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Russ Kraushaar's  stories from the 2000 Alcan Winter Rally.
(originally posted to PCC rally list)

 

Part I

Greetings from mile 1071 of the Alcan Winter Rally - Day 3,

We're currently heading toward Watson Lake after leaving Ft. St. John at 7 am this morning. This is one of the longer days we put in. The transit we're running now is about 11 hours long! The radio chatter gets to be pretty interesting on these long transits. Not much is repeatable to the general public.

Italian team members, Alberto Pirelli and Tiziano Furlan are taking a crash course in navigating with the Timewise 797A rally computer with help from Russ Kraushaar. They are struggling a bit with the traditional Alcan Rally mutating mileage factor but having an outstanding time regardless. Their good spirit is contagious and has been a catalyst for our team.

Day 1 covered a total of 537 miles ending in Quesnel, British Columbia and included two TSD (Time-Speed-Distance) sections; "Sauk it to me" just south of the Canadian border and "Soda Creek" in Williams Lake, B.C.. The first TSD was dry and clear. Soda Creek had packed snow and was run after dark.

The Subaru team ended day 1 with remarkable success! Dan Coughnour and Ben Bradley held the overall lead and first in Class I (4wd sedan) in a 2000 Subaru Outback Limited Sedan with a total of 9 points. There was a three way tie for second place at 13 points. This position was shared by team captain Gene Henderson and Russ Kraushaar in a 2000 Subaru Outback Limited Wagon (Class II - 4wd SUV), R. Dale Kraushaar, Larry Richardson and Paul Eklund in a Subaru Impreza RS (Class I), and Steve Norman and Gary Reid in a BMW 325 iX (Class I). Ninth overall and first in Class III (Seat of Pants) was the team Subaru crew of John Fouse, Katy Wood and Bob Foren in the second Outback Wagon with just 32 points. The nearest Class III competitor had 74!

Day two started with the first of the Slalom sections, Gold Pan Speedway in Quesnel. This is a 3/8 mile oval run as a dirt track in the summer but had plenty of snow when we got there. The privateer Subaru Impreza driven by Jake Engstrom posted the best time earning a coveted zero penalty in the process.

We then ran the "11% Grade" TSD, transited about 330 miles and ran the "Old Alaska Highway" TSD section at night. After a short transit to Fort St. John, many of us had dinner at the Northern Lights Restaurant and went to bed.

Overall positions changed considerably with the team of Unser/Dallenbach/Grimshaw moving into first. Kraushaar/Richardson/Eklund alone in second and Coughnour/Bradley holding third. The most significant improvement was made by our SOP team of Fouse/Wood/Foren. They moved from 11th to 5th!

The BMW X5 team of Russ Huntoon, Satch Carlson and Bailey Taylor became the first "casualties" of the rally when the odometer input of their Timewise 798A slipped out of the back of the computer. This combined with not having precalculated times to the given references caused serious navigational challenges resulting in a maximum penalty of 200 points for the "11% Grade" TSD. To their credit, they did not immediately head south.

Day 3 - More Casualties - We started the day with the "Long Lake I" and "Long Lake II" TSD sections. After waiting to make a left turn against heavy morning traffic, the Subaru team of Henderson/Kraushaar then compounded their troubles by missinig a bear left turn and ended up taking a 20 point penalty for their mistake. The Pirelli/Furlan team also missed the bear left and consumed 200 points in the process. The Coughnour/Bradley team missed a CAST (Change Average Speed To) and suffered a 20 point penalty. But the most frightening event of the morning occured after the TSD's when Tom Grimshaw had to be admitted to a nearby hospital - on his birthday no less! Tom had been complaining of pneumonia-like symptoms and was treated and released that same morning. After a second slalom course where Jake Engstrom once again kicked our butts with his Impreza, we arrived very late in Glennallen, Alaska and enjoyed Tom's company and some birthday cake. The top five positions remained unchanged.

Day 4 - The teams of Henderson/Kraushaar and Coughnour/Bradley tied with the days' best scores totaling just 4 penalty points through two TSD sections near Glennallen, Alaska. The team of Fouse/Wood/Foren remains first in Class III despite a few glitches.

Finally a short day! After several team members spent the past few days fighting a nasty case of food poisening and/or the flu, we arrive in Fairbanks with a few hours of daylight and check our cars over before the long trip to Prudhoe Bay.

Part II

Greetings from the Regal Alaskan Hotel - finish of the Alcan Winter Rally - Day 9

Trophies! They didn't have trophies when we won!! We got a firm handshake as I recall. This was the best attended Alcan Rally I'm aware of. I'm not certain why though. A few things have improved on the Alcan Rally since I last ran in 1994, and some elements remain very much the same.

It's still a true test of man and machine's endurance but some of the TSD sections were decidedly inappropriate. The rules are clearer and fair but Mr. Hines still exercises his undocumented authority to modify them on a whim. The mileages were untraditionally accurate and the final score was close but it shouldn't have been. A control we logged on day 8 quietly disappeared "for safety reasons" (Ha! the whole section was unsafe!). Then later that day, by way of incredible coincidence, and after the leading Isuzu was hit with a bad score at a subsequent control on the same leg, a new rule was written before the final day that allowed them to discard it. It may sound like sour grapes but every word is true.

Then!! On the final day, team Isuzu pulled all the stops and put one of its members in a rented Ford Contour and sent him into the TSD section ahead of rally traffic. They also substituted an unregistered guest in his place in Car #7. Given the handheld communications these guys had available, this action violated several rules. Witnesses in car #8 immediately protested and asked that all three Isuzus be given 50 penalty points for unsportsmanlike conduct. They received no reply to the protest even though the rules state they should have. Call me anal-retentive but this was about the limit for me. I didn't bother to ask if they were mearly investigating the billionth photo opp. of the event or, perhaps, doing something untoward. On the final transit into Anchorage, I _did_ thank them for entertaining team Subaru as we had been monitoring their "secret" radio channel for several days. John Fouse in our SOP car about died laughing and replied in kind. Admittedly a cheap shot but we were all due for a little humor.

My driver, Gene Henderson, is going to fax Subaru "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly" of it today. The good is easy. Subaru won it! R.Dale Kraushaar, Larry Richardson and Paul Ekland literally came from behind at the last possible moment to steal the victory from those talented Isuzu boys; Johnny Unser, Paul Dallenbach and Tom Grimshaw. The ultimate, decisive moment came on the first of four runs on the "Big Lake" slalom section. Drivers ran in car number order, so the Isuzu was first out. This would turn out to be very important because few of the top runners would better their first time in subsequent runs. I'm not sure but I suspect Johnny and Paul might just be sharing strategic information before, during and after runs like this. This means, to some degree, it doesn't really matter if it was Unser or Dallenbach that took the wheel because they're both very good and have worked together long enough to be useful to one another. We do know this. The Isuzu took the aggressive approach on some very slick ice in its first run. Then the sun came out for a short while and the small oval quickly became treacherous.

I watched as the Isuzu really cranked up the power and tried to sling a lot of inertia through two very long corners. It didn't work and it was obvious. Despite some very impressive, reportedly stock, horsepower, there was a distinct lack of speed being realized. This meant the advantage fell to car 2. The track still had good grip if you stayed to the inside of the corner and simply let All Wheel Drive do its thing. I quickly ran over to Gene and gave him my input since he couldn't see the entire track from where he was lined up waiting. He beat their time by about 3 seconds. A little later Alberto Pirelli set the days' fastest time (1:13) in his Subaru Outback Limited Sedan and R.Dale followed with a 1 minute 14 second run in his Imprezza RS. Dan Coughnour also got in a good run but it went down hill fast from there. Pretty soon there wasn't an unpolished line to be had.

The snow bank beyond flying finish became magnetic. Nobody could get the car slowed down before the exit early in turn one. A few drivers decided to "steal" a free run around the track while others settled for stuffing it into the embankment. It quickly became apparent who was driving Other People's Cars and who wasn't. One driver popped the right front tire off its rim on successive runs at the exact same point. Another got the car to about a 45 degree nose-up angle before high-centering himself. Bar the door boys and girls! We're not sacrificing an ounce of momentum for a pound of easily repaired sheet metal!

In the power AND weight category, none could match the mighty Chinooks!

It really was something to see the number 22 Chinook Baja RV (motor home) come out of the corner at full tilt and opposite lock! They literally tore up the track. Really!! They ground up large sections of ice and had to be stopped after only one run. (If they've got video of this, I want to see it!) A large hole was left in the exit of the first corner in the center of the track. A slushy pit threatened if you exited the second corner too wide. Potholes or not, nobody could touch Alberto's time. The Isuzus even tried "running the rim" on the outside of the track for traction. All efforts were futile. The ice finally won and a certain blue Subaru RS was the last man standing. The margin was only six seconds but it was all R.Dale and Company needed.

In the final results Subarus finished in 3 of the top 4 overall positions and won 2 out of 3 classes they entered. Room for improvement, but not an embarrassing abundance.

 

 

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