Surprise victory at Gorman Ridge Rally
Widget Partnership with Pikasports Yields First Place Trophy
Frazier Park, CA. Katianna Pihakari (Anaheim Hills, CA) and John Dillon (Thousand Oaks, CA) teamed up again to race, this time for the 2010 Gorman Ridge Rally on the 28th of August. They established a simple goal before the start: finish the rally and, along the way, focus on clean lines and car control. However, when their competition drove too hard and got stuck on a berm, the Widget/Pikasports duo passed them on the final stage to win the Production All Wheel Drive class in the NASA-sanctioned event. As an added bonus, the team is now tied for the lead in the Pacific Division of the U.S. Rally Championship series.
Doug Nagy, crew chief for Pikasports and owner of Streetwise Motorsports, explained: "Katianna attended a rally driving school last May, but otherwise has had very little seat time in the car. We chose Gorman Ridge as a perfect place for her to apply all the new skills she learned. In rally, there's a lot to process all at once—road conditions, engine performance, handling characteristics, and listening to the pace notes—so we all encouraged her to slow down and focus on the essentials, especially because Gorman has a reputation as a tough rally."
Steve McNaughton, who works with Doug on the car, added that "Kati learned first-hand a valuable rally lesson today. It's a cliché in our sport, but it's true: To finish first, you first must finish."
The team experienced only one real "moment" when the Subaru turned in too early on the Maxie Counterclock stage. They rode up along a berm, then bicycled the car before the road turned the other way and threw them back onto all four wheels.
As for the driver, she was enthusiastic about her result. "To claim a victory in this, my second rally as a driver, is awesome. With the help of the crew, we exceeded all our goals and expectations. I knew our stage times would be slow but that wasn't our focus for the weekend. In fact, I wanted John to slow me down when he thought it would help. On the flip side, at one point he suggested I go faster on an open section of Maxie Clock, but I forcefully replied 'No!' For me it was all about learning the car's behavior and maintaining control."
"I've ridden with some drivers in the past who try to drive faster when they get flustered or reach beyond their abilities, which amplifies the problem until they get completely out of control and stuff the car into a bank," noted Dillon. "Instead, Katianna backs off until she's comfortable that the car is stable, then pushes again."
The Gorman Ridge Rally, which ran on time throughout the event, included several night stages. "I've never driven a rally car at night before," said Pihakari. "We were fortunate to have awesome lights from Anzo USA, but I admit I was still tentative on the roads, even with the brightness of the HIDs. I've enjoyed night racing when I'm codriving, but now that I'm in the driver's seat I realize that it's harder than it looks!"
She'll get plenty more practice at the upcoming Prescott Rally on Oct 1st and 2nd. She'll have a different codriver because Dillon will hook up with long-time rally partner Brian Scott. Scott and Dillon won Prescott in 2008 on their way to a U.S. national championship, and hope to claim another victory this year.
"I had an absolute blast at Gorman Ridge!" gushed Pihakari. "I can't wait for the next rally!"
The PikaSports car is a 2002 Subaru Impreza WRX built and prepared by Streetwise Motorsports (www.streetwiseparts.com
) Lights are provided by Anzo USA (www.anzousa.com
) while stopping power is provided by brakes from Porterfield Enterprises (www.porterfield-brakes.com) who have sponsored the team since 1999. For over a decade Widget has utilized the web services of Shults Dot Com (www.shults.com
) for its internet needs.
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