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There were seven BMWs in the Thunderbird Rally this year!

Discussion in 'Rallying' started by Satch, Feb 13, 2012.

    • Member

    Satch SoSoCalifortified

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    Of course, the best BMW finish was a 325iX, Eric Horst and Steve Mats (fifth Unlimited Class). Still, counting the iXes, an E46 (!!), a 2002 (vintage class), and an E90 328xi (!!!), they constituted over 10% of the 60-car field.

    Although Thunderbird has been won by BMW before, including the year that Russ Kraushaar and I took Steve Norman's red iX to the top spot (the same car driven to victory by Peter Linde a couple of years later), this year we were not in my iX, the noble Bad Dog. Here’s what I wrote to a fellow CCA member who was commenting on the fun he’s having at his age:

    Well, I’m currently in Oregon, having returned from running the Thunderbird Rally in British Columbia. Now, T-Bird is known as the grand-daddy of winter rallies; its TSD format may not be as challenging as the WRC or my old Pro Rally days, but it’s great fun, and the competition is fierce.

    This year, as always, the field is dominated by Subarus, but there was at least one BMW 2002 in the vintage class, and several 325iX coupes. There was even an E60 328xi---I am assuming its crew had never run Thunderbird before, as it runs over ice-and-snow-covered logging roads. . . not exactly the best environment for a $40,000-plus car!

    However, my navigator, Russ Kraushaar, and I do not run my iX at Thunderbird. We prefer the challenge of the vintage class, so I was driving my 42-year-old Saab Sonett V4.

    There was a record turnout at T-Bird this year: more than 60 cars. The conditions ranged from slick, sticky mud over ice to truck-pounded ice to relatively recent snow over ice, uphill and down, at average speeds ranging from 45 kph to 72 kph---and timing was to the tenth of a second, with a grace period of 0.9 seconds to either side of perfect time, giving us a 1.8-second “zero” window.
    At the end of the first day, maybe 200 miles of rallying and dozens of timing controls, we had exactly 7 penalty points---and we took 2 at one control. So there were only six controls that we didn’t zero. The next-closest competitor (yes, in a Subaru) had 13 points.

    We managed to keep the lead through a decidedly slippery Day Two, during which I had several uphill icy sections where I confirmed my old statement about a front-drive car uphill: I can make it louder, I just can’t make it any faster. We finished the rally with 15 points to 25, if I remember the numbers correctly (they phoned us with the finals, as we were already on our way back to Oregon, an eight-hour drive from Merritt, BC). During the rally, I drove with one eye on the road and the other on the computer readout that told us how far ahead or behind we were at every point---to the thousandth of a minute. I worked very, very hard to keep our time exactly on zero, balancing early and late to try to stay within two thousandths of a minute of perfect time at all times. Obviously, that’s impossible, but the winners are the ones who are the best at approaching that ideal concept.

    My point, I guess, is that I figured out during the long ride home that I am probably the oldest competitor ever to win the Thunderbird Rally. I live by the bumper-sticker philosophy: It’s Never Too Late To Have A Happy Childhood. And as for age, I’ve always embraced Satchel Page’s quote: “How old would you be, if you didn’t know how old you was?”

    I figure I’m still a few months shy of eighteen, so I am constantly surprised at the geezer staring out of the mirror. But Jesus, that old sumbitch is a drivin’ fool!
    Trivial data:
    Total points:
    Day One 7
    Day Two 8
    Total 15
    Number of controls:
    Day One 28
    Day Two 24
    Total 52
    Average points per control:0.288461538
    Controls zeroed:
    Day One 78.57%
    Day Two 70.83%
    Overall 75.00%
    Max points @ control: 2
    Zero String: 11
    Ed Mobility likes this.

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