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7-2-2011 - We did it

I'm happy to report that Bam Bam has successfully completed the Rallye Breslau #17. However, our final place doesn't do justice to the champions on our team. We could not have succeeded at completing this race without the extremely hard work of Alois and Josh who volunteered their time to this venture, the calm and orderliness of Maura who made sure that head sets were charged each night, kept an eye on the time, drove us around each day for errands and such and made sure the crew had snacks in the cab, the preparation and planning from Gus who arranged registration, and service transport and pointed us in the right direction when we were in the dark as we made our own plans, and the experience and direction from the passenger seat of Tobius, the German navigator lent to us by team "Natalie". We have many others to thank including Ian and the Gigglepin Team, Team Blitz from Holland, Dominique and Fritz for transport, Sabrina for her helping hand and many others who jumped in with the tools and the skills needed to complete our repairs. Jay is extremely honored to have such tremendous support behind him.

With three stages to accomplish, day 6 started off smoothly. Alois and I waited for hours at a water crossing at the end of stage one, the last stage in Poland. It was a moving stream that seemed shallower than usual, as it did not seem very difficult to cross for anyone. I had a great vantage point from a tree on the far bank. Side by sides moved in a strategical pattern, first at an angle with the current as they entered and then at an angle against it when they got closer to the far bank only 50 yards away. Their path kept them from getting swept away in the current, a definite possibility for them if they'd taken it head on, as the larger vehicles were able do. Most vehicles approached with moderate speed and caution, but some came in, gang-busters, creating a huge splash that their rig, no matter how large, would get lost in for a second, before emerging halfway to the shore. 

The floor of the crossing, only about 18 inches deep (max), was covered in pebbles and small stones. The crowd would laugh whenever a vehicle would stop to scout, sending the navigator out into water only deep enough to cover his knees. The water was so clear and obviously shallow, at least from our perspective. People would yell things that most likely translated to "just get back in and drive your pansy ass across the water". As with many of the obstacles I'd seen, opponents played follow-the-leader, when a group of vehicles would arrive around the same time. One Jeep showed up behind a side by side that was doing some unnecessary scouting, and seemed to second guess themselves waiting to see what they discovered, before attempting to tackle it themselves, when they really should have taken the opportunity to pass. I wished I had some way to communicate with Jay; I'd tell him "Hit it fast, baby! No problem."

Judging from the vehicles in line with Jay at the start that morning, we expected him at any moment, but because of my lack of independent transport, I had to leave my vantage point before Bam Bam arrived. Alois and I had given up our spots in the vehicle we arrived there in, just for the chance to see Jay hit the water, but by then, everyone was leaving and we had to take our last opportunity to catch a ride with a service team that offered to take us to Dresden. On our way down the trail and back toward their car, I again looked over my shoulder hoping for this one last chance. I could see down the trail past the water and it was empty, but I heard something approaching that sounded like Bam Bam. I trusted my instinct and prepared my video camera. I thought that I was imagining it at first, the truck that I saw was so dirty that I hardly recognized it, but it was him. He hit the water with speed, made two big waves that spread out like wings and quickly rolled up onto the shore and by me as I cheered him on. Finally, I saw Bam Bam race. It was almost worth the difficulty Alois and I endured getting to Dresden, after the engine blew on the ride we hitched. Luckily, another competitor, a late finish from stage one made space for us in their service car and we managed to cross the border rather than get stranded in a foreign (foreign even to Alois) country for who knows how long.

Even though the river crossing was the last I saw that day, the race continued with two more stages in Dresden, a sand pit and a truck trials run, located at the final camp in the rally. The competitors also needed to first get to Dresden, either by service trailer, or to simply drive there as Jay and Tobius did. By the time they reached the starting point at stage two, they were having issues with the clutch. Maura was able to get Josh to them who helped diagnose the problem; the hydraulic part of the clutch had lost its brake fluid. A quick temporary repair allowed them to start phase and finish the day. It wasn't until later that Jay realized he never crossed the sand pit. Alois later helped translate as Tobius explained that he didn't think it was a good idea with the clutch issues. Jay had some regret, as he thought they could have made it, but from what I'd since heard from other competitors, the sand was a trap for many and was probably worth skipping if compromised.

Skipping an entire stage was not good for our placing, but we were still on track to finish the race. Jay and our other two mechanics, with the support from nearby teams, were able to do a quick repair on the clutch to make sure that we'd make it through the day. A seal that would normally be replaced during a clutch repair, was inspected for it's ability to continue to do its required job and today, phase 7, the final day of the race, Bam Bam headed to the starting line.
I stood in the unseasonably cold rain and wind, behind a crowd of spectators beside the dirt track that was prepared with steep hills, sharp turns, a mogul field and severely graded mounds built up by an excavator that stood by to ensure the track wouldn't erode into something more easily passable. I held my video camera over my head as Jay came tearing around the bend toward this truck trial course. He seemed to hit each obstacle as quickly as the revered "Paco Paco", but I'm biased, and I've yet to see the numbers. He and the other competitors made two passes on this course. It was interesting to watch the varying styles and sizes of vehicles push themselves to navigate through the challenging terrain with as much speed as they could handle. I couldn't have been more proud as Jay tore through confidently on both passes. There were a couple of other checkpoints beyond my view and before he reached the finish line. I hope to find some footage of the passing through a historic section of the beautiful city of Dresden.

Tonight will be the finishing party. If the weather clears up, we might have a roaring good time, celebrating and hanging out with other nut job off-road enthusiasts, but if it doesn't, I might talk Jay into booking a room in a hotel with a warm bed and a hot shower. It's been a long week!