Premier of the Purple Panda
Hello everyone! If you don’t know me I’m Dustin, and I am the driver of the Crane Rally Crew #2 car, otherwise known as the Purple Panda. I’m gonna try and do a quick run through of my entire first rally season and then we can get into the spectacular ending of Big White Winter Rally.
Olympus was my first rally. We scrambled to get our car completed and rally worthy, and thanks to help from a group of my friends (Ken, Noah, Tristan, and my brother KC), and Adam’s old suspension and engine, Jeff and I were ready to give our go at tearing up some dirt. We picked up some tires from Garth Ankeny the day before the rally, and fought our way with a few minor changes through Tech. Day one started out pretty bad, it was Jeff’s first time co-driving, and my first time driving at speed, and after a missed call on turn five we found ourselves smashed into a berm. Luckily the Panda took it in stride, and aside from a new smirk from the bumper she was ready to keep going. We made it through most of the rest of the day when Bones(the motor) started overheating. This issue was remedied, when I realized that in haste I had wired the fan backwards. Soon afterwards the troubles came back again in the form of my gear box. It started whining like a combine on a wheat field, and 2nd gear did not like being used. We came into pit and filled the gear box with oil, 2nd was still being resistant, but the whine went away, and I came to the conclusion that I had ran the box dry. I guess I didn’t have the time to check that, my bad, but I’m gonna blame it on my crew chief Ken. So way to go Ken, but thanks for hunting down some gear oil. Bolted on the HID driving lights and prepared to go. Sadly as most of you know, tragedy struck the race in the form of a fatality. Another competitor, Matthew Marker was killed in an accident while competing and the rest of the day of competition was cancelled. I didn’t know Matthew, but from all accounts he was an amazing man. He will be missed. The next day we got up early and headed out to the stages. There wasn’t a lot of stand out moments, other than the end of Taholah, which managed to take out several cars going all out on a fast stage trying to make up some time. Sadly this list of cars included a good friend of ours Sean Medcroft and his Merkur took a bad slide into a tree. Though the car did not survive, it was good to see that he and his wife were ok. First Rally Finished!
Oregon Trail has an amazing has an amazing spectator stage and it was super fun to show off for everyone. Thanks to the Tabor’s for organizing an amazing rally. Sadly it appears that the overheating issue from Olympus reared it’s head in the form of a warped head gasket. Bones was shoving coolant out the overflow faster then I could manage to replace it. We had the car running ok despite the coolant issue, and thought we were going to make it, however some rain got inside the car and shorted out our Main Relay shutting the car down completely near the end. Adam’s car blew up the rear end and we scavenged his main relay in time to start the third day, sadly mid day we got stuck in the mud, and though we were able to get pulled out, trying to rock the car back and forth emptied our coolant and did the head gasket in. We started out for a stage and the car was jumping and pulsing around like a pissed off Bull, and Jeff and decided to call it a day instead of risking blowing bones sky high.
Idaho Rally was amazing. Ken and I threw a motor together just in time to make it there, however the piston rings weren’t great and so we ended up with limited power. The roads basically felt like floating, every turn was an amazing drift, and I felt like I could safely push the car to the limit in every curve. Sadly day one was all uphill, and as fast as I could go, my power limited us putting in any really fast times. Day two was supposed to be in reverse, but the organizers decided to run the stages the same way, disappointing to me, but the Subaru drivers seemed excited. Note to Organizers, MORE DOWNHILL!!! Dave Henderson ended up winning again, with Adam in Second, and myself in fourth. Other than that it was an amazing rally, and I can’t wait to come back next year with the 20V.
Thanks to Vedran at Spitfire EFI, and our good friend Jireh Ward for getting our 20V race motor running, the engine was amazing, and I was ready to kick some ass. If you ever need standalone Megasquirt work I strongly recommend Vedran at SpitfireEFI.com in Bellingham for everything. He does amazing work. We got through Tech faster than we ever had with no problems and we were ready to roll the next day. Sadly we didn’t make it past stage one. The engine felt amazing and the car was handling perfect. I felt slow at first, but the more comfortable I got with the car the faster it let me go, so the faster I went. The engine was begging for me to let it go, 8,000 RPMs and she just wanted more. Then the passenger tension rod popped out. Easy fix, but I couldn’t fix it on the road and the day was done for us. Really really disappointing. To make matters worse, the hydraulic e-brake let go while the car was sitting and the Purple Panda rolled further and tried to do a swan dive off of the cliff. Luckily it didn’t do any damage. Thanks to Hendo for the amazing party after the race in Hood River, please please do that again next year.
OK, let me start this one off this way. I love the snow, I love driving in the snow, if there is one thing I hate about Seattle, it’s that it doesn’t snow enough. This was my event, and I was super excited. Even though the Panda was leaking every fluid besides fuel, she was ready to make some rooster tails. Not many people know this, but when Adam and I first found the panda she was sitting in a field and we pulled it out for an ice race in Canada. With a few belt changes and some new tires I managed to tear up that frozen lake, so she is as much used to the cold as anything else. Anyways, after the first stage we found ourselves in second place behind only Adam in the 2wd class. After we passed Adam on the second stage in a snowbank, and compared our times we found ourselves the fastest of the 2wd class. Victory is intoxicating, after we found ourselves stuck in the snow on a ridiculously horrible snowcross course, and almost disqualified for a minor no seatbelt penalty, we were a solid minute behind a golf driven by Eric Grochowski. We headed out to the full stages and I was hellbent on getting that minute back. The next stage was Gem Lake. The first half of Gem Lake is a very tight section with snow banks all around. I felt slow, and looking back at the video I certainly could have gone faster. The second half of Gem Lake opens up into wide sweeping curves, and I figured I could power my way into a better time. Sadly the road had a different idea, it was slippery as all get out. After Pinballing between two snow banks and almost getting stuck, I just kept going. I really should have taken that as a clue to the conditions. I entered a right 4 way too fast for the conditions and found myself going nowhere but sideways. I put the pedal down hoping the 20V would keep me on the road, but once I crested across the center of the road I was done. Myself, Jeff, and the Purple Panda flew off the embankment, found a small tree and then rolled once down the hill. We’re fine, the trees gone, and while extremely damaged I think we will have her back on the road in time for next years season. Be afraid, be 20 valves of fury afraid.
Thanks Garth for getting us some great snow tires last minute, and thanks Pat Darrow, Hendo and crew for bringing them to Canada for us. And a huge thanks to Dave Clark Motorsports for building us an amazing cage. Thanks Jeff for being an amazing co-driver. Thanks Ken for dealing with my shit and working on the car, and also Whitney for letting me borrow him. Thanks Jireh for being an amazing Mechanic and getting the 20V to run. Thanks Vedran at SpitfireEFI for wiring the hell out of that 20 year old bucket. Thank you everyone for helping me make it through a whole year. And most importantly thank you Adam and Britta for sucking me into all of this. I never ever ever ever would have made it to a single race if Adam didn’t have a car for me to copy, donate countless hours of free work and fabricating to get the Panda running, and give me someone to try and keep up with. You’re mine next year. See you all next year!
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