Sirius Rally Team

Getting 'Sirius' about Rallying

Review – Summer of Rally with Last Ditch Racing

Maine’s Last Ditch Racing completed an ambitious month of racing, competing in three events in four weeks, in two different countries. They clinched the 2011 Rally America Eastern Regional Open Class Championship and two podiums in the process. Cassidy was the Eastern Regonal Open Class Champion in 2008 and 2009 as well. Driver John Cassidy of Bangor, Maine and Co-Driver Jennifer Daly from Kelowna, British Columbia started their summer season with a second place in the 11 car field R1 Rally class at the Climb to the Clouds, a hillclimb up New Hampshire’s Mt. Washington Auto Road. Mt Washington is the tallest mountain on the Eastern seaboard.

First run in 1904, the Mt. Washington Hillclimb is the oldest motorsport event in the United States. Last run in 2001, Cassidy jumped at the opportunity to compete in the event. “Jennifer and I had no idea what to expect on the mountain. What we encountered was both a technical and psychological challenge. The weather and visibility were constantly changing, forcing us to push in low visibility on roads with significant exposures.” The event marked the first time that Daly and Cassidy have worked as a team since the 2008 Rallye Defi in Quebec. “We were ecstatic with a podium finish at the event, as we had no prior experience on the mountain. Having to run a restrictor in the turbo certainly kept our speeds down at altitude, but we pushed as much as we dared in the limited visibility at the top of the mountain. Our rally experience definitely served us well on the often wet surface and challenging visibility.”

The following week found the team in New Richmond, Quebec for the Rallye Baie des Chaleurs. One of LDR’s favourite Canadian events, the technical and rough stages of Baie suit Cassidy’s driving style. The team was setting solid top ten stage times on Friday night, until they had an off, striking a bridge with their Subaru STi on SS6. The front suspension suffered significant damage, and they were forced to retire from the event. “It was a bittersweet return to Canada. We had not been at Baie since 2008, and we were having a great time on stage. Jennifer and I were settling into the car and getting up to speed quite well. I came into the corner with too much speed and understeered into the bridge. It was a very heavy hit, and we were very lucky not to have done more damage to the car or ourselves.”

Two weeks on and many repairs later, the team attended their home event, the 2011 New England Forest Rally, headquartered at the Sunday River Resort in Newry, Maine. The twelfth consecutive showing for Last Ditch Racing at the event, the notoriously rough roads are home for Cassidy. “The New England Forest Rally has a reputation for being rough, and this year was no exception. For some, the rocks are intimidating, but I’m used to pushing on rough events.” The rough roads were new to codriver Jennifer Daly: “During recce I was surprised by both the softness of the sand in some spots, and by the size of the painted rocks on the road, but John hasn’t missed this event in over 11 years, so I was very confident in his ability to be fast through these strange conditions.”

The National event spans both Friday and Saturday’s stages, and each day is considered a separate Regional Rally. Cassidy and Daly set quick times on Friday, but unbeknownst to them, Jason Smith and Jared Lantzy, driving LDR’s original Subaru, T-1, held a lead of 7 seconds on the LDR team going into the final stage of the night, the famous Concord Pond stage. Cassidy and Daly were unaware of their overall standing, and the team goal was to set a new personal record on Concord Pond. At the end of the stage, they had bested LDR’s stage record by 12 seconds over just 5.75 miles, and secured the win over Smith/Lantzy by 13 seconds. “Having both LDR cars on the podium was great. Concord Pond is an epic stage and we wanted to push for all the fans that come out to spectate. Taking the overall win and first in Open Class was a fantastic end to the day!”

Saturday’s regional event opened with the longest stage of the day, where the LDR team posted the fastest time of the regional competitors by nearly 1.5 minutes over Smith/Lantzy. A flat on the second stage dashed any hope of an outright victory for the day, despite setting the best time on every other stage. “We had a flat and the tire started to delaminate quite quickly. We had 5 miles left in the stage and it was a very technical section. The car wasn’t turning well and it would have been dangerous to continue. Changing a tire on stage is always costly, but sometimes it’s the best choice.” The team was awarded first in class for Saturday’s event. 2011 has been another development year for the team, with a new engine and other technical changes to the car.

The addition of Canadian co-driver Jennifer Daly to the team has also had a significant impact on LDR’s recent success. “Jennifer strapped into the co-driver’s seat like she’s always been there. The communication in the car is very good and we both feel there’s still more speed to be had on stage.” The team’s future schedule is yet to be determined and likely won’t be finalized until damage assessment is completed on the car after this difficult schedule of events. For Daly, the possibility of rejoining the LDR team is attractive: “It’s very exciting to have some success early on with a new driver and codriver match. John and the LDR crew are prepared and competitive; I was very happy to be a part of such a fun and tight knit team. When we set out to do three events in four weeks, it seemed a little crazy, but with the right people and some hard work, just about anything is possible.”

The team is appreciative of support from Mirraco, a BMX bicycle company founded by extreme athlete superstar Dave Mirra. Mirra supplied the team with his signature Bell helmets that he personally signed. Mirra is no stranger to injuries in the past and the team were able to distribute helmets to several local area fans. John and Jennifer want to extend a special thank you to their crew for 2011: Drew Gladu, Duncan Matlack, Nathan Haskell, Jon Bolduc, Zach Sennett, Cullen Gillis, Bronson Crothers, Kevin Sennett and John Cassidy V. “Rally is a truly brutal sport on the car and without the support of our talented and dedicated crew, we wouldn’t think about leaving the start line!”

The team would also like to thank Dave Heerdegen of DTECH Motorsport in New Zealand for his support in tuning the car’s engine after all the recent modifications. “Dave has been an invaluable resource for us over the past two seasons, and we owe a lot of our recent success to his hard work.”

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August 1, 2011 - Posted by | 2011, Rally Aftermath, Stage Rally

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