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Mänttä 200 -ajo Rally 29th of January 2011

Entering 2011 and the traditional winter break is now behind us. In Mänttä-Vilppula we managed to race again. Hunger for driving has been high and the roads in the area should be spectacular. Area is the same where the Finnish WRC round is being held. Additionally it was nice to drive with a rwd BMW after the fwd Peugeot. We had bought an E30 BMW 325 a month earlier and based on the testing it was very manouverable and quick. Mikko and Teuvo drove to Mänttä from Joensuu towing the BMW in a trailer and Matti came to the rally from Helsinki. The temperature was around 0 celcius so no one had to freeeze. A colder temperature would have helped the organizers keeping the road in a better condition. At Mänttä there were the normal routines preparing for the rally. Half past noon we headed from the start towards the first stage.

The first stage was 15 kilometres long and nice medium fast rally road. We tried to drive a routine stage and learn the logic of driving a real wheel drive car again. That we managed nicely. The car seemed to perform nicely and so did the driver and the co-driver. The stage contained a couple of tricky corners where spectators where hiding. In those places we luckily didn´t have any problems. Remember that in these rallies recce is forbidden and you drive based on what you see in front of you. Some corners have a nasty tendency to tighten behind a creast or something. These are the places where everybody is waiting hidden so that the crew can´t see there´s something challenging waiting.

Second stage was also a nice road and 15km in length. The crew had already gotten into a rally mode. This resulted in the rear getting too wide and onto loose snow outside the normal driving line. Once we also brushed on a snow bank. Fun. Other than that nothing special to report. Third stage was the last one before service break and 12 kilometres long. On the stage we noticed that the rear suspension was set too soft. On fast sections the rear jumped into air on bumps. The rear tyres also started to feel quite slippery so we had to calm things down a bit. In the service the crew had something to eat. Also we changed the rear tyres to a model with more grip. The tyre pattern was actually the same as before, but a great number of studs had decided to start their winter holiday early and stay in the forests around the first stages. That explained the lack of grip on the third stage.

Out of the service and towards the fourth stage. 15 kilometres long fourth stage was partially driven on quite small roads. Because of the warm weather the roads started to give up on our number and there were deep tracks on the road. Only choice was to stay in those and listen the bottom of the car bounding on solid ground from time to time. 13 kilometres long fifth stage followed the same program. Except we decided to entertain the spectators a little bit. On a small road after a crest the road suddenly disappeared somewhere to the left. We were on the outside line where the rear end touched a snowbank and we flew nose first to a snowy forest. Luckily our speed was slow speed, we managed to brake a bit and there wasn´t much snow left after other cars which had ran of the road. The corner had a lot of "professional spectators" who lifted the BMW back on the road in a couple of minutes. During the operation they said we were eleventh car which needed lifting. Goes without saying that we drove the rest of the stage carefully. The last stage was 10 kilometres long and a spectacular stage. We would have wanted to really give the car some pedal, but after the incident on the previous stage we didn´t want to risk a crash on the very last stage. We were also a bit concerned about the rear tyres again. We finished the rally and overall the atmosphere in the team was good. The car worked well, the stages were mostly in good condition and nice in profile. After a long pause it was fun to drive a rwd BMW and now we are looking forward to the coming rallies during this spring.

We finished the race 6th in our class from 9 participants

Photograph taken by Marko Kyöstilä

Abloy SM-Itäralli -rally 7th of March 2009

Well the tradional Itäralli -rally was to our team the highlite of our "career". This is the rally where we always have dreamed of participating and now it was time to live the dream. After this only the 1000 Lakes is leaft (might take some time until we are there). So now it was time to drive in a rally where you are allowed to do a recce and make pace notes. On Friday we made our notes for roughly 100 special stage kilometres. After the recce we towed the BMW to the normal safety inspection on a trailer and started waiting for the start of the rally.

Saturday turned out to be a beautiful sunny winter day. Another cause for celebration was that since the rally was in our home town we had needed to tow the trailer only 10km! In the start you could see a rested crew and the BMW with new taping on the sides. Some nervousness was in the air though since it was our first rally with pace notes.

The first stage was only 5km long. Before the stage it was agreed that we aren´t going to do anything silly, but just reherse driving from the pace notes and get some feeling for the driving. It was calculated that even by taking things carefully we can´t loose much on such a short stage. All in all the stage went nicely. The couple of jumps on the stage were taken causiously. The time sheet next to the time control showed that we had lost a minute to the BMW which started a head of us. We didn´t drive that slowly! Luckily to our time card was marked a more reasonable time sompared to the others.

Special stage 2 was more like a special stage with the lenght of 11,8km. Driving wise the stage went OK. Only thing resembling a close call was a big tree in somebody´s yard wanting to hug the co-drivers door. This was caused by loose snow on which the car started to float. There were a couple of meters of spare room between the car and the tree so can´t really call it a real incident. 

Special stage 3 was the longest in the rally and 13,6km in lenght. At this point the feeling in the car was beginning to be quite good. Driving from the pace notes and reading them had worked out well. As a matter of fact a lot better than expected. We finished the third stage without any problems. Later some of the spectators (a lot of friends watching on this stage) commented that we were driving too slow since they didn´t have to lift the car from any snow banks. Well you can´t please everybody:)

Road section after SS3 turned out to be the end for our rally. After leaving time control in the end of the stage we noticed that the car is going all over the place. Quick check showed that the rear tyre on the co-driver side was flat. We had a spare tyre in the trunk and decided to change it quickly. Or maybe not. Everything went smoothly until we noticed that the winter tyre´s profile is so high that BMW´s original lift doesn´t raise the car high enough to put a new tyre on. We could only put the flat tyre back on and continue towards special stage 4. We managed to drive a bit until the tyre ripped clean of the rim. After some patents we managed to change the tyre and continue towards SS4.

During the whole episode the brakes had taken some damage and accompanied by late penalties we limped through SS4 which luckily was a short super special. Didn´t really lift the spirits inside the car when going as fast as a turtle in front of hundreds of spectators.

In service our mechanics checked the car and noticed that the fluids were coming out from the rear brakes. Wasn´t much of a decision to make to retire from the rally. There´s no point trying to drive through really fast special stages with just the front brakes. When leaving the retirement paper we noticed from the time sheets in the notification board that the clock had liked our pace on the first three stages. We hadn´t been fastest on all three of them. Some comfort even though it doesn´t help much if you retire. The trophies are handed only in the finish.

What did be gain from Itäralli rally? Well for a start we haven´t retired in a really long time. Luckily nothing special or going of the road. A pair of rear brakes is an easy fix. Mechanical problems are just a part of motorsports and this time it was our turn. From the positive side we can find a lot. Our fearless crew got to live the dream and participate to the Itäralli rally. The roads were awesome and lots of friends watching on the snow banks. Making the pace notes, reading them and driving from them went a lot better than expected. The times on special stages were also good. Had to take a retake next year and see what happens. Next rally on our schedule is Iisalmi rally and it´s back to the more familiar show of driving blind without the pace notes.

Result was a retirement.

XXII Oulujärven rally 17th of January 2009

One week after Suonenjoki -rally we headed to Oulujärven rally in Kajaani. Mikko had gotten his ranking raised to A-junior so in Kajaani we could just enjoy driving without any pressure. We checked the BMW during the previous week so that everything is OK. After Suonenjoki we decided to change the stock brake fluids to proper racing ones since on the long stages the stock ones weren´t really up to the job.

The rally morning started with a pretty nice cold weather. To be honest it ws cold as... And it didn´t get much better when we arrived to Kajaani. The meter said it was about -26 celcius! In Kajaani we had plenty of time for paper work and some lunch.

Around 1.30pm it was our turn to start towards the first special stage. The stage was only 8km long short stint, but on the positive side you could see that roads were really icy and there were big banks to lean on. Normal problem for the big BMW is that the roads tend to be quite narrow during the winter. Today an even bigger problem seemed to be lack of traction with the rear wheels. In slow places Mikko could only use half throttle to accelerate. Well the main purpose was to enjoy ourselves and try some driving tips gotten from some other drivers. We finished the first stage without any problems and headed to service. Only problem was co-driver's stopwatch which started to give some signs of retirement. The trust for the watch pretty low before the rally and Matti had put the official time to his mobile phone and wrist watch also. Just in case this happened. A new stopwatch was going to be in the car for the Itäralli in March.

The second stage was a lot nicer 13km long. The beginning of the stage was really twisty with 90degree turns right after another. Seemed that there wasn´t much else on the road that intersections with 90 degree signs. There were also some really long straights where we didn´t suffer traction problems with the higher gears. After all the 325 doesn't have so much power that it would spin the wheels with 4th and 5th gears. All in all a very enjoyable stage.

then to the third and also the last stage. the stage was about 11km long and the fastest of the stages. the traction problems continued and we had to on our toes in some places. We didn´t want to take any chances since the Itäralli in March was our main goal for the spring. With an "normal OK driving" we finished 6th in our class. The top two drivers in the class had driven in a class of their own, but we had been right in the speed of the others. Trying a bit harder we might have finished 3rd or and up on a snow bank. We are happy with this result.

We finished the race 6th in our class from 22 participants.

OP-Suonenjoki rally 10th of January 2009

The long waited first rally of the 2009 season was held in Suonenjoki on the 10th of January. It had already been three months since the last rally and the eagerness to drive was high. Our start number for the race was 215 and that meant we had a pretty good number for our class. First car had number 208 on its door. The only concern was BMW´s size for the snowy and narrow roads. The other exceptional thing was the timing. Our starting time was around 2.30pm and that meant we would be driving most of the stages after the sunset! The best reward from the race would be if we could two missing points for Mikko and get his ranking from B-junior to A-junior. When a driver is ranked as an A-junior he/or she can participate as a driver for ralliess where pace notes can be used. That would also mean we could participate in Abloy SM-Itäralli rally in Mikko´s hometown. The rally has spectacular roads for rally driving.

We thought that we were quite early in Suonenjoki, but after all the paper work we didn´t have much spare time. An hour before our start time we got the map for the stages from the organizer. The second special stage provided the surprise for the day. It was staggering 27km long (with out pace notes remember) It was to be expected that after this stage there wouldn´t be many changes in the class results, because the differences between the competitors would be so big.

First special stage was only 6km long and our only goal was to drive through without any incidents. After the first stage we headed for the very long second special stage. When we or the queue waiting the second stage the sun started to set. This meant thet the extra lights on the front of BMW would have some work to do. Right from the beginning of the stage the driving style for the stage was clear. Previous cars had carved deep tracks to the road and stepping out of those meant sudden loosing of grip on loose snow. Driving on narrow tracks with a wide BMW isn´t much fun, but we tried to avoid risks and still keep a decent pace. On the stage we had one wider slide, but luckily on that bend we had enough space and it didn´t cause panic in the cabin. Another thing that stuck in mind was a very long bumpy straight where we drove some time against the rev limiter. Atleast we got the taste of speed on that stage.

After the second stage we headed for service where nothing was done for the car. Not even gasolin was added since BMW seemed to have enough in the tank. Have to admit that it´s really aconimical to drive. During the service the driver and co-driver only ate a little bit and then headed for the 14km long third stage. Near the start of special stage three our eye caught lots of spectators´cars. One can only admire the stamina of the spactators who spend their whole day standing in the snow and watching cars. To be honest our bigger concern was that in which corner all those spectators were located. There had to be some corner on the stage where there were lots of crashes. Well, we would find that corner eventually. We drove through the third stage without any incidents. On a couple of tight corners there were lots of spectators, but we didn´t have any problems on the stage.   

After the third stage there was a short drive to the fourth stage. And I do mean short. Only 540 metres! The fourth stage was a long one again. 21km. On the stage we tried to keep up the pace. The only problem was that tracks that were carved by previous cars´tyres were quite narrow for us. BMW tried to jump out of the tracks even on the straights. Finally we reached the finish of the stage but the hopes for a good result weren´t too high. When checking the results we discovered that we had driven the last stage quite well and our final result was third in our class. This meant that Mikko would be ranked as an A-junior and we would be able to participate on the Abloy SM-Itäralli rally on March.

We finished the race 3rd in our class from 24 participants.

Nuutajärven Lasi-rally, 4th of October, Urjala Finland

What a colourful event it turned out to be! After long summer break out team participated to Nuutajärven Lasi -rally which was driven in the vicinity of Urjala. Our number was 194 and we were able to start among the first in our class. It has been a challenge for our team to find rallies which are close to Joensuu so that it wouldn´t be so long way to tow the BMW. This time one way trip totalled to 450km so Mikko and Teuvo were forced to sleep one night near Lahti and drive rest of the way to Urjala during the race morning. 

During the race morning the whole team were early in Urjala. The trailer park was full when Mikko and Teuvo arrived with the BMW. Matti who had come from Espoo was there a bit earlier and he could straight away instruct them to an alternative parking. After all the formalities we put on the racing suits and headed for the start area. Our team had even bought new racing suits since new regulations coming from the start of 2010. Mikko had managed to wear the previous suit in three rallies...

We arrived quite early to the start of the race and tried to spend time the best we could. There we noticed that the car was leaking some radiator fluid. The leak was coming from the expansion tank´s cap. We couldn´t find any actual flaw from the cap so we just decided to screw it back on even tighter and start the rally. Little problems are a natural part of rally racing. Similar problem was also co-driver´s stop watch which ran out of battery when we were in the start queue. Luckily the mobile phone had also been "calibrated" to the official rally time.

Special stage 1 started very well for out team. Driving seemed to be going OK and the co-driver had no problems reading the road ahead. Mikko was happy since he could use similar driving style as in testing which meant that we came a bit more sideways than before. Only problem was the engine that didn´t rev cleanly in the higher end of the rev range. Mikko thought that the new chip might be causing it. Matti hadn´t even noticed anything from the co-driver´s seat and the problem wasn´t too big since BMW has quite much torque. It only meant that Mikko changed up a bit earlier than normally.

After special stage 1 there was a short service where we patented the leaking expansion tank cap. We also had to straighten the wheel rims a bit since earlier cars had dug up some nasty stones in the road. After the service we headed to special stage 2. The second stage also went well and the atmosphere in the cabin was high. We had no idea of our stage times compared to other competitors, but we we were enjoying the rally so far. When driving to special stage 3 we got shattering text message from our mechanic Teuvo. Our service car had broken down and was on the side of the road. Luckily Mikko´s and Matti´s parents were watching the rally and brought gasoline to the service area after special stage 3. Filling the tank was the only service we could perform for the car. 

The third special stage had other problems in its sleeve. In the middle of the stage gear selector broke and there was only a 5cm long stubb left. Also while driving in steep tyre tracks BMW´s bottom touched the ground several times. Fuel tank´s extra cover got partly unattached and was touching the road. After the service car and gear selector problems one tank cover didn´t move us much anymore. After the stage on the service area our mood was really down. We didn´t even have time to check our stage times from a near by bulletin board.

On the 4th special stage we continued a steady rhythm and decided to worry all the problems if we finished the rally. Luckily no more promlems arose. The 5th special stage we decided to drive carefully through since it was short and we really wanted to finish the rally without any extra drama. The decision was wise since the stage was really slippery after heavy rain during the day. Matti reminded Mikko a couple of times to keep the car in other cars´ tracks where there still was some grip. In the finish of the last stage we thoughed that we should be in the top ten of our class. Driving went OK and because of the slippery roads it was to be expected that some of the competitors would have driven off the road. From the finish we immediately went to help Teuvo with the service car. Our biggest concern at this point was to get some vehicle for Mikko and Teuvo with which would be able to tow the trailer with BMW in it back to Joensuu.

While we tried to fix the service car we realized that the only way was to hire a rental car from Tampere and get the service car back to Joensuu during the next day. Luckily the distance is only 450km one way... At this point we had the biggest surprise during the whole rally. Mikko got a text message from his friend where he congratulated us for winning our class! You will rarely see so happy people next to a broken car on the side of a road in a dark autumn evening. A change of plans was in order and Matti headed to pick up our trophies while Mikko and Teuvo went to get a rental car. Later when we had time to check the results we also found out that we had managed to drive best times in our class for two special stages. Some time from now we can propably just laugh at all the difficulties and just remember the good result.

We finished the race 1st in our class from 32 participants.

Black Rocket Rally, 17th of May 2008, Janakkala, Finland

Our team was able to participate to the Black Rocket Rally which was driven on the 17th of May 2008. We were the lucky ones since there were so many teams wanting to race that the organizer had to limit number of cars on the road. Lady fortune was on our side since we had listed to the rally really early and we were  allowed to participate. Our number was 234 out of 240 so the correct lines would surely be visible on the stages.

Anyway the mood was good and the team started happily to the first special stage. The very first special had the rally´s so called "runkipaikka". Runkipaikka is a Finnish term and means a place where there are lots of crashes. One left corner around the corner of a barn with a "Alert" warning sign was surprisingly tight. The corner offered lots of big slides and crashes to a field on the outside of the corner. For us the corner was a close call. The co-driver was certain that we´ll land on a ditch, but the driver disagreed ans we just made a spectacular spin. Well atleast the crowd loved the lines even if we didn´t crash. 

We drove through the rally with lesss drama. We tried to drive to the finish without taking any risks and it worked. Only technical problem was an exhaust which hit the ground on the final stage and created more manly noise for our BMW. On the finish of the first stage the marshals said that our BMW has very low decibel level so atleast we managed to correct that "problem".

We finished the race 16th in our class from 36 participants.

Iisalmi Rally, 15th of March 2008, Iisalmi

On March our team participated in the Iisalmi Rally. Because if the warm winter we were a bit concerned how the roads would take the punishment from the cars. when driving from Joensuu towards Iisalmi we were wondering if we would even see any snow on the ground. Well luckily we started to see snow when we were getting closer to Iisalmi. It´s much nicer if there are some banks to lean on in case the road starts to get too narrow compared to the speed that you are travelling.

We were early at the race town Iisalmi ans had plenty of time to chat with other competitors while dealing with the necessary papaer work with the organizers. The car check up by the organizers was much faster occasion. The check up was just before the official starting line so we had to put on the racing suits for it. After the check up there was nothing more to do that just wait for your own start. 

The first special stage was exiting for both the driver and the co-driver. The driver wasn´t sure how the setup would work in the snow conditions (for example the long needed quick steering). For the co-driver this was the first winter rally ever. On the first stage we noticed that that many of the previous cars really had had a lot of effort. Many teams were shovelling the car out of snow in a ditch. The co-driver thought after the stage that we are going to win the whole rally if every stage has as many cars parked beside the road. We had to lean on a snow bank a bit on the very last corner of the stage, but nothing more special than that.

On the second stage we decide to raise the speed a bit, because the car had felt OK on the first one. Also the co-deriver felt at ease in the winter conditions. The second stage then provided some action for the team.

A bit rear biased brakes and the slippery road weren´t the best combination on a right/left corner combination. When stepping on the brakes the rear of the car tried to overtake the front from the left and suddenly all you could see through the windshield was plain field. Luckily we didn´t go off the road. Thanks to driver´s quick reflexes (and hitting the rear to a snow bank) the car pointed towards the next left corner.

Because of the snow bank contact some noise started to come from the rear of the car. Quick conclusion was that the rear bumper was loose and was dragging behind the car. We continued driving and in the end of the stage the annoying noise disappeared also. Rally staff confirmed in the stage finish that we no longer a rear bumper. Well that´s  one way to loose excessive weight.

The reast of the race went through smoothly. The only problem were numerous sharp bumbs on the road when the icy road couldn´t take the beating of the rally cars. Some of the bumbs gave reason to try and save the car a bit. The co-driver also wanted to save his kidneys in the bumbs and said some comments out loud which are best not to be repeated. Back home in Joensuu Mikko checked the car and noticed that the transmission had lost two mounting bolts out of four. It was lucky that we didn´t on the road all together in some bumb. Luckily we got to the finish in one piece. After all pros and cons the rally was a nice experience for our team. 

We finished the race 7th in our own class from 23 participants.

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