Super Production drivers don’t often make it to the overall podium in the Rally America National Championship series. However, Lauchlin O’Sullivan and Scott Putnam did just that by grabbing a third overall, as well as a Super Production class win, at the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood event in Missouri. And they not only needed the cooperation of their freshly-built Lucas Oil, Wolf LED-sponsored 2008 Subaru WRX STi, but they also needed a little help from their friends. “So many good people had to come together to make this happen,” said O’Sullivan with appreciation. “We borrowed an Engine Control Unit from Vermont Sports Car, and Ramana Lagemann loaned us the differential controller out of his car. Doug Nagy of Streetwise Motorsports built us a great car though and we didn’t skip a beat. The car came to Missouri with 0 race/rally miles on it, and the first time I got to drive it was the day of the rally. All things considered, it was an incredible result!” “Scheduling prevented us from being able to test the vehicle,” added Putnam. “There was more than a little concern about this prior to the race let me tell you. Normally a new vehicle running in it’s first event will have a number of little gremlins that have to be dealt with, but with this car it was mainly piddly stuff. A radiator hose clamp failed the night before the race and that was about it. A testament to a good car build on Doug Nagy’s part.”
Amidst all these other variables, it also began to snow about mid-way through their recce. So half of the team’s notes were immediately rendered worthless for the event.
“The conditions were really odd,“ co-driver Putnam explains. “The three inches of ‘snow,’ if you want to use that term loosely, really consisted of small ice pellets that were quite dense. Watching cars drive through it on the recce was like they were going through standing water - it formed a wave rather than billowing like normal snow would. If you got out of the line the snow was quite dense and the grip inconsistent and the car could get tossed around by the snow.” As night fell on Day One, another variable was about to come into play. O’Sullivan and Putnam hadn’t yet tested their new Wolf LED light rack on their fresh Subaru, and had no idea how the lights were aimed. “I have to say, the fact that we made up so much time in the night stages on both days really says a lot about our new lighting system from Wolf LED,” O’Sullivan said. “Though we were a bit worried before heading out, it didn’t matter that our lights weren’t aimed. They lit up the forest, and we were able to knock down some quick times.” On Saturday, Day 2 of the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood, it warmed up and got quite slushy and the gravel started poking through. “Yeah, later in the day it was gravelly, but then you had snow and ice where it was shaded,” Putnam recalls. “The thing is, you never really knew from one corner to the next just how it was going to be. I’m glad Lauchlin was driving!” Lauchlin’s job wasn’t made any easier where the rubber meets the road. “Snow really wasn’t in the forecast and we had brought along a set of three used snow tires, and one new one, ‘just in case,’” O’Sullivan said. “Knowing we have no spare, we had to keep it in the middle of the road, due to the fact there were simply jagged rocks on the sides, and no snow banks. We survived Day One in the lead, but began Day Two with our beat-up tires. Finally, we came into service and got two worn tires from another team to put on the fronts. Running super ragged tires, you just can't attack or push like usual, particularly with pressure coming from Evan Cline and David Sterckx, who finished behind us in fourth and fifth place overall respectively.” On the last stage O’Sullivan and Putnam had a lead built up over those guys, so they turned up the wick, deciding to have “a bit of fun” and attack more aggressively. Then came a small combo platter of both good – and bad – luck. The more aggressive driving resulted in a flat tire. But it happened close enough to the end of the stage that they were able to drive it out of the stage without losing too much time. However, after exiting the finish control, they used their pristine new safari jack to lift the car up to change the tire, and the jack promptly broke. “Imagine if we had a flat out on the stage?” asks O’Sullivan. “We would be done. So, some luck came into play, on top of having a great car build, and some help from our fellow competitors.” Some of that help came, rather unwittingly, from six-time Rally in the 100 Acre Wood winner Ken Block. He damaged his car on Day One, but was able to come back the second day using SuperRally rules, which allows a team to re-enter with time penalties. Anyway, his car eventually had electrical problems, forcing them out for good. Co-driver Alex Gelsomino was standing before the corner where they retired, with the OK sign out, and cautioning other competitors to slow down as they came through the fast right hander. “If we had been going our regular speed there, with the black ice, we might have gone off,” stated O’Sullivan. “I'm sure they saved us, and many others, by being there.” “Anytime traction went away due to ice in a corner it would definitely get your attention,“ added Putnam. “If I was looking up at the time I would involuntarily want to check our distance to the trees. Eventually I just got to the point of looking up during the straightaways and looking down at the notes during the corners. The sensation of sliding doesn’t typically bother me per se, but for some reason, if I happened to be looking up, this time it did.” After not being able to run Sno*Drift, the first event of the season, things are definitely looking up for the team’s chances of defending the Rally America Super Production National Championship title they earned in 2012. “This is a great result, but it’s a long season,” cautions Putnam. “We already have used up our throw-away event, so from here on out, reliability and finishing every event will be really important.” And earning a few more podiums along the way would be welcome as well. Advanced Clutch Technology (ACT) is a leading performance clutch and flywheel manufacturer for the domestic, sport compact, European and truck markets. Lucas Oil Products is a Corona, California-based manufacturer and distributor of automotive oil, petroleum additives, and lubricants for high performance engines. Wolf LED Systems, located in Chino Hills, California, offers affordable LED products for race teams, rock crawlers, rally racers, sand cars, dirt bikes, ATV’s, heavy equipment and RVs.