James Bufkin and I took our rally cars to Harris Hill Road last Saturday to do some testing and practice before the RallyCross on June 17th. Someday, Harris Hill will be a paved road course, but currently it is just a faint trail cut through a ranch near San Marcos, Texas. In other words, perfect for rally cars!
After a brief, 40 minute drive, we arrived at the track. As soon as we unloaded James’ car from the trailer, he and Corbett jumped-in and took off. Ken and I scrambled to get strapped into my car and we took-off in pursuit. Except for a few areas, the track was almost completely overgrown. My poor car was having a terrible time. Even though we had raised the car as high as possible, the suspension was designed for smooth tarmac, not rough off-roading. The suspension was bottoming out and topping out as we would go over bumps. Also, the thick overgrowth in the middle of the track was really doing a number on my front bumper cover, threatening to pull it off at any moment. After a single lap, we decided that continuing would most likely result in potentially grave financial unpleasantness, so we parked the car.
Ken suggested that the cattle guard on the front of the F250 might do a good job of mowing down the overgrowth and after a few laps in the truck, we might be able to try again with the car. We unhitched the trailer and jumped-in. Ken began putting his helmet on. I thought that was a little unnecessary, but I did the same, thinking that it was to get a laugh out of James and Corbett.
Ken slid the truck through some heavy underbrush, got it straightened out, and gave it a full head of steam up the big hill. We hit a bump near the top of the hill going about 50 mph. The truck jumped the bump, immediately hit an even bigger bump and we were catapulted through the air! I don’t know exactly how much air we got, but I thought we were going to go into orbit. I couldn’t believe we had got a huge F250 diesel that far off the ground. The truck came down and landed nose first on the cattle guard. My head snapped forward and I immediately felt a pain in my neck. Unfortunately, the truck continued to bounce around in a series of other minor crashes, before Ken could get it stopped. I was bouncing all over the truck. I had completely come out of my seat and hit my head on the roof, even though I had my seatbelt on. Luckily, I was wearing my helmet.
In the photo above, Ken is looking back down the hill. The two bumps can be seen down the track and Ken is standing at the divot left by the truck’s cattle guard. We walked it off and it turns out we jumped the truck 39 feet.
Ken felt terrible and we tried to stay serious about the incident, but after awhile, we started talking about it and we began laughing uncontrollably. We laughed so hard that we were crying. It was just a huge release of emotion over what we had done. It was awesome. Too bad you have to almost kill yourself to get a good laugh like that.
This is me taking a turn in James’ Quattro.
The rest of the day we spent taking turns driving James’ car. Ken drove me around for awhile and then Corbett and I took our turns. Corbett drove first and ran three or four laps, then we switched places and I got another four or five laps. The car was fantastic. It could use a little more spring rate to keep from bottoming out in dips where I would have liked to have been flat-out, but otherwise, the car handled beautifully and was very quick.
Here is a quick video of me doing a flyby. I try to run over Ken as payback for breaking my neck earlier in the day (3.36 MB):
Towards the end of the day, I took my car back around to some of the smooth areas for some photos. We never had time to install the rear ARB, so the car understeers badly and I couldn’t get the car to rotate for any cool tail-out shots.
All in all, it was an awesome day. I was disappointed that we weren’t really able to do any testing on my car, but it’s short excursion quickly highlighted it’s weak areas and the punch list has been appropriately revised. Even though the car didn’t get any further development, I drove James’ car like I stole it, so hopefully, my driving skills were honed a bit from the experience. Luckily, I didn’t break my neck, but rather just have a low-grade whiplash. My chiropractor says that after two weeks with him and his message therapist, I will be as good as new (or at least as good as I was, which wasn’t very). Another upside is that my car escaped without any damage, or so I thought, right up until less than a mile from the safety of home, when a piece of scrap metal was kicked-up off the road, bounced up on my car (leaving two gouges in the hood) and smashed into my windshield. My car is 17 years old and quite rare. There were only 1,730 coupes brought to North America and they do not share the same windshield as the much more common 80/90 sedans. Audi says that there are no more windshields in the country. Joy. So, all three vehicles were damaged and one person was injured during the course of the day. It was exhilarating, exhausting, and painful. Like I said, it was an awesome day.
James posted a lot of pictures and links to videos on a Texas Audi Group thread here:
J I M M Y