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barrowcadbury Reader
7/13/22 11:50 p.m.
irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/15/22 7:07 a.m.

In reply to barrowcadbury :

Hah, nice. After we split off from out GRM towing companions 





irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/19/22 6:30 p.m.

New England Forest Rally 2022




This was the big one for the year for us, as it's a long way away (~700 miles) and a big time commitment (5+ days all told). We ran NEFR in 2018 and were very slow and eventually cracked the oil pan on a big rock near the end. NEFR is known for big rocks that break cars and it's as much about attrition/who finishes as it is about speed, with plenty of opportunities to wreck or break stuff. So the goal this year had little to do with speed and mostly to do with not DNF'ing again. Of the rallies we've done since 2016, NEFR is the only one we haven't finished at least once...




Last Tuesday I loaded up and headed north, picking up Andrew (crewing for Dan Shirley) along the way in Baltimore for a 3-hour, metal-fueled trip up to the ANY% garage, home of Chris and Sara Nonack. After some Turkish food for dinner, we all crashed out for an early departure the next day headed up the East Coast.



About 10-12 hours later we finally arrived at a nice place Sara found near Sunday River ski resort, the Rally HQ for NEFR. The other two teams with us headed out to do recce of a few stages, but Jim wasn't arriving until later so we skipped Wednesday recce and had to do it all the next day in Jim's Tacoma. The weather and scenery was great, though it gets old after 350 miles of on-road cruising + 100+ miles of off-road at 25-30mph. Jim wanted some pics of the truck.




While on the entrance transit to Sturtevant (a stage) it started downpouring. Not a real issue but this stage entrance would be a high-green trail at most offroad parks. Not a real issue for the Tacoma, but people in regular cars for recce didn't have much fun going slow and avoiding big rocks (nor did we on our actual competition transit).


Finally finished up aroun 7pm after 12 hours of general boringness. The top (and/or serious) teams really do a lot of work on recce to tweak their stage notes or write their own from scratch, but if I'm being honest....I'm simply not fast enough that it matters much, and we don't make huge alternations. Frankly, I like rallies that don't have recce at all, but whatever.


The next morning we all headed up to Parc Expose, the rally start, where all 60+ cars entered stack up for spectators to check out and so we can mill around and see our rally friends.


Note: I never remember the stage names, so not going to use them much (and may mess up the ones I do use lol).


We started nearly an hour behind the big boys (Pastrana, Block, Semenuk, Brady, etc). And headed out for a double-pass of infamous Concord Pond. It's a high-speed stage full of jumps that basically has three possible outcomes: 1) Pucker up, put it to the floor, commit, and hope you stay on the road – and pick up a lot of time right at the beginning. 2) Go fast and crash big, and you're done for the rally, and 3) take it easy, don't crash, and get in a big hole time-wise. Having not done a high-speed stage for well over a year, we did #3 and I was pretty tentative and not “up to speed” in a literal sense. New tires we hadn't used before, getting a feel for things. For comparison's sake we were over 30 seconds slower than Chris and Sara in the BRZ in a car with similar power/weight/traction. The second pass we picked up about 20 seconds but were still relatively slow compared to the lunatics that run in the Open 2WD class.


Hey, we got close to winner Semenuk that one time...



I'll note here that in past years Chris and Sara have been my measure of whether we are “fast enough” or too slow – during the Merkur days and the early days of the BRZ when we were pretty closely matched. But they've done half a dozen rallies this year and it shows – they're substantially faster now, and not really within shooting distance any longer.


So for the sake of comparison at NEFR, I'll use Kevin Brolin. He drives an e30 with a bit less power and weight than ours. Jim co-drove for him at NEFR last year. Kevn hasn't done as many rallies as I have as a driver, but he's done NEFR like 5 or 6 times (half as a driver, the rest as codriver with Dan Downey, in the fastest e30), I think. So while his car is a tad slower than mine, he knows this rally really well and is consistently getting faster. In any case, we were 25 seconds slower on Concord Pond 1 and 22 seconds on Concord Pond 2. So that's the baseline vs. someone who knows the stage well in a similar car.


Us with Brolin's Mudwhale



The next few stages were a combination of rougher/slower areas and more high-speed stuff. The former I'm more comfortable at (though still trying not to break E36 M3) but was still having trouble fully committing to the more open 5s and 6s and it showed in the times. On the longer Stage 3, we were almost a minute back of Brolin (~10 minutes stage time), but on the shorter and tigher Stage 4 we were only about 5 seconds behind him (6-minute stage). On SS5 a bit more regression as we were a full minute back again on a 17-minute stage.


So, not a real great day and I was in somewhat of a bad mood as we headed back to the service park and the house, already sitting over three minutes behind someone that we should be similar in time to, on paper. Jim probably not real happy either since he codrove for Brolin last year and just missed a podium spot. Not to mention, we were actually well behind several cars that historically we have been substantially faster than at other rallies, - though most of them are locals who know the NEFR course fairly well.


Back to the house to hang out and chatter about the day



Day 2 was a whole different set of stages and I wanted to try to press a bit harder. At Parc we ended up parked next to the awesome Seamus Burke / Martin Brady Ford, which is a body in white with an amazing setup, and very, very fast. If you don't know who they are, Burke and Brady have something like 700 rallies entered between them, the last 70 of which or so are in this car – which apparently they had never crashed hard.



SS6 is a pretty short stage, and we finished it only 6 seconds behind Brolin so that was a bit better.


SS7 was the first running of the awesome Sturtevant with the rocky entrance, the “short” version. We managed to be only 10 seconds slower than Kev there. We also passed our buddy Sean in his newly-built Gold impreza (after destroying the previous one at NEFR last year).

EDIT: Sean reminded me it was actually SS5 Icicle Brook where we passed them. Then they hit something while chasing us and messed up their front suspension :(



SS8 another short-ish/fast stage and we were 20 seconds lower than Kevin over 6 minutes.


SS9 was the first running of Azicochos, the stage that killed us last year. It's a very long stage with a lot of tricky terrain, but thankfully less rocky than in 2018. Over almost 14 minutes we were only about 20 seconds behind Kevin and just behind Luke Horrocks, who I consider to be a good bit faster than me. More importantly, we were putting a lot of time against the cars we SHOULD be faster than, getting back ahead of them and beating them by large margins finally.



SS10 is a 3-minute bomber of a stage, lots of fun. Even more fun we beat Brolin by 2 seconds, so that was a good feeling heading into the first Service of the day. Nothing was really wrong with the car, and our bare-bones shared crew (bluej, Andrew, and Amanda) were frantically with about 5 other teams' crews trying to fix Nonack's BRZ, which had broken a strut basically in half on a mysterious invisible obstacle of some sort (which ended their rally, unfortunately)

I checked a few bolts myself and then ate some lunch and that was it. 10 stages down and no damage. That probably means “going too slow.” But yet another rally of not putting our car up on jackstands (at least not that I recall, I could be wrong...).



The next loop were the same four stages run again – so knew them a bit better though they did get more rocky. On SS11 (Sturtevant Long) we came out hard trying to attack the course. But first we got stuck behind a Unimog on transit and had to go extra-fast through the rough transit to get to the stage on time – seeing Erik Potts' front-running BRZ broken on transit and ending his rally....doh.



A minute in the car in front of us (a Galant VR4) was hard off in a ditch with the rear wheel in the air. As we approached he shot the OK sign out the vertical door so we continued on making nice pace.




About halfway through, we were waved down at a spectator corner to stop by course officials (along with the car ahead of us and two behind us). Turns out the stage was red-flagged as Eric Pat's e30 had crashed hard and was blocking the stage and supposedly on fire. The latter part turned out not to be true, but the former was correct.



Meanwhile, Jordan Melim's newly-built Volvo a couple cars behind us also took a big off into a crevace and was also said to be on fire (also not true). Between all the emergency crews running around (no fire, and nobody was hurt, in the end), they cancelled the stage and we transited through, getting a bogey time for everyone. I make sure to do some sideways hooning for the MANY spectator areas on this stage who were still full of people that didn't know the stage was cancelled........

The next stage was also cancelled to catch the field up to the leader pack, which was now 2 stages ahead (grr)., so right as we were starting to get up to speed, we had to spend an hour transiting and not racing, which was frustratting. Also a bit of bullE36 M3 since the four cars got bogey times of 6:20, while cars that actually ran the stage earlier got their actual times (Kevin running a 5:50, for instance). Not that it mattered, but that seemed like a bit of BS.

Unfortunately, the top cars had run the stage 30 minutes earlier at speed and the lovely Burke/Brady car took a bad rollover and was pretty much destroyed :/



SS13 back to action, the longest stage of the day at over 14 minutes and we were about 15 second sbehind Brolin, which is pretty good considering I botched a few sections pretty bad . So pretty happy with that speed.


On the short SS14, we hit it pretty hard and beat Brolin by by 1-2 seconds as well as Horrocks and Stone/Noyes in their turbo 318i – so several cars ahead of us in the standings. Feeling better now.



After a final service, one stage to go. It was getting dark, and was dusty enough that they were giving 2-minute dust windows even for the backmarker cars, which is unusual. IF you follow rally, this is the one where Ken Block lost the rally to Semenuk by 9/10ths of a second and then did a lot of complaining about dust. Not going into us, but there was plenty of dust for everyone.



We took it pretty easy on that one, since time didn't matter and it was rough and dusty and didn't want to break the car. Plus, lots of idiot spectators on outside of turns where a drivin mistake might kill someone.



We made it to the end safely, so a successful, if not terribly fast, NEFR.



Then watched the guys behind us roll across the finish as their tire fell off the wheel as they crossed....




In the end, we finished 4 minutes behind Kevin over 2 hours of rally, so that's what....3% slower? Our speed factor was 14 our first time at NEFR with the M42. After Day 1 it was hanging around 23 or so (with the first four stages between 16 and 22....pretty lame....and only one stage on Day 1 over 30. On Day two almost all our stages were over 30, with SS12 and SS13 over 40 so pretty clear we were picking up pace relative to the rest of the field, so that feel a bit better. Our overall SF for the rally ended up around 32, which improved our overall average (though we were in the 40s at the last two STPRs). Bottom line is that we finished 5th in our class behind four cars/teams that are absolutely, definitely, faster than us – and beat all the cars that we expected to beat. So all in all, we ran pretty much what we were expected to run, and finished every stage, didn't have any flats, and didn't break anything significant on the car. So I suppose that is a pretty good rally.



We finished 34 minutes behind Travis Pastrana (who was 3rd overall), with an average speed of 54mph (by comparison, Travis averaged 73mph). Just because stats, and so I can post this pic of the closest we got to Travis during the event lol


Incidentally, overall speed factor basically takes each stage speed factor, drops the four lowest, and averages them. Our first four stages were dropped, as they were our four slowest relative to the rest of the field. Go figure........




We also got to see our friend and DC rallycrosser Dan take a 3rd place podium spot in NA 4WD class in his nearly-stock Impreza, and in his first rally, so that was pretty awesome.


On the final transit back to the finish, we passed Dan on purpose and made him pull over with us to pick up some fresh-baked pies from a roadside stand – a NEFR competitor tradition that we didn't get to partake in the last time we were here, since our car was broken in the middle of nowhere.



Then hit the awards ceremony/after-party and didn't really pay attention to the Subaru/Block dust drama or any of the national stuff, but got to see some other friends take podium spots which is always great to see.


Then loaded up in the dark for an early-morning departure back to Virginia.

After 14 hours of caffeine and heavy metal music at high volumes, finally pulled into my driveway and officially ended a trip consisting of 1500+ towing miles, 350+ recce miles in the Tacoma (half of that off-road), 400+ transit miles in the rally car, and 120 or so competition miles in the rally car. That's a lot of driving in 5 days!








irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/19/22 6:47 p.m.

NEFR recap is the post above. Here's a quick post-race damage report

Not much damage that I can find, honestly. Which is saying a lot considering how much damage some others took from the rough stages (and us, last time)

Gravel-blasted suspension stuff

Otherwise, looks pretty good

The Maxxis V19 softs held up great. Rears are probably still 80% and fronts even better except for the inside edge - looks like I had some toe-out which is why the steering felt so heavy on the tarmac transits... A bit surprised the softs held up so well to 400 miles of transits, honestly. 

ON the last stage the bracket holding the horns snapped and the horns spent the whole time bouncing around held on by the wiring

And the bracket holding the coolant tank broke its welds so for half the rally it was held on by zipties, but seems to have survived just fine.

And two of my hood vent slats broke partially and were hanging into the engine bay, so I snapped them all off so as not to have an issue with that later. I'll weld them back on later.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/19/22 7:29 p.m.

Nice recap!


You need to supply some metal linkage for those of us in the peanut gallery smiley


Burke's Escort looks painful, but philosophically, a MkII that doesn't find its end balled up in a forest is a MkII that never actually lived...

DrMikeCSI New Reader
7/19/22 7:51 p.m.

Love the recap between yours and Chris's I feel like I was there. 

Berck Reader
7/19/22 8:35 p.m.

Just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to write this up!  As someone headed out to his first rally a couple days, being able to read these feels useful:)  I keep reminding myself my goals are: don't break the car on my first rally and have fun.

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/19/22 8:54 p.m.
DrMikeCSI said:

Love the recap between yours and Chris's I feel like I was there. 

Chris writes his first and steals my pictures from facebook lol, so they really do intertwine. He has a much better memory for "what happened where and when" over the weekend, while I'm kind of winging it. Even on stage I have to ask Jim "what stage is this and what's it like?" since I can never remember :)

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/19/22 8:55 p.m.
Berck said:

Just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to write this up!  As someone headed out to his first rally a couple days, being able to read these feels useful:)  I keep reminding myself my goals are: don't break the car on my first rally and have fun.

Those are excellent goals, and what we always shoot for as well! 

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
7/23/22 8:25 p.m.

A bit of repairs from the minor damages done to the car at NEFR, but first.....some action pics!

Ok, now for some boring stuff.

First, re-welded the main bracket for the coolant reservoir (which had actually torn out the sheet metal it was welded to) and replaced the bolt on the lower mount to the tank that apparently rattled itself loose and disappeared somewhere in Maine - this time I used loctite

I also added a third bracket (some little shelving bracket I found in my metal bin) at the top since the plastic factory piece apparently doesn't do much. So, hopefully won't have any issues with the tank coming loose again, since that's not a good thing lol. 

Then I used the second of the shelf brackets I found to make a new/stronger mount for the horns under the hood. I like this location, incidentally. They didn't have any dirt or mud in them :)

Also washed out the air filter. Wasn't too bad (if you followed NEFR< you know Dan Downey's got clogged with dirt and was causing his intake boot to collapse under the vacuum created). I have an outer pre-filter (mostly for water) but it seems to help keep dust out as well. 

So basically, the car is ready for a rallysprint in a couple weeks, it seems. 

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
8/9/22 9:07 p.m.

The sprint we had planned to do got cancelled due to weather, so had to find something else to do with that money and decided to do a tow rig upgrade that's been a long-time coming. The Sequoia has 177k miles and 12 years on it and the original radiator, like most OEMs, has plastic end caps that are prone to crack (Mike Golden's Tundra has cracked two of them). Nonack was also talking about doing the same so figured I'd pull the trigger on a Koyo aluminum radiator (and new hoses) so I don't have to worry about the radiator any more - and get more cooling capacity to boot.

The job was pretty easy other than a few cracked plastic clips. Took about an hour, and refilled with fresh NAPA Asian Red, which is recommended for Toyotas,. Still a very sweaty job on a 101-degree day.

I also switched my phone service to Google Fi, which gives you multiple free unlimited-data SIM cards as part of the deal. This Joying Android head unit in the truck has a SIM slot so put one in there, and now the unit has full standalone 4G/5G (independent of my phone) so it can run Spotify, Google Maps, movies, or whatever and my phone can do its own thing :) So that's a nice long-haul upgrade for the rig as well.  I really like this unit - the sound is pretty damn good and it has a ton of features. Really pleased with it for such an affordable price.

Otherwise, not much going on with the rally car itself. Rallycross gets going again in about 10 days so that'll be nice (and hot). In the meantime, my family was down at my parents' marina for 2 weeks (they're on summer break) and I went down for a few days to join once I coudl get away from work. Another nice country cruise in the Porsche, and got to take the boat out for the first time this summer with the girls.

^^ That's my dad's ex-US Navy captain's gig with a 300hp Caterpillar diesel, which he bought as surplus and refurbished. A bit hefty for running up and down the river so we stuck to the 24-footer (in the foreground).

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
8/29/22 9:20 p.m.

Doubleheader weekend - PA then WV

Last weekend headed up to Rausch Creek Offroad Park for a rescheduled rallysprint from Susquehanna SCCA. These guys are trying to build a program there and we're trying to support them. There's still some work to do, as the venue has some great mini-stages (a couple miles long) BUT it's a very rocky area and no matter how much heavy equipment they use (and they use a LOT of it), it still gets pretty rocky in some sections, which dissuades a lot of people from going. But berkeley it, if I wanted smooth, I'd go road-racing (and I like rough rallies since it slows down the fast guys more than it slows me down!). In any case, this place isn't THAT rough. STPR's Waste Management stage is much more car-damaging, and several NEFR stages are as well. But it's harder to justify the roughness for a sprint, I understand. 

But, rough sprint is better than sitting at home, so a small number of us showed up in central PA to do ten runs of a 2.5 (?) mile stage (really a double-loop of a shorter stage), with run times of mid-5 minutes. So, almost an hour of seat time is actually not bad for an event that didn't even require a full day.  Jim had other stuff to do (and gets bored at sprints since I memorize the course after a few runs), so I put word out for anyone who wanted to jump in, and a local (Rob Umbaugh) came out to practice. He's never done it before, but has a Stilo helmet,comms, and HANS since he's going to start co-driving with a friend soon, so this was a good way for him to write notes and practice his pace/calls. Being totally new to it, I tried to walk him through it - but admittedly I'm pretty lousy at writing notes. Luckily Sara Nonack was there to lend him some advice.

Look at the n00b. we must have looked very patriotic, with me in my red suit :0

No other O2WD cars showed up, so Chris (Nonack) and I more or less agreed, as usual, to compete against each other in whatever class (Nonacks were running by themselves in L2WD). There were a couple NA4WD cars, and some Rage Buggies (legal in NASA and SCCA but not ARA).

So, a small event but plenty of runs. They basically let us collectively decide when to call it a day, so we agreed on 10 runs since it was getting rockier and later in the day and it was hot. I ran the car literally as it has sate in my driveway since getting back from NEFR, except I swapped on some older Federal hard compound tires that are 50-70% tread so as not to tear up my softs. 


May be an image of road

All in all, car felt fine and other than a few close calls with small trees on the back end (several times in the place shown in the photo above, we were within a foot or two of those two trees). Took a few hard rock hits here and there but nothign that felt especially worrying. I was being pretty conservative in a few rough sections so as not to break anything with a rallycross the next day (and because I don't want to break stuff at a sprint with nobody in my class), but overall thought my pace was decent.  Nonacks came out with some really shredded Hoosiers and they were off of our pace by a good bit during the 6 morning runs with Chris being a bit more careful due to less traction. They switched over to some less-shredded tires in the PM and of the four after-lunch runs we each won two of them. In the end, I think we beat them by about 30 seconds overall (over 55 minutes), but all of that margin was while they had the E36 M3ty tires on, so we were otherwise pretty similar in times.

I will note that Rob took until about the 6th run to get anywhere near pace on the notes, so mostly I was just driving by sight. Sara Nonack jumped in for one run and that one was my fastest of the day by 5 or 10 seconds, which isn't surprising since she's great at calling notes and was 100% on-pace even in the quick sections (R2 > L2 > R2lg > L2 short > line (kinks) > R2-)....that kind of stuff.

All in all, good times and hopefully they'll continue to improve the venue to make future events there smoother and get better turnout. 

Dan Shirley's Impreza. He bent a rear strut (also did that at NEFR) but still finished.

Chris brought some Mudwhale Dark Ale (has to be one of the rarest beers in America).....which if you're around rally at all circa 2021-2022, you will know what the reference is to.

The trophies reflected that as well. Chris basically created Mudwhale, and it's pretty much the most-trending thing in all of American Rally right now among competitors...


Then I trucked 4 hours to West Va. to Panthera, got there at 10pm in time to see bluej doing some car work in the dark, and a few other people setting up camp

Got some sleep in the rig, and then a full day of rallycross, with a typically-huge 13-car MR class.

We had a newcomer as well, with a cool ride:

He picked up the car out west "in the desert." It has an SCCA Pro Rally logbook (and a cage of pretty small tubing) and a Rally America banner on it. We looked it up on eWRC and looks like that car did at LEAST 30 rallies in the Pacific NW during the early 2000s (and possibly more with an owner before that). Amazingly LOW number of DNFs (like 3 out of 30 starts). Anyhow, hopefully we'll see more of it in the future. 

Anyhow, he jumped in for my first run to see how rallycross works (total newbie to RX), and I promptly laid down an awesome first run....up until the hairpin where I dumbly thought to drop into 1st for no reason and then coudn't find 1st or get back into 2nd (sloppy clutch timing), so had to do the big uphill in 3rd, chugging up slowly. So, lost 5 seconds to the rest of the class right off the bat. Other than that, I thought I drove pretty well all day, and the car seemed fine other than an excessive amount of dust coming through the driver's footwell all day (more on that later). Nick had some cone issues early and fell out of contention, and though I thought I had some really good runs, there were a few people who were just faster (as is often the case). Stephen (after missing two events) came back and picked up where he left off with a commanding win. Sennett (bluej) got the DuratecBMW working right and moved frome like 7th at lunch to 2nd by the end, and Eisele took third. I finished 4th after the guy in front of me had car troubles. I let him take a run in my car but he wasn't as fast and said "your car feels heavy" (compared to his gutted, non-caged e30). But, it did let me get a few pics of my own car in action....

All in all, a good weekend though once again, it's pretty clear that if all the other fast drivers show up, I have a pretty slim chance of actually winning these days, even driving my best. Whether that's my driving, or the car being porky vs. most of the competition, who knows. 


Noticed this when unloading the trailer yesterday. That coudl very well be from NEFR, or Rausch, or Panthera. I should probably check bolts and stuff between events lol...But hey, it didn't come out, so all good :)

After some wire-wheeling, I found out why a bunch of dust was coming in. 

I have a vague recoolection of that being there like 10 years ago and I just jammed some seam-sealer over it (that was before I owned a welder). Guess I'll cut it out and fix it the right way now.

Otherwise, haven't found any other damage, but that doesn't mean there isn't any. TBD. 


irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/21/22 9:42 p.m.

Not much going on with the car itself other than fixing that rust/hole in the wheel well with a rallycross coming up this weekend (back at Summit Point). 

I cleaned up everything and cut out the small rusty area (forgot to take pic of the latter, but use your imagination)

Then found some probably 12-ga stuff (cut from an old tool chest, so beefier than car sheet metal, and formed a piece to cover that area and turn across the other face for strength. Welded it up, cleaned it up (sorry, no pics again) and seam-sealed it excessively

So, that's fixed. What else? Over the last 2 weeks with the wife and kids out of town at the beach, I mostly worked on the recce e30 project (see that thread for all the exciting details....lol). I also took a road trip down to my parents' place on the Bay and went to a vintage boat show, which was pretty cool. Lots of old stuff (plenty of shiny wood Chris Craft), but this guy takes the cake for building a woody Jeep wagon to tow his with (total retro-mod, with an LT6 (?) and basically all modern drivetrain to give it towing capability. In any case, it was pretty cool, along with the boat.

For a second I thought it was THIS one that I saw out in the country a couple years back while visiting a GRMer to get some steel (incdentally, owned by a former Secretary of the Navy) but now I recall that one had a stock engine, with a fuel leak at the time, and different woodgrain. 

I saw this very poorly-done Festiva Ute....

Also went to the Andrews AFB Air Show and caught some flight demos, Thunderbirds, and some other nice hardware

Had some friends over one night and my buddy came down from Annapolis with a big crock-pot of brisket in the front seat of his commuting car. This thing is supercharged with fully built engine, somewhere in the neighborhood of 500hp..... Naturally I saved a spot up front for him :)

What else....

Ah, so last night around 8pm I got the idea in my head that the rally car should live in the garage this winter, even with the project e30 in there. You've all seen my garage. It has a lot of stuff. My two big rolling racks in the middle make 2 cars a tight squeeze width-wise, and my two large workbenches at the front wall make it pretty tight length-wise too. So time to do some un-doing of past projects to make space. 

So, I have a big main workbench (old music studio soundboard base) that I'm keeping. I also have a "high" workbench made of an old industrial stainless-steel countertop off to the left, over my fridge, compressor, and a bunch of junk. Unfortunately, it's too high to actually use for much work, and really just collects "stuff" on top of it. Plus, it sticks out 3 feet from the wall with a ton of dead space in the back that I can't really use.

Here's what it used to look like a year ago

So that's all built with a hodgepodge of lumber, but thankfully all screwed together. So I sweated for an hour and took it all apart, after some tape measure work to see if my knee-jerk idea would actually WORK (yeah, I literally thought of this whole change at like 7:30pm and started a few minutes later.....

So, after about 3-4 hours of sweat and stuff piled all over the garage last night, I finished up the "new look" today. The main advantages here are that the shelving is now only 18" deep (so gained 18" in garage depth) AND I eliminated one of the rolling racks from the center of the garage. The other one will stay there since now there's room for 2 cars. Also built a new "side shelf" (over the welder/compressor) and had to do a few other modifications to make it all work, but pretty happy with how it turned out. Now I can fit two e30s in here with room to work, to some extent. One less car in my driveway (especially one less car out there all winter that LEAKS and doesn't have door locks and is full of expensive race seats and stuff, lol...

The finished product:

The bikes will go into the shed for the winter, adn the rest of this stuff has places to go as well, so the whole bay will be open, with about 24" on one side of the car (and about 6" or less on the other, lol). Not room to really work on the car, but it will be out of the weather and I'll be able to get to stuff around it, which was the real goal here. 

And plenty of room on the other side, since that's where the project car is, where I need more space.

bluej (Forum Supporter)
bluej (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
9/22/22 8:54 a.m.

good luck this weekend. I made travel plans on Sunday, so the move means I'll miss this one. 

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/22/22 8:45 p.m.
bluej (Forum Supporter) said:

good luck this weekend. I made travel plans on Sunday, so the move means I'll miss this one. 

well at least that will be one less person to beat me lol. 

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/26/22 5:56 p.m.

DC RallyCross #7: Back to Summit Point for the sprint to the championship!

After a full year away, DC's penultimate rallycross moved back to Summit Point Motorsports Park (and will be there for the final event as well). Summit is a lot different from Panthera - most notably in its complete lack of elevation changes and wide-open sightlines (so, only a few "blind" corners, whereas Panthera is almost ALL blind corners). Back "in the day" I used to win most of my events on Summit's "Barn Course" (so-called because of.....

....but in recent years running at Summit, I've mostly lost out to Stephen (superior driving) and Nick (good driving + 300hp M3), since Summit tends to have  alot of traction due to the hard-packed clay and is smoother in general than Panthera, so everyone has traction.

Moving back to Summit makes it closer for most participants so turnouts are higher as well - though MR has been high-turnout class all year. For this one, pretty much all the usual suspects (minus bluej) were in attendance - myself, Nick (M3), Stephen and Chris (e30), Eric (e30) this time without Neil but with Doug Kayser co-driving (who won a prior event this year in the class in that car). Then we also had Matt Bucker and former MF champ John Royer driving their e30, with a brand-new head after blowing it up last time out.  Mike and Bryce were there again in their M54-powered e30 too. And rounding it out, Jonathan Taylor in the  Rally 'Rolla.

So, aside from bluej, pretty much the entire field full of former class champions and/or individual event winners from the past 5+ years all there together back at Summit. And it would turn out that everyone brought their "A" game, big time.

Some other German Metal showed up running in SR class (though the Benz wing, not exactly stock.....a moot point since it would DNF with an engine problem anyhow). 

For tires, no real point to use Maxsports at Summit, as it's hardpack and grippy. In fact, as the day gets later it packs down enough that performance street tires are sometimes found to be the ticket to fastness. This weekend, most of the pack went out on rally gravels, though Eric/Dough had some very-worn Maxsports. Matt and John showed up with tarmac rally tires that we've seen one time previously, and they would prove to be the real ticket to grip here, not surprisingly.

Coming into the event second in points behind Nick (and one point ahead of Eric), and with only one more event left I had to go out fast to try to get some points back so I would have a shot at the championship at the final event. On the first run (second car out) I hit it hard and bested Nick by almost 2 seconds, with Eric and Royer both a few tenths behind me as the only drivers in the 72s (everyone else was 74s or slower). And that's basically how it went for the whole morning, with Eric and I and Royer flipping between 1st/2nd/3rd after each run, Nick. Matt and Stephen hanging a few seconds back in 3rd/4th - though Matt was putting down fast times on the tarmac tires along with John, but had picked up an early cone.

Meanwhile, Matt and Royer were having overheating issues, and were just feeding the car water between runs but still pushing full-on for the win - which looked very possible with the times they were running (yeah, we know they're fast, but they always seem to have car trouble).  In the end, they gave it up with 2 runs left in the morning, suspecting a badly blown HG for the inability to bleed and really high temps - not wanting to ruin the new block they'd just installed. They finished off their days each taking a run in my car and in (Eric's, I think), still putting down respectable times but about 2 seconds off the pace so they fell out of contention. 

It did let me take a nice launch shot of my car with Royer driving it, though

I asked both of them what they thought after the runs and both said "your car feels heavy" (it's probably about 300-400# more than their e30) and that the gravels didn't have close to the grip that the tarmac rally tires they were running did.

As for the rest of the pack, everyone was at their best, it seemed. I didn't overhear much or any of the usual tales of "such and such big mistake I made that run" from anyone, and throughtout the top-6 in the class (42 total runs), only TWO cones were hit all morning. Doug was in 7th putting down ridiculously fast times, but picking up six cones all told (subtract those 6 cones and he'd have been leading the class by 2 seconds!). Royer somewhat self-destructed late and hit 7 cones on one run and fell out of contention.

For the final morning run I put down the 2nd-fastest time in the class (with Doug beating me by a tenth), putting me 8/10ths of a second ahead of Eric and 3 seconds up on Nick. 

We broke for lunch on a beautiful day, and then clouds rolled in and the Summit Point Main track announcer was hollering for people to "secure their gear" with a strong storm headed in fast. Adam pushed back the afternoon session start an hour as it was expected to be a quick/hard shower and then sunny again so hopefully get going. We all jumped into tow rigs and sat out the 15-minute downpour.

Unfortunately (because I'm good in mud, usually), Adam decided the course was too saturated to run further, and the 4" of sticky mud on everyone's boots made it apparent that it would have been a mess and probably rutted up the course badly. So the event was called after the 7 morning runs, giving me the win. I really wanted to run in the afternoon muck - though in reality that would be bad since all I brought were gravels, and most of the other guys in MR had Maxsports waiting to change on, so I would have surely lost my lead. In the end, it was moot, and I got my second win of the season. NIck has one win (but it was double-points, so like two wins), Eric has one, and Doug has one.

So as it sits, here's the points spread. I'm up ONE point overall on Nick, but we each get a drop event and with drops Nick is one point ahead of me, annoyingly. So basically, if either of us wins the final event, that person wins the season (with winner getting 10 points to 8 points 2nd place). If Sennett, or Eric, or Nichols (or someone else) wins, then it comes down to where Nick and I finish. If he finishes directly ahead of me, we tie in points (which should give me the overall championship due to my extra overall point and one additional win). And I guess some other odd stuff could happen if we both finish further down, due to drops, etc.  All in all, I need to win the final event, or beat Nick. Eric still has an outside shot to take it as well, if Nick and I both do poorly.


The other kicker here is that there's a DC rallysprint at Summit the day BEFORE the final rallycross. So there is a chance I could break the car there and have to beg a ride with someone else. Hopefully that won't happen, but it's a mild concern. Guess we'll see. Weather could play a role too, of course. I will definitely BRING the maxsports to the final event in case of rain. 

Car: no issues at this event, it ran great and felt good. For the first time this season I took most of the rally gear out of the car (fire tank, extinguishers, spare, etc) so probably lost about 100lbs. At Summit, it's harder to rotate the car due to the extra grip so figured the weight removed from the back would help with that. 

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/30/22 10:36 p.m.

It's going to rain for the next 4 days, so everyone is tucked away in the garage. It's snug, but did a good bit of reorganizing last week to make the garage workable this winter with both e30s inside (and/or if I need to get the Porsche or Raider in there for some work)

Nothing doing with the rally car, as everything was fine at the last rallycross. There is a 2-day event in 2 weeks (RallySprint the first day, and RallyCross the second day) so the car will probably just sit here until then. In the meantime, I mentioned earlier that my dad gave me a big sheet of aluminum diamond plate (3x5') that's pretty beefy stuff (1/4" I think). He bought it for a handicap ramp at his business but ended up needing a longer sheet so never used this.

So after some templating with a large piece of cardboard, I got out the plasma cutter....

And after a lot of measuring and four holes drilled it is mounted to the two factory subframes on the Sequoia via some big bolts and difficult-to-access free nuts on top

So, this provides some underbody protection for the transfer case and a few other things under there (not that I offroad this truck on anything too gnarly). But my other motivation is the notable spike in catalytic converter thefts pretty much everywhere this summer/fall. The area I live is very low-crime, but for rally stuff this vehicle often finds itself parked overnight at budget motels in economically-depressed areas. And if you didn't know, these things have FOUR cats, which are super-easy to cut out in sets of two....no jack required, easy access to the pipes for a sawzall. So this plate blocks any way to cut the forward end of the pipes (cutting behind the cat alone won't do much good...).

Sure, if a thief shows up with the correct wrenches/sockets, he could drop the plate and then steal the cats (and the nice sheet of aluminum)....but....and I'm not going to show it, but I did something that would very likely stump the thief anyhow in terms of removing the mount bolts. In any case, thiees like to get cats cut off fast, so having an obstruction there is the main goal that would make them spend a good amount of time to get it off.  In any case, it's some peace of mind, and it cost exactly $4 worth of hardware.

I guess in theory having a big flat surface there could incrementally improve drag under the truck as well (rather than the big cavity there full of exhaust, transfer case, etc), so I'll totally pretend "yeah, I can feel the difference in my MPGs" lol. 

I also have a 1.5 x 3 piece leftover which I may use for a bit of extra protection on this or the Raider if I get bored. 


docwyte PowerDork
9/30/22 10:46 p.m.

Yeah, that's been on my mind as well.  My ARB skid plates don't cover the cats on my land cruiser.  Bud Built sells cat plates but they want something crazy like $500 for them.

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
9/30/22 11:16 p.m.
docwyte said:

Yeah, that's been on my mind as well.  My ARB skid plates don't cover the cats on my land cruiser.  Bud Built sells cat plates but they want something crazy like $500 for them.

yeah I looked at those, but I mean, if I'm gonna spend $500, hell, that's my deductible for my insurance so might as well just roll the dice lol. But the LC should be like the Sequoia and have a nice flat mounting area between the subframes, so you can hopefully scrounge up some scrap and just make one on the cheap like I did :)

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/16/22 9:14 p.m.

2022 DC RallyCross Finale - Shootout for the Championship

Coming into the final DC RX event of the season, as noted I had a 1-point lead over Nick (but was 1 point behind with drops - we get to drop one event per year and his drop is "worse" than mine). So it was win or go home for both of us, with Eric locked up in 3rd in points, and nobody else within striking distance. 

For a couple weeks before this event I thought about making the car a bit more competitive with weight reduction - specifically replacing my 40lb steel skidplate with a lighter-duty aluminum one, removing all my front lighting, and some other stuff. In the end, didn't do any of that but figured I'd throw on my soft-compound gravels (used at NEFR) since it was going to be a cool morning, once again at Summit Point Motorsports Park.

The course was fairly similar to the prior event, but in the morning it was much more wide open, with few tight features - in short, advantageous for Nick's larger but much more powerful car. I led off the class and knew I would have to get out of the gate quickly . My MO seems to be to be the fastest on the first run (mostly "reaction" driving) and then slowly getting faster before plateauing. Nick and Stephen don't get out of the gate quite as quick, but generally get faster quickly as they learn the course. Today was no different - I came out at race speed and beat pretty much everyone in the class by 2 seconds on the first run, and by over a second on the 2nd run. By the third run Stephen and Matt Buckler had gotten up to my speed and Nick was close. And so it went, with my early lead slowly eroding. On the fourth run, I once again had an issue with the 1-2 shift right at the start (this DSSR setup really doesn't like "powershifts" and I usually am more deliberate but kind of forgot on that run)....that meant about 50 feet of acceleration zone time spent just coasting and trying to find 2nd, which I finally found. The rest of the run was a flyer and would have easily been my quickest of the morning. Instead, it was about 3 seconds slower than that (honestly, it felt like 3 minuntes trying to find that gear!). This basically elminated my early margin and Nick and I basically matched times for the next 2 runs. On the 7th and final morning run, Nick laid down a flyer and passed me, taking a ~1 second lead into the lunchbreak.......not boding well for the afternoon. 

We had a long-ish lunch while Kimmet did some course changes, as the hard-packed clay got REALLY rough in some areas, enough to yank the wheel out of my hands a couple times briefly, which almost never happens.  

Meanwhile, it was widely noted that the "water truck" (a big tanker truck) went over and made a couple passes around the course to keep dust down for the Porsche Club guys over on Summit Main. Water truck + red clay = slippy if it's too wet. However, it soaked in pretty good it seemed and didn't seem traction would be too much of an issue. 

This is what got watered: 

Once again, I was out first in class and knew it had to be fast to try to build back up a lead (on a different/reverse-direction course that I prefer). I went out hard once again and it felt like a great run until the "S" curves (two very close 180* linked, cambered, turns). Usually I can get a pendulum effect going with the car to hit this area, but this time I got on the throttle too hard as the rear end got into the watered area at the bottom of the slope, and the car went around 270 degrees and came to a stop. I was still on course, but with a cone about 10 feet to my right, so it was either back up and try to 3-point the turn, or what I did - on gas hard, drop the clutch, cranked the wheel and basically spun more or less in place onthe grass, somehow cleared the cone to stay on course, and proceeded at best speed.  My time was 6 seconds slower than Stephen's clean run on that run, so figure 6 seconds is what I lost there. in any case, that was enough margin for Nick, who is very hard to catch when he gets a lead. I pulled off course, chucked my helmet and considered what a dumb way to lose the season, with my first spinout in multiple seasons (IIRC).  Walking over toward timing to verify if I caught a cone there, I looked over and Nick was heading over a big "crest" area toward the hard left into finish.........and then he didn't. He came over the crest, hit the brakes hard, and turned RIGHT toward the paddock.

So, a little note here. That "crest" has in the past been a finish line for us, we don't usually go "around the corner," but they changed it due to the paddock setup this time. During drive-through, most of the group didn't realize this and turned out right after the crest. I was jabbering with a passenger and didn't even notice at the time, and overhead someone note that "hey, that's not the finish, you have to turn left" to someone behind me. Ooops. In any case, I did the course correctly on my run (aside from the spin, of course). Nick did not.  The off-course penalty cost him 15 seconds (on top of my class-worst time on that run from the spin as the bogey time).

Stephen was in first by this point, but that was irrelevant since he wasn't in the points for the overall. We ALL know Stevie may be the fastest pure driver in the class, with two wins this season driving what, on paper, should not be one of the faster e30s out there. But, he misses a few events a year (playing coed frisbee with a bunch of ladies....) so usually can't win the overall (though he did last year when he ran a full schedule). But I digress.....his position didn't matter. Just mine relative to Nick's.

With now a 14-second lead on him (but ~10 runs left), I figured I could turn down the aggressiveness a bit to avoid breaking something on the rough course and/or another dumb spin. That was short-lived, as I dialed it back and Nick immediately picked up 3.5 seconds in two runs. Hmm, at that pace he'll catch me.....so had to go back "all-in" and Nick and I traded times for the next four, more or less maintaining my lead. Didn't help that Nick had nothing to lose and was really hammering down, possibly to a level i wasn't willing to. But assuming only a few runs left, I let up a bit again, while he proceeded to lay down the fastest time in the entire run group for the afternoon session.........TWICE. I was probably going at 90% at that point, just being a bit careful around a couple potential danger spots, but it was enough to hang on for the last three runs for a 4.5-second gap over Nick, so he pulled back 10 seconds over 8 runs, basically. 

So yeah.....hard to say "who would have won if I hadn't spun and he hadn't OC'd" - he was faster in the afternoon, very fast. On the few runs I hammered down we swapped times, so maybe I could have matched him. Or who knows if he'd have gone as aggressive if he was still in it. In the end, it's academic....E36 M3 happens in racing and I've lost events where I was "the fastest" as well.  I know Nick reads this, so Nick.....even though I know it wasn't your best season overall and ended on a sour note, man you're still fast AF.......

Even with the spin-out, I beat the other 9 cars in class (except Stephen, who ran fast and clean all day, and I lost to him by 5.6 seconds, so less time than the spin cost). So I feel pretty good about my driving overall (except the spin and shifting issue) and the car was good - though I heard a concerning clatter on the last few runs from the engine area. I'm thinking it's an exhaust leak at the header output, but TBD. 

So, that's that. Championship #4 in the books, which is nice. Though, it's a bit less "good feeling" than the other three, with this one basically won by Nick's big mistake right at the end. All in all, I thought it was my best overall season in terms of driving, and I finished top-4 at every single event (two wins, three 2nds, and two 4ths) in a seriously competitive class with 10 drivers who can win on any given day (and the car held up to 8 rallycrosses, 3 rough rallysprints, and brutal NEFR - with no DNFs, so that's pretty good as well). 

Still had to get home and put the car and trailer away......



irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/17/22 7:14 p.m.

Final points make it pretty clear that if Stephen had just shown up to most/all events and done what he usually does, he'd have as good a shot as anyone at being the class champ. But, he'd rather go play coed Ultimate Frisbee tournaments with athletic women instead of hang out with a bunch of dirty, bearded dudes lol. 

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
10/23/22 9:55 p.m.

So I had been considering doing one last rallysprint up at Rausch Creek in a couple weeks, but at this point I think I have other things I want/need to spend money on (including my other project vehicles) so figured I'd "winterize" the rally car today with the nice weather. So, off with the rally tires and on with the old bottlecaps and snow tires left over from WM Winter Rally the last time it ran (2018?).  Put the car up on stands, took off the skidplates and underbody armor and blasted everything with the hose for a while to get things as clean as possible, and drained the straight water coolant (will put in antifreeze for the winter since my garage isn't heated). And stuck the roof rack on it so I can use it as storage :)

In any case, that's a wrap on 2022 rally season for me. I have a few minor things to fix on the car (hood vent, exhaust leak among them) and will probably do some closer inspection of other things, but overall the car seems to be holding up fine. The tentative plan is to do Bristol Forest Rally in May, and as tune up for that there should be at least one DC Rally Sprint at Summit and a few rallycrosses. We'll see what things look like in the new year. 

I do have a set of new, studded, snow tires still sitting on a shelf, so if this turns out to be a cold winter maybe I'll throw them on some wheels and go to one of the PA or NY ice races.....TBD. For now, the rally car is stashed away and I'll probably work on other car projects until the Spring since the bay the rally car is in isn't exactly ideal for getting much work done.

In other news, Jim and Amanda got married last weekend! Somewhere way back in this thread I probably made mention that after meeting Amanda at a Frostberg rallycross she asked me to come look at a rallycross car candidate (a Volvo). Since it was near Jim's house, I called him and asked him to come because "I didn't know much about Volvos" or some other lame excuse to get him to come out and meet Amanda (not sure if they had previously met). In any case, they went to test drive the car, got lost in the countryside for 45 minutes (while I drank a beer with the owner), and....as they say....the rest is history. 

So, that's awesome

Stevie was there too, clearly celebrating his win at the rallycross season finale

The post-reception activities were attended by Amanda's totally restored e30 (the one she bought and used initially for rallycross!). My wife liked it

The next day a bunch of use went for a planned wedding cruise, with everyone bringing out their best rides. In our case, we had a red group (Mike's M3, Stevie's vette, and my 924S)

you may recognize that Miata as Jim and Amanda's also (and previously Jason's). Yes, the one that I personally have rattle-can painted TWICE in the past decade lol





irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/9/22 9:50 p.m.

Post for posterity, and to remind myself - tentative 2023 rally schedule:

- DC SCCA Summit Point RallySprint (April?)

- Bristol Forest Rally (May) - ARA SuperRegional

- Adirondack Gateway Stages (September) - USRF (this used to be Black River Stages, where we ran our first rally!)

- Full DC RallyCross season

- Susquehanna SCCA Rausch Creek RallySprint(s) - Dates TBD. 

Old photo of us at our first rally - Black River 2016

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/10/22 11:21 p.m.

Last weekend I headed up to the Rausch Creek season-ending sprint. Car is put away, so I hauled the 180 miles in the Raider (which makes a 3-hour highway trip feel like a 6-hour trip, even though it goes at 70+ just fine). But wanted to hang out for half a day and see some action from other people I know.  No BMWs in this post!

Chris and Sara were there in their own recce vehicle. Sara was co-driving for a couple different drivers and Chris was out on his mountain bike course working. 

Anyhow, watched the first session from the central area of the course where some untrod old trails connect to various vantage points - so got to do some light wheeling in the Raider.

I could have gone up the road to the actual ORV park, but watching fast cars is more fun than going slow over big rocks lol. Plus, got to take the raider out on the course and tried to chase the sweep truck. The Raider actually isn't bad at high speed in straight areas, but you really have to slow down for turns lol. I was not adventurous enough to try to get it sideways, for fear of rolling it and holding up the event :)

Anyhow, the drive there and back was uneventful other than the annoyance of having super loose steering requiring a good amount of attention to stay in my lane when going 70 on the highway. I'm definitely on the lookout for a Gen2 Montero steering box to retrofit (it's almost a direct fit, with minor modifications necessary), which is much tighter and also quicker than my Gen1 box. More on that when I find one. Anyhow, here are a few pics I took, since you come to this thread for rally stuff 

Somewhere way back in this thread there's a picture of a Mustang running STPR on 18" wheels with all-season tires. It actually finished that year (maybe 2015?). Never saw it again (that I recall) until this weekend, when its new owner showed up to start running it. So, that's fun...

The Rage Buggies were there. They look like a blast, but woudl be hard to justify the cost considering they can't run ARA events.

Sara decided two dogs were not enough for rally support, so she brought three. Boyd Smith supervised

Dan scoped out a possible new rally car

Dan and Brian got muddy

Some air was gotten

Good times!

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
12/3/22 6:01 p.m.

Quick Sequoia update:

Today it was time to circle back on a growing annoyance that I didn't take care of earlier, regarding the Android A/V receiver I put in earlier this year. The title of this write up is: D'OH!

So just a quick recap- this truck came with a (nice?) Kenwood touch-screen HU when I got it, which had working steering wheel controls, navigation, etc. But I really didn't like it, the sound was lousy, and it had a recurring shut-down glitch (which in retrospect was probably the factory JBL amp). Plus, the steering wheel controls were VERY laggy (using an aftermarket adaptor with the Kenwood).

Anyhow, I replaced this with the Joying 10.1" touch-screen setup - a perfect physical fit in the Sequoia, with an awesome screen, standalone 5G connectivity, standalone GPS, great sound/power, OBD2, and a bunch of other neat features. All told, it has been downright amazing in every way, especially for $400 or whatever I paid for it. BUT.....you may recall I could not get the steering wheel controls (SWC) to work. I tried factory reset, I tried various combinations of plugging in the CAN wires on the back of the HU, and I removed ALL of the Kenwood-related adaptor stuff for the SWC to take it back to stock wiring from the hack-job the PO did with the install. Others with this HU said it's plug and play (and everything else was). In the end, I decided either there was something janky with the vehicle-side wiring, or I just got a HU with a non-working SWC setup (I mean, it's Chinese, so who knows). Didn't want to deal with shipping it back to China for warranty, so I just bit the bullet and spent all year using the touch screen controls to do volume, menu, track, etc. Super-annoying since this is a big truck and you physically have to lean forward/reach to touch the screen. The other day I got especially annoyed with it and decided I'd give one last try to fix and then maybe look for something different.

In any case, I spent all morning today going over wiring diagrams (this truck has like 40 wires behind the radio, it seems, including 2 plugs that aren't used at all except with the OEM unit). I checked all the wires and everything looked correct. I had previously ID'd what I thought were the SWC wires on the vehicle side as a pink wire and a couple others. But new research showed it was a light green, gray, and brown set going into one of the OEM 20-pin plugs. So I traced those all the way to the steering wheel, no obvious issues. Tested again, HU still getting NO signal of any kind from the SWCs. Separated the 20-pin plug to check resistance and noticed immediately that the three pins for the SWC on the HU side of the plug were....bent downward, as if they had been going into the row of female plugs BELOW where they're supposed to go. IDK how that could happen (too much force plugging it in initially), but after straightening them out and plugging back in, happy to report that I got SWC signal to the unit and easily programmed it (BTW, no adaptor is necessary, the Joying unit decodes it directly). 

One side note: the SWC inputs are INSTANT on this thing. Zero lag at all from pressing the button to volume, Spotify track change, etc....it's faster than the OEM setup on my 2018 GTI, or any other car I own or have owned. Pretty impressive.

Anyhow, that was a very long bunch of words written to basically say "it works now because of something stupid and basic...." But honestly, something like this is a big deal for someone like me who takes a lot of LONG road trips in this thing and SWCs are a real convenience.

Now, please carry on with your life after having wasted 5 minutes reading this post lol....

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