4 May 2010 - For immediate release
For more information, contact: John Dillon
Widget Rally Team
P. O. Box 1231
Thousand Oaks, CA 91358-0231
Widget web site: www.WidgetRacing.com
e-mail: John @ WidgetRacing.com
Ridgecrest, CA. Neither Iceland's volcanic ash nor Ridgecrest's rocky soil nor even transoceanic jet lag could keep the Widget Rally Team's newest driver from successfully completing her first rally behind the wheel. Katianna Pihakari partnered with two-time national champion co-driver John Dillon for the High Desert Trails 2010 rally held on 9 April 2010. The event was sanctioned by NASA and is a part of the California Rally Championship Series.
"We set definite goals from this event," explained Pihakari. "We specifically wanted to work on getting a feel for the car and establishing a working relationship between each other and our crew Doug Nagy, Steve McNaughton, Marni Nagy and Jon from Streetwise Motorsports."
Dillon added: "I did not even allow Katianna to compare or see the stage times because this event was learning about car control and bringing the team to its first finish. Scores were secondary to seat time."
Pihakari quickly discovered how slippery dirt and sandy roads can be. On the very first stage she wrestled with the car to keep it on the road. Mile after mile she grew more comfortable with her Subaru and was able to pick up the pace. On the second stage she was caught by surprise and drove up onto the berms (mounds of dirt at the edge of the road). Fortunately she was able to conserve momentum and return to the road without being sucked into the dirt and stalled.
With continued coaching from Nagy, McNaughton and Dillon she was able to improve her speed on the third pass. Continual improvement in car control skills and her progress in learning to read the road while processing the rapid stream of information from the stage notes also resulted in better stage times.
The rally's next three stages used the same road but in reverse direction. Twice the team was caught out by a tricky left-right-left combination and on the second time they went dramatically off the road. The strong Subaru knocked down a large bush during this hundred-meter off-road excursion. The handling of the car was compromised for the rest of the stage because of a bent left rear lateral link and a damaged right front control arm. Without a spare, Nagy and McNaughton pulled out the damaged lateral link and straightened it with a sledge hammer within the limited service time, with such efficiency that the crew still "made their minute" and checked into the next control on time.
The final stage of the rally proved to be the best. With no course deviations and a clear focus on the team's goal, the team brought the car home clean and fast, thus satisfying the objectives for the weekend.
"I learned a lot this weekend," commented the driver, " and not just about the car control and vehicle dynamics but also about the importance of establishing a good team with solid communications. It is essential for the team to work together and to share a common purpose and goal. I also learned a lot about the role of the driver. It is very different from my previous roles as a co-driver or a crew member."
Dillon said: "This was my first event in ten months and it was a great way for me to shake the rust off in preparation for Rally Tennessee at the end of May [co-driving for Brian Scott in a vintage Datsun 240Z]. I appreciated the opportunity to co-drive for Katianna and am looking forward to our next event together. This will probably be North Nevada rally, headquartered in Reno, NV, in June."
"It's nice being able to drive the car onto the trailer at the end of the rally!" noted Nagy. "It's even better when there are no major repairs to be done, but just routine servicing. A lot of drivers start off fast but get into trouble in their first event, but Katianna kept a cool head all the way to the finish. I am proud of what she was able to do in this event."
PikaSports, working together with the Widget Rally Team, is supported by Streetwise Motorsports (www.streetwiseparts.com). The Widget Rally Team insists on brakes by Porterfield Enterprises (www.porterfield-brakes.com) and utilizes the web services of Shults Dot Com (www.shults.com) for its internet needs.
Photos by Bill Rogers, Motorsports Memories. If you'd like really hi-resolution images, please let us know.
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