Harlan KOH Qualifier Race Report
Here is my write-up for the trip to Harlan-
People on the trip:
Scott Roberts (myself)
Aug 14 2010
Thursday morning Ken and I met Randal at the LoneRider Brewery to pick up their 5x8 enclosed trailer. We knew this would be helpful for transporting/storing all of our tools and parts at the race pit location.
We met up with everyone at Flying Jís in Haw River and then headed west. After a while on the highway Johnís jumps on the radio saying that he had a flat trailer tire. It was more that flat- it was nearly nonexistent. We got it swapped out quickly and were back on the road. We stopped for lunch and finally rolled into Harlan around 4:30. The house we stayed in was sufficient for our needs- AC, several beds, hot water and parking for our trailers. That night we went to the top of the mountain to go through tech inspection. Both rigs passed inspection with no problem. Shortly after we went back down the mountain. On the way down Ken picked up speed on the gravel road to see how the Cherokee handles at high speed. We both agreed that it floated a little too much so we were going to increase the tire pressure before our test run the next day. We got back to the house and had some of Johnís good barbeque that evening.
Friday we got off to a slow start but got up to the race pits around 10:00. After about an hour setting up our area, the two race rigs embarked on a test run to figure out each course and see if there were any last minute things that need to be taken care of on the vehicles. Johnís vehicle 156 had minimal damage after the test run- busted swaybar link. They decided to remove the swaybar. John could not feel any significant change in the way the truck handled so they left the swaybar off. Ken and I took his Cherokee #449 on the test run and had several gremlins that reared their head. We went down White Tail Trail and the truck was handling great with the new front bumpstops and new rear shocks. Then we hopped on the gravel road and the Cherokee handled much better than it did the night before since we put more air in the tires. Back in the woods we got to Your Turn- this isnít a bad obstacle if you have an exo or donít care about scrapes. Your best option is to lay the vehicleís passenger side on a huge rock and pivot around. This is where my name was scratched on the top exo bar. After the drop, it is a long series of midsized rocks- not difficult but makes for a bumpy annoying ride. A short trail ride after that and we were at the top of Under Estimated. This trail goes straight down for about 15 feet and then starts to level out. We dropped in and came in hard to a downed tree on the right. The vehicle came to an abrupt stop and then Ken said he had no steering. We figured that we broke a steering link or trackbar. It was too steep to exit the vehicle so we slowly worked our way down to a level area and exited the vehicle. Everything under the Cherokee looked fine. We thought it may be low on steering fluid- it was fine. We had no idea what was wrong. We slowly limped the Cherokee back to the pits for further investigation. Along the way we heard a loud sound underneath the vehicle- the front driveshaft was broken at the t-case end. Also the muffler started banging against the skid plate really bad. The test run did a number on #449. At the pits we discovered that the muffler needed additional bracing and the front driveshaft lost the bolts at the t-case. The driveshaft was fine- we got lucky. Even better was that John had some spare bolts for us. We kept coming back to the steering could not figure out why it was so difficult to steer left. We could turn to the right just fine. After disconnecting many parts we narrowed the issue down to the steering box. John came through again and had a spare steering box. There was still one hurdle- the steering box needed to be drilled and tapped for the hydro-assist connections. We called several auto parts stores and found one that had the correct drill bit and another that had the correct tap. Randal and Derek went on the parts run to help us out while we got the steering box ready, the front driveshaft installed and added bracing to the muffler. For a while we did not know if we were going to be able to race the next day but everything was coming together and looked promising. Randal and Derek got back with the tools and we quickly got everything together and working in time to make it home to get washed up for our mandatory drivers meeting. We quickly showered and made our way to Harlan. At the dinner they went over the rules and everyone selected their starting position. We knew that #449 would be the slowest in Class C so we decided to go last.
Saturday we got up early and headed up the mountain to the pits. Class A started shortly after 9:00. It was soon restarted (an hour or so later) due to people being in the trail and causing a traffic jam in the first few minutes of the race. After the restart, John and Keith were tied for second after the second lap and then we did not see him for a long time. We did not know what happen to #156. After the race they finally make it back to the pits. They told us that their trackbar broke and they did not have a 17mm wrench. After a while they were able to flag down another racer and borrow the correct tool. Soon after they were back on the trail with a spare trackbar. The first race was restarted so everything else got delayed as well. Class C should have started at 1:00. I donít believe it started until around 2:40. Ken and I were in the last row with Blue Torch Fab (their rig is for sale for $65K, in case you are in the market). The flag dropped for us and were we off- BTF left us in their dust as expected. We didnít care, we were happy that we were able to start the race. We went down White Tail and everything was going great. We hop out on the gravel road and start heading down the mountain. We see two men appear from nowhere- their buggy rolled into the woods. They gave us a thumbs up so we kept rolling. We got back in the woods and passed another buggy that was broken. I looked at Ken and said ďThatís number 2 we just passed, letís keep it up.Ē We dropped into Your Turn and it was the same as the day before. We made our way down the trail to Under Estimated. Just as we were about to drop in I noticed two white helmets. I told Ken to stop. It was the Essentially Off-road rig. I was upside down facing up hill. Their rig rolled 2.5 times and they were fine. We used their winch to roll the vehicle several times down the hill but it stopped upside down. We needed the help of the Cherokee winch so we drove down- this time dropping in went much better than our test run. After about a total of 45 minutes we had their vehicle on its tires and off to the side. We passed by them and continued on the race. The next obstacle was the upper and lower rock garden where we passed two more buggies- one was rolled and the other was broken. Ken heard one driver say ď$%^$ the Cherokee is passing meĒ. That felt good. We got down to Little Jagger and nearly had the rear end go over the top. Ken quickly hit the gas and drove out of it. We got to the Waterfall and Blue Torch Fab was on its side pinned against a tree. We pulled them twice to get them away from the tree. It was taking too long so we decided to take care of ourselves. We winched the Cherokee up the obstacle fairly easily. At this point we had passed 6 or 7 buggies we were doing better than we ever thought we would. We made our way to Rail Bed and then Intimidator trail. At some point, we broke a front axle shaft. Then, the engine began to overheat and the bushings on the front suspension were shot. We pulled over to let the engine cool. Ken and I got out of the vehicle and were laughing at the situation. We were clearly the underdogs but we were able to pass several well built rigs. We couldnít be happier with our performance and we had a blast doing it. We decided that the Cherokee had enough and would not make it much further so we made our way back to the pits. When we returned we were met with a crowd of people that were excited to see that the Cherokee made it back under its own power. Ken and I soon had LoneRider beer in our hands- it was a good day. For the rest of the night we stood around talking to other racers/spectators from around the east coast.
The final count for the Class C KOH Race- 21 signed up to race, 16 started, I believe 7 made it through the first lap and only 5 finished the race. We finished off the night with milkshakes from the Dairy Hut.
Sunday we went to the top of the mountain for the presentation of trophies and prizes for the winners. The top 3 from the Class C race received tickets to the KOH race in California. We quickly made our way down the mountain and got on the road to go home. The ride home was fairly uneventful- everyone was exhausted.
We had a great time. I may never get to race in a KOH Qualifier Race again, but I am glad I had the opportunity to do it this time. It is definitely something I will remember for a long time. Thanks Ken...