Last year in July of 2017, NSR driver, Amanda “RalyGrl” Skelly, and her crew took on the task of building a new stage rally car in just 3 short weeks. The team was scheduled to debut the car at the New England Forest Rally (NEFR), which crosses both the Maine and New Hampshire state lines in USA.
Crew traveled from multiple states to meet at the team headquarters at TurboTime in North Carolina. They spent hours upon hours getting the car ready for the 950+ mile haul to Newry, Maine. Even after the team arrived, they were unprepared, scattered brained, exhausted and still finishing items on the build list. Upon race day #1- they failed. While the car passed the technical inspection, there were various safety concerns with seating positions and the cage that kept Skelly and co-driver Liz Cordara off the stages. On day 2, while they managed to make some changes to get on stage, the team encountered catastrophic engine failure just 9 miles into the stage of Aziscohos, one of the roughest stages in the event. While the team felt accomplished in succeeding to get the car on stage, they fell short in various ways, driving them to ensure we returned in 2018 with vengeance.
This year, they did just that. Over the winter, Skelly’s car (known as “Stitch”) received a complete rebuild, including a new cage by Restoration Race Works, INC. After the rebuild, Skelly competed in two rallysprints in both Tennessee and Virginia, as well as the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally (STPR) in Pennsylvania. By July 2018, the crew was growing accustomed to the long travel to and from events, and Skelly was gaining important seat time with the new car allowing her to grow more accustomed to the new setup and confident as a driver.
The team arrive in Maine on Wednesday, settled in for a full day of RECCE and testing on Thursday, and prepared themselves for race days on Friday and Saturdays. Skelly was joined by co-driver Jessica Beliveau of New Hampshire, making NEFR the girls second even working together.
Friday Parc Expose kicked off at 9.30am, filling the gravel lot with the sounds of happy fans and race teams. Day 1 was cut short with just 3 stages, after a car fire on SS4. Skelly was pleased with the cars performance and was gaining confidence with each passing mile. Saturday was a longer day, with a total of 7 stages. Parc Expose started a bit earlier kicking off the day at 7.00am, with the first car out at 8.15am. After completing the first 3 stages, the girls made it into service without any major complaints, though upon inspection, discovered the brakes were taking a beating from the large rocks.
The second portion of the day included 3 more stages. But at the end of the transit to SS11; the very stage that Skelly DNF’d at during the prior year, the car began smoking. Upon inspection, the girls discovered that the upper radiator hose was rubbing against the radiator fans, causing a small hole to form in the hose. With the help of teammate Matt Peterson and another competitor they were able to get the hole plugged as best as they could to proceed on stage. A mix of chewing gum, hose tape, gorilla tape and zip-ties, and the girls were on their way! Luckily, the girls made it through the ~12 mile stage without any issue. However, during transit the makeshift fix failed and the girls had to be flat towed 17 miles into service by Peterson.
Once through the control, the girls were met by their crew and with the help of a few other competitors they were pushed into their service space. There, the crew had lined up another upper radiator hose thanks to another competitor- Dan Fouquette, tons of water and coolant and got to work on the car immediately. Within 30 minutes, the car was repaired and the ladies were back on the road for the 7th and final stage of the day. The girls chased dust to the final time control, completing the entire event.
By the end of the rally Skelly and her team felt accomplished.
“I finally felt like I was ‘back’. My confidence behind the wheel of Stitch felt similar to that of my old car and I finally felt like I was home in my new car. I am thankful for the hard work and dedication of my crew, for the advice I was given by fellow competitors; which I kept in my mind as I worked through gaining speed and looking for traction and maintaining control of the car in the corners, and to all of my sponsors that have supported the build of the new car. I feel so proud, accomplished and hopeful for what lies ahead. After NEFR, my eyes have been opened and my goals for next season redirected to something bigger and I cannot wait to see where the rest of this year takes me”, concludes Skelly.
Link ECU, TurboTime, Whiteline, Restoration Race Works, INC., 5 Star Design, DCCDPro.com, Turtle Gloves, BRAID Wheels USA, Team Illuminata Motorsport, BridgeMoto, Impression Center, KSport USA and Rocky Mt. Autosport.
You can follow Amanda online:
Noble Star Rally Ready to Attack STPR
June 5, 2015
Noble Star Rally Successfully Completes Day One of New England Forest Rally
July 19, 2014
A Bitter Sweet End to the New England Forest Rally