¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
3/7/21 6:22 p.m.

This weekend we went down to Sandblast Rally in Cheraw SC so that we could run the combo car- but WTF is a combo car, you're asking?  In a rally with both motorcycles and cars  competing, somebody has to make sure all the bikes are off the course before the cars come flying though so nobody gets run over.  For Sandblast this year that was us, so we loaded up the truck and headed down.

But First, Cute Animals

Some friends of ours have an animal sanctuary in North Carolina, and another friend lives nearby, works there, and offered us a place to stay so naturally we dropped by to enjoy a hike, visit lots of animals, and eat delicious pizza.  The view across the sanctuary at dusk:

And a photo dump of various adorable animals, including but not limited to several foxes, a coatimundi, and a very friendly porcupine:

OK OK I know, this is a car forum... so after fun animal times we headed to Cheraw so that we could get to work:

A bit about the truck before I start with the rally stuff- it's a 2001 2500HD with the 8.1L/Allison/4x4 drivetrain, and other than an exhaust I made myself, some 17" wheels that I bought from GRMer Patrick with Kenda Klever RTs on them, and Fox shocks, it's stock and has a little over a quarter million miles on it.  We recently added an ICOM 2730A radio since course cars need a HAM radio and licensed operator (in this case Sara) in order to do their job.  I've run this rally on a motorcycle in the past so I knew what to expect, but moving a big heavy truck through the course quickly and safely was a new challenge for sure.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
3/7/21 6:34 p.m.

Friday, Tech and Shakedown

On Friday I helped tech bikes while Sara went and orchestrated setup of the service park.  I captured exactly zero pictures of bikes being tech'd, so here are some cars that came through after the bikes were done and I wandered over there:

Eventually, Sara was done setting up the service park (with very important assistance):

so she came back, picked me up, and we headed over to shakedown.

Want to know what's cool about Sandblast, other than the weird surface and super variable conditions?  Weird and super variable vehicles- where else are you going to see all of these competing against each other?

We stayed until the end and as a result, got to sweep the course and give the "all clear" at the end of shakedown, which was a good test of the truck:

With that done, headed back to the Inn Cheraw to check over the truck one more time and attend the socially distanced course car and stage captains meeting:

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
3/7/21 6:57 p.m.

Saturday, Race Day

We got up bright and early and dropped off our pupper at a friendly local kennel before heading to service to unload the truck- I was a little nervous, normally we're racing and if we screw up we ruin our own day, but as a course car if we screw up we can potentially ruin the whole rally.  No pressure.

Bikes started leaving indicating that soon we would too:

We set off one minute after the last bike and transited to SS1.  For a quick overview of how things work in the Combo Car, basically we do the following:

  • check in at the arrival control and radio in that we've arrived
  • start the stage one minute after the last bike, running at a not slow but not dangerous pace so as to clear the stage quickly and keep the rally on schedule
  • radio in when we enter the stage
  • help any bikes we may encounter along the way
  • radio in once the stage is clear, signaling that cars can start

So we checked in at the SS1 arrival control and were ready to bring up the rear behind the bikes:

Eventually, they were all gone, we set of one minute later, and we bounced and vroomed and slid along the road as Sara radioed in that we had entered the stage.  Getting the big truck down the road with very sparse and basic notes, while listening to radio chatter and keeping our eyes peeled for downed motorcycles, was certainly an intense experience.  I actually found it more stressful than racing at first but eventually got used to it, and the truck works remarkably well in these conditions in 2wd with tow/haul mode on- just have to be very, very careful about entry speeds since getting it slowed down is difficult.  There we no issues on SS1 so we didn't have to help anybody, just drove through, checked on a couple riders at the very beginning of transit, and headed to SS2.

SS2 was a long one, and had really, REALLY soft and deep sand in a number of places.  To be honest, I wouldn't have wanted to ride through it, and was pretty happy to be in the truck.  About 9 miles into SS2, we came upon bike 122- a heavy, powerful Triumph Scrambler, dropped in the middle of a super soft turn with the rider next to it.  I hopped out, helped him lift the bike, and he eventually took off again.  Another mile later, we found him on the ground yet again, giving us the "I'm calling it here" sign.  I attempted to ride his bike off the stage and immediately dumped it over too- that thing was DIFFICULT to handle in the sand- but eventually got it parked off to the side behind some caution tape.  The rider had something hurting in his shoulder, and after a brief radio conversation we got him into the truck and got out of there.

Once clear of SS2, we headed back to service, where Sara radioed for an ambulance to come by and check on the rider, but we were off again for SS3 before we found out how badly injured he was- he seemed pretty OK in the truck, but adrenaline does crazy things.

SS3 was uneventful, as far as I can remember, and at that point we were comfortable enough in the truck to pretty routinely catch up to the last rider(s) by the end of the stage and hang back- this was a good thing, since it meant minimal extra time wasted to clear the stage and start the cars, hopefully doing our part to keep the rally running on schedule.

SS4, similarly uneventful.

At the start of SS5, a rider on an XR650R, the only kickstart only bike in the field, was having trouble- kicking and kicking and kicking and it just would not fire up.  After exhausting himself and his options within the time window he had, he eventually called it quits and exited the rally in the start area, his crew coming to pick him up.  As a result we started the stage a little late, but managed to make up time and stay on schedule.

The XR650R would later be repaired and reenter the rally, just for fun as he'd already DNF'd- it was a loose connector off the ignition switch, hidden inside the fairing where it couldn't easily be diagnosed.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
3/7/21 7:15 p.m.

Race day continued

SS6 was uneventful as well, from what I can remember, although the roads were getting pretty chewed up at that point since some areas were repeated on multiple stages.  We were mostly in the groove, and other than a lack of brakes and soft front suspension the truck was mostly being a champ.  I had to bypass a blown fuse on the secondary battery at one point that made our radio crap out.  Most of the day was either loud big block noises or a scene like this:

At the final service, rider 122 was back although his bike was still in the woods where we had left it- he was sporting a new sling fresh from the ER, with a confirmed broken collarbone, but wasn't about to let the rest of the rally go to waste so he hopped in the back seat and went with us for the final leg of the event.

SS7 was more of the same.  SS8, however, was the tightest stage of the rally and fitting the Silverado through it was a pretty intense time- lots of slip angle management.

On SS9, we arrived at the start control with less bikes than usual in front of us, but the last few seemed right so we ended up taking off at the usual time and made it around a quarter mile in before a "combo car, STOP" came across the radio.  Apparently 3 bikes had gotten lost on transit and managed to end up behind us- oops. blush

We pulled off at the first marshall station and waited for the bikes to go by before resuming our run of the stage- at least we got to spectate a little I guess, but lesson learned- ALWAYS verify with the control workers that they have seen the right number of bikes before going into the stage.  Later, a local in a pickup truck carrying a couch in the back blew through the caution tape and made a real mess of things, so at least we didn't have the most memorable screwup of SS9.

Once finished, we picked Kila back up from the kennel and set off into the woods to find bike 122.  It was right where we'd left it, and this priceless photo was taken (hopefully it was worth bumping down 3 stages with a broken collarbone):

Then we loaded it up and headed back to the service park:

Once at the service park, I asked for volunteers to help move the bike from my truck to the rider's truck and the 1st and 2nd place overall rallymoto finishers stepped up to lend a hand- let's see the cars match that!  The bike guys all eventually got on their way, and we packed up the truck and left for the Inn Cheraw.  Mission accomplished:

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
3/7/21 7:26 p.m.
Brett_Murphy (Ex-Patrón)
Brett_Murphy (Ex-Patrón) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/7/21 8:42 p.m.

Excellent write up. I know a few people that went down to crew/spectate/volunteer, but this is the first time I've heard about things from the Combo Truck viewpoint. 

Jpbrienp New Reader
3/8/21 7:16 a.m.

Sandblast is always a wonderful time. Awesome you were able to get on stage as a Combo car. 

It has been a number of years since i last attended. Had a buddy who raced many years back to back completely out gunned on a DR650. I was part of his pit crew for service a number of years. 

There was an Excursion for years that would sweep the stages. Looked like quite a wild ride as it went by, definitely some spirited driving. 

paranoid_android (Forum Forumer)
paranoid_android (Forum Forumer) UberDork
3/8/21 8:28 p.m.

I'm impressed you got that Triumph into the back of your truck!

Thank you as always for the write up- I'll be referencing it in the future I'm sure wink

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