Lebec, Calif. — The team of Tingwu Song, of Denver, Colo., and Ireland’s Martin Brady, took their Mitsubishi Evo 8 to the overall victory last Saturday at the Gorman Ridge Rally, presented by Dirty Racing Parts, in the Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreational Area.
This was the first win for the team and although it was their first time running this event, Song and Brady had the best times of all 12 stages.
“This was our first win, ever,” Song said, “and it was the smoothest rally ever!”
Brady said it was their careful stage note preparations that helped keep them ahead of the rest, as well as Song pushing for the win the entire event.
“[During recce] we studied the roads and made a lot of corrections to our notes—three times! We had the best notes ever!” Brady added. “Tingwu is sensible enough to never put a wheel wrong.”
With his lilting Irish accent, he teased, “There’s an old Irish saying, ‘when something’s grand—that’s grand. [Tingwu] understands my Irish! That’s shows our synergy!”
Gorman Ridge Rally was the fourth qualifying round for the 2013 NASA National Rally Championship (NNRC) in the western division and also the fourth event in the California Rally Series. The 77-mile event is the only performance stage-based rally in Southern California. Its 12 stages all-dirt course provided a competitive course for both the veteran to the novice rally competitor with the majority of stages run during the daytime hours, with the last few, the challenging Wheatfield-Powerline roads stages beginning just as the sun set over the mountains in the western sky.
Kris Psara and David Ault, both from Ukiah, Calif., may have triggered some nervous energy for the leaders as the Psara/Ault Subaru STi was never far behind. They finished in second place overall with only two minutes separating them from the winners.
Psara battled honorably and consistently even though the Subaru had broken a rear strut about a third of the way through the rally, coating the inside of the car with the oil spraying out of the shock. Add that he also had to keep an eye on James Riley, who was running only about a minute behind him.
“The car was handling crazy on lefts. I was thinking we’d wreck trying to chase Song and I was losing heart,” Psara said. “Then I saw Riley not too far behind us and got my head back on straight and re-motivated.”
James Riley, from Flagstaff, Ariz., with co-driver Logan Mineer, of Phoenix, Ariz., took the third spot on the podium, driving a 316 Motor Works-prepared Subaru WRX.
Still cutting his teeth as a driver, with Gorman being only his third event, Riley said he wanted to focus more on building his self-described “conservative” driving style, but was elated when he and Mineer discovered they were holding on to one of the top spots early on.
“After the first stage, Logan and I high-fived and I yelled ‘totally worth it!’ Riley said. “Without knowing it at the time, my driving goals had been met and I was very content whether we were third-fastest or tenth.”
There were several good battles in the two-wheel-drive classes as well. Less than two minutes separated the top two, Jason Lightner, of San Marcos, Calif. and co-driver Brent Ellzey, of Prescott, Ariz., won the CRS2 class in a 1976 Porsche 911 and Sarkis Mazmanian and his son Michael, of Glendale, Calif., in an Acura Integra took home the honors in the Performance Stock class. On several stages, the two teams were often only tenths of a minute apart in their respective stage times.
Several teams chose the event as the event to jump start their rally experience, and for some who experienced some last-minute possible dilemmas, all persevered to the finish. Newcomers Daniel Wells and his wife Rainbow Wells entered their 2WD Subaru Impreza and walked away with third place in the CRS2 class.
“I knew it was going to be good when my wife said ‘I’m actually having a lot of fun at the recce’,” Daniel Wells posted on the event’s Facebook Group wall. “Sunday she said ‘I can’t wait to do it again,” and Monday, I woke up to her making bruuum-bruuum-bruuum engine sounds to our baby!!”
Hawk Miller, of Flagstaff, Ariz., drove his self-built Subaru, with his mentor Mustafa Samli as his co-driver. Early in the event, his gearbox blew up—“grenade” is how Samli described it. However, the 316 Motor Works crew went into battle mode and changed out the fluids, and he completed the rally, often times without most of his gears. His crew chief said he was “keeping first gear in a cup.”
Sitting at approximately 4,000 feet above sea level, the Hungry Valley SVRA was the perfect venue for a fun, grassroots rally race. The desert can be brutal in late August, but this year’s couldn’t have been more perfect with a constant and cooling breeze, a blessing for competitors and volunteers alike.
“The great folks at the Hungry Valley SVRA are always a pleasure to work with, said organizer Ray Hocker. “Their support for the rally has grown every year and they really go out of their way to make it a pleasurable and fun event for our teams.”
He also thanked the volunteers, as well as credited them for the event’s success.
“Most of the credit for the success of the event lies with the 100 volunteer radio operators and control teams that contribute their time and effort,” Hocker said. “Most of us have worked together on the event for several decades, and some even longer! Their experience makes the event run like a fine Swiss watch.”
Further information is available on the official Gorman Ridge Rally website at http://www.gormanridgerally.com.
Photo: Lear Miller Photo