As I approach middle age and the glory of my youth wanes, I've pretty much decided not to chase rally championships (like I really did before, though...) and just take rides with people I like and/or in cars that I like. Cody Crawford is people that I like. After numerous carpools to Oregon with Cody and others, I've learned he is a genuinely nice gentleman and fully embodies my favorite parts of rally. Unflappably positive, mechanically apt and willing to help, but still competitive enough to make it exciting.
Earlier in 2019, I had ridden with Cody for a test day to try out his new-to-him Mazda 323. The car has actually been in the NW for quite some time, owned by old rally friends the Baldini's, and the Demon Rally Team may or may not have mooned the poor thing while stranded in a ditch during an Oregon Trail Rally. So, I felt I owed the car something. Cody learned a lot about the car and his driving during the test day that we would use later. Unfortunately, that test day ended with the 323 doing a small pirouette, assisted by some small trees, and breaking a number of suspension related items. So, after some moderately tense reprep, Cody and rally friends were ready for Olympus.
Because Cody is a co-driver turning driver, everyone talks a lot of smack and expects overconfidence. Truthfully, we used up all our overconfidence on recce by eating snacks from the Matlock Store and seeing sights while getting the job done at a reasonable pace. At any rate, perhaps because of this expectation, the organizers saw fit to start us last on the road. We set some reasonable goals and slowly moved up during day 1. We used our test day knowledge to keep everyone behind us from choking in oil smoke. Basically, the first day of the rally went pretty smoothly, for a usually rough event. A small issue with the skid plate was the only drama that I recall and we applied our rally skills, ratchet straps, zip ties and hope to keep things together for the rest of the event. (Looking at the times months later, Stage 2 was pretty slow and I don't remember why, but we got 11th in regional on the second superspecial!)
Day 2 progressed similarly, with good mid-class results and plenty of staying on the road. The only excitement was on the way to the last loop of stages. Just after we pulled out of service, Cody said he felt something in the steering and a noise began. Seconds after he said "it feels like a wheel", the drivers front wheel rolled off to the left and the car took a solid dip in the front. Cody calmly navigated to the side of the road and we started problem solving. Cody got the wheel and searched for lug nuts while I started the tire change process. Eventually, we had to scavenge lug nuts from the other axles and finish the rally with 75% of the required lugs on every axle, but that's just how this game goes sometimes. We made it to the stage start on time and finished the rally with a grin. It is always good for a "new" driver to finish!