha brought her head gear on loan from her father, I am sure he will get a kick out of the flight helmet in use.

    With the setup done, Michael inflated the balloon and we were on our way!

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    Martha was a bit excited about the experience

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    Michael was as well

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    After about an hour of flight we found a good place to touch down. A dirt road to the east of Castlerock served as a perfect landing place. We had acquired a few chasers by then and touched down with plenty of help.

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    In addition we had a 150lbs welcoming committee.

    Ballooning with Martha and Michael

    Ballooning with Martha and Michael

    Ballooning with Martha and Michael

    Wow that was a fun time, it really is peaceful up there and you get a really interesting look at the world below. I definitely suggest trying it out! Big thanks to Michael Hill!

    The V8 A4, Valentin Ivanitski and I, Full Run


    After what seems like forever I finally got word that we are not going to be able to recover information from our 4th camera. I was really hopeful and the company was very certain they could do it, but it turns out that landing the complete weight of a V8 Audi on a GoPro, twice, wasn’t good for the camera or the card. We have to say thanks however to My Life at Speed for loaning us the 3 Contour cameras that did survive! I have been debating how to edit this. We have so much video from practice days and from the race day and I don’t want to separate it. However, the raw engine sound of our V8 and the unfortunate consequence of the degrading weather during our run really seemed like it should be put together as one video. Expect another video in the future since we have some great camera angles to share from practice days.

    The video definitely shows our challenges with the weather. Rain started before Picnic grounds and as we get higher and higher check out the rooster tail that continues to grow. You can hear as Val tests for traction as we ascend and you can see as we brake early feeling for traction and nearly come to a halt a few times as well.

    It is interesting timing to put this out today since it is also coincidentally the day that Pikes Peak has released new rules that indicate that Co-Drivers are not allowed in 2013. It is sad news for me. I would love to have the opportunity to make it to the top and experience a proper trip back down the mountain slapping five with the fans on the way, but sadly that doesn’t sound like it is going to happen. For the time being however, I hope that you enjoy this video and check back soon for more videos from the peak including Dave and Allison Kern, Jimmy Olson and Spencer Steel as well!

    Savannah Ivanitski: Pikes Peak


    Well, I had a few minutes to throw together a bit of video and started with Savannah’s video from Pikes Peak. There is a ton of video to wade through still for all the other cars, so keep your eyes open in the near future.
    Savannah only got to run to the mid point since SOMEONE crashed and they shut down the top of the course…

    I had a great week with Savannah and Val and all the fingers crossed team. Hope you enjoy a bit of a ride along in video form

    Lands End Hill Climb


    After an incident at Pikes Peak I really wanted to just get in a car again. I wanted to get in the co-drivers seat and I wanted to do it sooner rather than later. I never really developed a fear after the crash, but I just wanted the opportunity to just get back in the car and do the job again. I was chatting with Dave Kern around the time of Pikes Peak and he mentioned that Allison, his wife and codriver may be out of town during the Lands End Hill Climb. This is a race that is part of the Colorado Hill Climb series put on by the CHCA. So I looked forward to that opportunity.
    As time passed Dave realized that Allison didn’t have a conflict after all and I was debating on whether or not I would go to spectate when he and Allison competed. Dave had different plans. He had his ears open and found me a seat after all.

    Last year I went up to Bridgestone Winter Driving School with Dave and several others and we had a fun day out on the track. Among the others was Aaron McConnell and Roger Matthews. I had met Aaron several times before but I only met Roger the night before we went to play on the track. At Lands End, Aaron had the opportunity to pilot the Suba Performance Rally car and Roger was debating on whether or not he should bring out his car. Dave described his car to me over the phone as “one pissed off bunny” and mentioned that Roger didn’t have a codriver for the event. I took that opportunity. I knew Rogers demeanor and personality, but not his driving style. I did know a bit of his history, Rally America stage events as well as Pikes Peak were on his resume and I felt pretty comfortable with the person I had met nearly a year before so I loaded up and headed out to Grand Junction to run the event.

    Lands End is part of the CHCA series. The format is a two day format. The first day is dedicated to practice. A full day on the mountain with as many runs as everyone can get in from about 8 am till about 4 pm. We ended up with 3 runs of the full course. On day two, it is race day. You get two runs and you need to make them count.

    Our class was small. The Kerns were the only other 2wd Rally car in our class. The AWD rally class was a bit more populated but the main classes were the Open wheel, stock car and truck classes. We ran strong for the little rabbit and we pushed it hard. In the end we were second and we had a couple really good, clean runs.

    Since I have managed to destroy all of my GoPro’s we didn’t have the best setup for some of our video, however, we did manage to get video from almost all the rally cars as well as Joel Yust in order to throw together a quick compilation video. Enjoy! Thanks also to Joel Yust for that photo on this page!

    Side note, check out this last minute camera mount that we threw together with a discarded Iced Tea bottle..
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    This is what happens when you land a car on a GoPro

    Well, I am pretty impressed with this little thing. Currently DataTech Labs is trying to recover the data off the SD card that was in here, but this little camera just happened to be exactly where the primary impact was on our Pikes Peak crash. Not only that but it was directly between the roll cage and the ground so it took every bit of energy that the crash had. Of course it did not survive, but it didn’t do too bad really. Check it out.

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    I didn’t have the battery or back with me when I shot this stuff but the battery is very deformed and the back is pretty normal looking. Interesting tid bits. the lens is pressed into the camera and the camera itself is definitely thinner than it was before. The case is remarkably in tact (not useable but definitely not as bad as I thought it would be) I did have to do a bit of surgery to get the SD card out of the camera, but it wasn’t too bad really. Not to shabby considering it was under here!

    Supporting Astana?! Ok, why not.

    Everyone has perks at work but it always catches me off guard when I remember how cool some of those perks can be! I knew with the USA Pro Cycling Challenge coming to town, there was a chance that I would have to drop everything and head out on the road to travel to a stage or do something promotional, but I wasn’t really expecting the phone call I got.

    On Sunday night I got a massage and I was feeling quite relaxed after a couple weeks of running around and of course a roll over car accident. So going into the week I was ready to take on anything. At work I was paying attention to the USA Pro race and on Wednesday I got a phone call. “I worked out a deal with Astana, they need a van, can you bring it to Beaver Creek?” I knew that I needed to be at Reubens on Saturday but I figured those cards would fall into place later. So I headed home packed my things and headed out. I arrived in Beaver Creek in time to set things up, but by the time the race was over the finish was just by the team hotels so my services were just barely needed. So we stickered up the van with its credentials and went out to watch the peloton pass by.

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    After a nice evening with the folks from Training Peaks as well as my boss Bruce. Bruce had been following along with the team for the first days of the race, riding a motorcycle for the stages to get a good view. He had already had several amazing adventures, but I don’t think he expected what was about to happen.

    Breckenridge Colorado was just a great scene. The parking was tight for the team vehicles but we managed to really put together a nice spot for the guys to relax in. The team instantly took to the van and relaxed in its seats, listened to music and prepared for the day. It provided just enough barrier for them to separate themselves from the crowds but not so much that they couldn’t interact and sign autographs for fans. When the call came they were instantly gone and I was looking at a lot of stuff. Boxes of food and bottles and whatnot all cluttered the area and I kinda wondered how we had accumulated so much stuff in such a short period of time! I packed up and headed out.

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    Transit was down 70 to 470 and finally down 25 to the springs. I ended up following Garmin for the majority of the way and set up instantly when I arrived.

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    I walked out to the road as a slight drizzle began and watched as the peloton came over I25 with the mountains in the background. You can’t ask for a better view than this!

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    When they passed by Bruce arrived on his motorcycle and he took his helmet off and I could see a look that I hadn’t seen before. Keep in mind I have worked with Bruce for 10 years and he was like a kid on Christmas morning. He told me all about riding ahead of the peloton, the crowds the security the cheering. His love for bike racing was absolutely clear and he had just experienced one of the greatest feelings that he could imagine. He saw the stage from the pelotons perspective and it was absolutely lined with fans and they were cheering him on just like they were going to cheer on their heros in only a few minutes!

    The riders arrived from the stage and the team got to work, loading bikes, providing some post race support including massages, hydration and of course some food. The riders sunk into the area we had put together for them instantly and made a quick home while a bit of rain began.

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    Just as quickly as they arrived they were gone again. But we continued to have visitors even after the team left including Mario Cipollini and 3rd place finisher in that days stage and friend of the shop Alessandro Bazzana.

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    I’m a bit of a softy, so at one point I turned around and saw this scene playing out and it was really nice. Two shy kids were coaxed by their father to go talk to the BMC guys. The guys in the BMC car were patient and talked to the kids they gave them some cycling caps and those kids are psyched. They walked away with such big smiles on their faces!

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    It reminded me of a time a few years ago when I saw Travis Pastrana take a good long period of time to sit down and talk to a young fan. It is really nice to see that patience in such high paced and pressured environments.

    When things had wound down Bruce and I loaded up the van, this time loading up all of our equipment AND his 1200cc BMW. Wow things were tight in the van for the ride home but we made it and loaded it up for the next mornings adventure in Golden.

    We arrived in Golden a bit early and despite the efforts of one absolutely cranky volunteer we were able to get all our gear set up quickly for the guys. Each day we were learning more about what they needed and what would work nicely for their base camp and in Golden we were able to ramp it up even more with multiple tents, walls and more in order to give them a nice place to stay and a slight buffer from the fans. We also brought our Feedback stands to give them a better place to keep their bikes as well.

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    The Team was very into the van, glad to have it as a resource and we were able to make their day a lot easier by just handling all this additional setup and teardown that they simply didn’t have the staff to do.

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    At one point everyone was loading up in the team cars and the Team Director looked at me and told me I need to tell you want to do, but I trust you so I will see you in Boulder. It was his way of saying, yes, I need to say this but I know you will handle it. That felt pretty good actually and I am glad that I was able to enstill trust in him in such a short period of time.

    As the cars pulled away I started to look around and saw all the other teams had campers with a button that retracted everything, I started to scramble and got our two tents, 3 walls, 6 chairs, bike rack, food, bottles and more all packed up and secured for the transit to Boulder.

    On the way up we were following the peloton and stopped quite frequently, I chatted with several people through the windows of the van and heard many more cheer for Excel as I passed by. I arrived in Boulder and set up quickly then headed into town to watch the stage on TV at Rueben’s Burger Bistro.

    The final day was upon us and I rode my Cruiser bike into Denver from the Highlands area. No need to deal with parking on a day like this! We set up a great spot and got the area prepared with trainers, shade and a comfortable area to work in. Then we took a look around. WOW! Words can’t describe the size of this thing…

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    We got back to the van to see everyone had arrived and were preparing.

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    Riders were warming up, they were leaving at various times to head out for their start position and at one point I was told “Get in the car with Roman.” So I did!

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    Roman put down a quick time with us in a van behind. We cheered him on while looking at his time splits to see how he was doing. The crowds were amazing and we passed by them in a heartbeat.

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    At the end of the day Janez put down a time that was able to move him up from 8th to 5th in the GC standings. He felt he could have pushed harder, but he just didn’t feel the power that day. For us, this was a great finish to a great race and for him you could see how much this race wore on him, a week of recovery will probably be needed as he prepares for the next one.

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    As we were packing up Goradz the Team Director came up to me and said “I borrowed your bike earlier.” I knew that he had and said so. He said “I rode it over to the timing, they immediately grabbed it, put it on the scale they measured the wheelbase and said ‘No, you can’t race! It is too heavy!” Wow do I wish I had a picture of that!

    What a great experience. I have my fingers crossed that we are able to do the same for them again next Year. the guys were so appreciative and we really wanted to help them more and more because of that. USA pro is definitely an awesome race and we are really psyched to have it in our neck of the woods!