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Rally race team recalls Harrisville hassle

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HARRISVILLE — No one has more stories than a rally car racers’ mechanic.

Or so said Jesse Lewis, chief mechanic for driver Eric Wages and navigator Sarah Montplaisir.

Mr. Lewis and his Dirty Rallysport crew of three were on site Saturday and part of Sunday to assist Mr. Wages at the annual Black River Stages Rally. The event ran through Pitcairn, Edwards, Croghan and Harrisville. The popular road race features different types of modified vehicles racing on roads closed to the public in stages. Participants are guided only by their route book and a special odometer.

This was the final race of the season in the NASA Rally Sports East Coast series. According to his mechanics, Mr. Wages has always had bad luck at the Black River Stages Rally, despite winning the overall season in his division last year. In 2011, his Subaru Impreza WRX was wrecked in an accident. In 2012, it caught on fire. It seemed his poor luck from the past two years carried over into Saturday’s race.

“We made it through the first three stages, came in for service and realized that the drive shaft ... came apart,” said crew member Eugene “Gino” Malinoski. Upon further inspection the group found the vehicle also had a hole in the radiator and the oil filter was leaking.

“The radiator itself was our spare radiator because the night before our main radiator also had a hole in it,” said Mr. Malinoski.

He and crew member Matthew Vaught spent more than two hours trying to find the replacement parts so Mr. Wage could get back out on the road. They scoured Craigslist, asked around on Facebook and forums.

“People that don’t even have parts for sale, they just have a Subaru for sale on Craigslist, we’re calling them for spares,” Mr. Vaught said.

But this was a typical day for most mechanics and crew members involved in rally racing.

“We always see (the cars)come back broken. We have no idea what kind of adventures they had,” Mr. Malinoski said.

The sport is a hobby for most involved, and in some instances crew members are not even from the same location. Mr. Lewis is from Maine, Cameron Carr is from Knoxville, Mr. Vaught is from Georgia and Mr. Malinoski is from North Carolina. They all meet up when it is time for a rally, sometimes running on little or no sleep.

“The rally car we’re working on used to be worth $100,000, but now it’s getting closer to $250,000. When you put something together like that, you’re like, ‘I hope it works!’” Mr. Malinoski said.

He added that in instances like Saturday’s race, their first reaction was denial.

“No, it’s going to keep going. We will find parts,” he said.

Speaking all at once the men explained that they will spend hours searching the internet or making calls to try and find a part. Sometimes they are fortunate enough to get it from another racer. Other times, like Saturday, they’re entirely out of luck.

“Win, lose or draw, you get out there and you do it,” Mr. Malinoski said.

“The depression gets in. On the ride to the cottage last night ... I asked myself ‘could we do this; is there any other thing we could do?’” Mr. Lewis said.

“In three years, 8,000 miles and back we’ve never made it past the first day,” said Mr. Vaught of BRSR.

The men said that most places they attend rallys are small towns like Harrisville. In many instances they have people who will go to exteremes, like backing their truck into the road and washing it when racers were supposed to come through. But they had not encountered that in Harrisville.

The appreciation of Harrisville was evident in signs on businesses like Lewis Lounge and Lanes, welcoming drivers and fans.

According to event organizer Amy Feistel, no major injuries were reported and there were few problems at this year’s event.

“With the exception of the weather — it was really soupy, but everyone was OK with it,” Ms. Feistel said, referring to Saturday’s rain. “That’s the thing about rallies; there’s a real go-with-it attitude to that everyone has.”

The race began with 43 competitors in the car races, up by almost 20 from last year. There were 12 motorcycles in the race, although some racers dropped out before the finish, like Mr. Wages, due to mechanical trouble.

To learn more about the Black River Stages Rally or to see the end results visit blackriverstages.linaracing.com/2013/.


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