D.I.R.T. Project RS Battles Against More Powerful Turbocharged Competitors
OCEANSIDE, CA — It had been nearly 10 months since their first event together but the DirtyImpreza.com Rally Team (DIRT) duo of Aaron Ekinaka and Albert Goad were again in their naturally aspirated 2001 Subaru Impreza fighting for the top spot in the United States Rally Championship (USRC) Production AWD and California Rally Series (CRS) GT classes. After spending several years crewing for other teams it was their turn to take on the Gorman Ridge roads that so many others had experienced in the last 21 years. Moderately aggressive driving, coupled with a goal of keeping the car intact, proved to be a winning combination as “lucky” car number 13 took 1st place in its class and 4th position overall.
“Winning at Gorman Ridge far exceeded my expectations coming to the event. We had a simple goal of just completing all the stages, so taking the top spot in our class was really exciting. Finishing in front of some of the open class cars to take 4th overall was just icing on the cake,” explained driver Aaron Ekinaka.
The competition was intense across all sections of the field, not only against other drivers, but against the elements and the road conditions. Near triple digit temperatures had everyone (drivers / codrivers, crew, organizers, and volunteers) battling heat exhaustion and dehydration, so staying focused proved to be a challenging task in itself. Codriver Albert Goad had this to say about the heat:
“It was hot enough that we felt bad for the workers and volunteers. The only thing that kept things bearable wearing race suits was the coolsuit system that was installed, but we checked on the ice after 2 stages and it had completely melted. It was definitely a scorcher.”
The biggest battle in the USRC Production AWD and CRS-GT class was with seasoned rally competitor, and fellow DirtyImpreza.com member, Alex Rademacher. He set a blistering pace on the early stages of the rally, but a damaged rear strut caused him to lose substantial time before making it to the mid-event 2 hour service. Once Ekinaka / Goad moved ahead it was a matter of pushing hard during the second half and defending their lead into the night hours.
Work crews did an excellent job of grading the roads before the rally, but the hillside trails could only take so much abuse before sizable rocks and big sandy ruts developed. Gorman has a reputation for being very hard on cars, and that was made clear by more than a 3rd of the entrants not finishing. Between the last event and Gorman, several upgrades were made to the DirtyImpreza.com Project RS to help increase it’s chances of survival. Kyle Jackson at Jackson Rally was directly involved in the extensive car prep in the weeks before the race. He had this to say about how the 3 service breaks went during the rally:
“Service was exactly how it should be, no major issues. We just had to go over everything on the checklists. We did a lot of work at the shop before we headed out to Gorman and it really paid off in the end.”
The night stages were especially challenging. Not only would the road conditions be more unpredictable due to large sandy patches, but big rocks needed to be avoided as well. With the only light available coming from the rally car itself, the black Subaru Impreza continued to achieve faster stage times. On SS15, the second from last stage of the event, Ekinaka and Goad came within a couple hundredths of an outright stage win.
“We narrowly missed the fence post on one of the tight left hand turn on SS16 [the last stage]. Hitting that would have drastically changed the outcome of this race. The last big jump on this stage was taken at a pretty good pace and jolted us real good. I think at that point we were relieved to just get through the last few turns and get our time card in,” recapped Aaron.
This will be the final and only event for the DirtyImpreza.com Rally Team this year due to a limited racing budget, so it was great to end things on a positive note. Next year’s rally schedule is still to be determined but the team is planning on trying to make couple of stage rallies on the west coast, including several local rallycross days.
The whole team would like to thank all the volunteers, organizers, radio operators, and emergency crews that were vital to making this event happen. Thank you for all your hard work, time, and effort that were put into making this an exceptional rally.
Watch onboard video: http://www.youtube.com/user/dirtyimprezadotcom