Day 9 – Bay City to St. Ignace

It has been an eventful day and considering the many tests that we had to endure today we came out fairly well.

But first back to yesterday and our short technical problem at the start of the day. After rally mechanic Any Inskip fabricated a shortcut between the two fuel pumps and the ignition the car ran without fault all day yesterday and today.

It’s a scary if something electrical happens and if you don’t know where it’s coming from. When a fuse blows you change a fuse, when a distributor breaks we even have a spare one with us but this one is a mystery and is something we need to fix before the Peking to Paris rally next year.

Yesterday was not a very technical day from the rally point of view except that we had to cross the border with Canada again for a few hours. This made the Dutch teams a bit nervous because we had exported our cars out of Canada a few days ago when we left Canada the first time. At the timing of arranging the transport we did not know that we would come back into Canada again.

As it was, the border crossing was no problem, customs just wanted to see the car papers and our passports and upon return into the USA at Sarina again quite an efficient crossing.
It is a bit like going through customs at the Channel Tunnel.

Yesterday evening the organisers asked all of us to dress up like Monsters with items that we would have in the car. We’d better not show you the pictures but it was quite funny.

Today was one of the most challenging days of the rally with three 15 km regularity sections through the forests of Michigan and at the end of the day some timed speed laps on a tiny oval race track called Onaway.
The regularity sections were all with varying speeds between 55 km to 70 km including some twists and turns. All on forest roads some quite slippery from the rain of last night. With the top down we flew down the tracks and did most of sections without too many penalty points. There are those that do these sections without any penalty points and it sometimes makes us wander what devices they fit to do so..

Having said that after a week of rallying we are consistent in the top fifteen of the rally and the regularities – that Grace has never done before – are getting better every day.

On the circuits we are amongst the fastest six of the rally. This car really handles very well on track as well as off road. This afternoon we found ourselves cruising on gravel and sand track at speeds between 90 and 110 km an hour. With the rally handbrake we keep the car under control in the corners and long bends. Mind you sometimes you need to pinch yourself that you can drive for hours off road through breath-taking forest’s without seeing anybody except for some deer and yes a big snake that was in the middle of the road when we came sliding through a sandy corner. We were not sure if it was dead or alive but when I offered Grace to drive back to see which was the case she carefully and forcefully pointed out that this was not a good plan.

Today we spend time in the Au Sable State Forrest and later in the day in the Huron National Forrest. We had an early lunch stop in a small village called Atlanta, no, not the one in Atlanta but in Michigan. Then another National Forrest called Mackinaw State Forrest before we arrived at the oval. When we did our circuit lap we set a fastest time until then of 42 seconds but tonight our official time at the hotel was given as 1.04 which is a mistake but dropped us a place on the leader board. Not to worry it is all recorded on our time card so this will be corrected tomorrow – we hope.

With the 42 seconds we were sixth fastest for the day and considering I missed a gear selection at the first corner we could easily have beaten the best time of 40 seconds. It is good to see that Grace gets really fanatic when such a mistake is detected. A week ago it was like – okay lets make sure that we can get to San Francisco without a Tom Tom – now its:
What are our times and what have the others done?

We stayed at the track for a bit longer to see the others lap and or spin and it was good the time schedule allowed us to do this. The weather has been fine all day mixed sun and clouds and a good 24 degrees so the top was down all day.

After the race track there was an eighty km run along the shoreline of Lake Huron before we crossed the Mackinac Bridge which separates Lake Huron with Lake Michigan to St Ignace a small holiday town on the shores of Lake Huron.

We arrived at about 5 pm and are staying in a nice Lodge complex where we can park our cars in front of our rooms. When we had clocked out the rally I went to fill up the car with fuel, bought some cold beer and some snacks – of which there are plenty at US gas stations- and returned to the hotel where we shared a beer with lots of our rally friends by our cars in the car park. Nice to be able to do this sometime and have time to exchange experiences of the day or other rallies or how cars are prepared.

Our red Pagode gets more and more attention from other competitors and I noticed people have visited our site to check out how it was build. At six the rally mechanics returned from a long day following the rally but Andy who helped me yesterday morning came and checked out the fix he had made for my fuel pumps. Then we took it all apart and he checked the various electrical connections again. When he put the relay back again the car started immediately. So the relay is good but because we do not know what caused this hiccup and it might occur again Andy did also keep the emergency switch in place in case the connection broke down again. Then he also handed me a hand drawn diagram of the really circuits in case I needed to fix it myself.

To cap it all we also fixed a small problem with the breather pipe of our fuel tank that spits out fuel when I take left hand corners fast. I will not bore you with the detail but I will tell you if its works tomorrow night. These rally mechanics or Sweeps as they are called are magic!

That is it for today. Grace is immersed in an episode of Homeland on her I-Pad after an intense day at the office.

Tomorrow will be a long day with almost 700 km of driving.

Stay tuned!