Day three of the Rally Appalachia, at Darlington Raceway
Day three of the Rally Appalachia, at Darlington Raceway. Click image to enlarge

Article and photos by Michael Schlee

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2011 Rally Appalachia

The 2011 Rally Appalachia could go down as three of the hottest days I have ever experienced. Temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Celsius today, and the humidity pushed the needle over 50. Teams who did not have air conditioning in their cars were once again punished during the six-hour drive. The fact that teams were not dropping out due to overheated cars was actually a shock.

On day three, the route took teams from Greenville, SC to Charleston, SC with a stop at Darlington Raceway. The latter was, of course, the highlight of the day for most teams. I personally have never been on an official NASCAR track, so getting the opportunity to drive around one so rich in history was quite an honour. Even with us running behind a pace truck, you could get a good feel for just how steep the banking is and how imposing a track like Darlington can be. If you have never driven on a proper oval, you should if the opportunity ever presents itself. As a fellow driver mentioned, my already high respect for the drivers of NASCAR has greatly increased.

Considering the temperatures we drove through over the three days, and the fact we were at a racetrack each of those days, it is amazing how low the attrition level was. Only one car suffered a catastrophic failure, and the worst part of it was it happened right at the starting line. Undeterred, the team went home, grabbed another car and continued on the final two days of the rally.

Day three of the Rally Appalachia, at Darlington Raceway
Day three of the Rally Appalachia, at Darlington Raceway. Click image to enlarge

Other vehicle breakdowns included a Mustang needing a new clutch, throw-out bearing and flywheel. The parts were overnighted to our day one hotel and it was fixed during day two. The driver then drove all night and met up with the teams at their day two hotel around 4 a.m., and he was back on the road by 7 a.m. As well, on day two, a Camaro started to lose braking ability while on the Blue Ridge Parkway. He raced to a parts store and was able to grab new front rotors and pads. Over a few cold beverages that night new front brakes and rotors were installed in the hotel parking lot at midnight, and the car ran flawlessly all day.

For those of you who have been reading these posts over the past two days yes, the Corvair defied all odds and made it to the finish line today.

The third and final day of the CJ Pony Parts Rally Appalachia has come to end. All of the teams have checked into the hotel and are awaiting the awards party tonight in downtown Charleston, SC. Once again, Rally North America has done a great job hosting this event. We will be back next year; will you?

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