Rally drivers: don't call; they're busy
One week ago, all the top guys in rally car racing had their cars out getting dirty way, way on the East Coast at the New England Forest Rally.
The calendar plays a cruel joke on them right about now. Count the days: 10 to get all the way from the critical season-ender in Maine and N.H. to L.A. to set up and start practicing in the Coliseum. In terms of where these racers compete, the events couldn't be farther apart. Really.
So, think about what that means. Most of these guys don't have a full team of mechanics and spare $250,000 rally cars lying around. And after a competition, their race cars need to be torn down completely, fixed up and, in this case, improved from whatever spec they run in during the series to the top spec they need to be in during X Games. A lot of the grassroots guys in rally competition do the work themselves and with friends and family in rented shops or move the family grocery-getter out into the driveway to do the tear-down in their personal garage.
Don't call them. They're busy.
For the next week, guys like Pat Moro, Chris Duplessis, Tim Rooney, Bill Bacon and Travis Hanson are going to be banging out bodywork, fabricating custom parts, installing new engines, fixing melted wires, installing new struts. ... They're elbow-deep in grease, basically. Once that's all sorted out, it sure would be nice for them to actually drive the thing around for a little while to make sure it all works. But they'd better not break it because there's no time to fix it. Again.
Then there's the matter of making sure the cars are pretty for the biggest TV event of the season. Call it a day to install a new vinyl wrap, buff the windshield and throw on a few extra stickers to thank the sponsors who are -- hopefully -- paying some of the bills. And OMIGOD! They're never going to get all this done in time!
But wait: Weren't there 10 days?
Ah, no. The cars don't drive themselves to L.A.; they ride in the back of trucks like pampered princesses. They're so built-out and high-strung that there's no way they would survive all that driving in one shot without another tear-down -- or 30. So, let's be optimistic and call it a 50-hour bonsai run in a truck, going more than 3,000 miles from coast to coast, trading off drivers and no breaks. Not even motels at night, my friend: They're sleeping in the truck.
And this is all presuming the truck doesn't throw a fan belt in the Nevada desert or get a pair of flat tires riding over the mountains in Colorado. (Teams might carry only one spare tire; but on a bad day, they'll go down in pairs.) That kills at least two days of that time -- if you measure each day as a solid, 24-hour span of driving. It's epic and exhausting.
You can bet that some of the guys you'll see hammer to the floor in the stadium will have spent a couple of the days earlier in the week sweating it out behind the wheel of a truck/trailer combo.
So, if you happen to dial the number for your favorite rally competitor this week and find his voice mail full and he seems to be ignoring your texts, cut him some slack. He's busy.