Subaru driver David Higgins and codriver Craig Drew got exactly what they dreamed of today: a perfect, undefeated Rally America season. They’ve been untouchable all year, but how? Being able to swap a host of borked parts in a ten-minute service probably has something to do with it.
Anyone who’s ever watched Audi’s pit stop practices from Truth in 24 knows exactly what I’m talking about: when the drivers are great and the car is fast, the entire rest of the team needs to be an ultra-organized, well-oiled machine. Every second counts, otherwise you’ll lose out to one of the other teams who has great drivers in fast cars.
If anything, a rally is an endurance race on dirt. Because they move from stage to stage, time is of the essence. You only get a limited amount of “service” time to work on the car during the rally itself before they start adding penalties to your rally time. If you take too long on something, it could make the entire operation fall behind, which puts the ability to make it to the other stages reserved for the day at risk.
One of the best examples of Subaru Rally Team’s perfectly choreographed teamwork came from the Ojibwe Forests Rally, which was featured in this episode of Launch Control:
Before the last service of the day (just after twelve minutes in this video), Higgins and Drew notice an ominous rattle in the car that sounds like a loose driveshaft.
Unfortunately, they only had a ten-minute service to deal with any possible issue with the transmission, the loose driveshaft and anything the loose driveshaft may have damaged. For every minute they went over working on the car, ten seconds would be added to their rally time—which is not what you want when you’re trying to remain undefeated, even for a team that’s dominated the season.
As soon as the crew learned of the problem, though, they divided up the work, started pulling the necessary parts and prepared for the worst. As soon as the car came in, a small army of crew members swarmed around the Subaru to get everything done.
Fortunately, they only found a nick in the axle seal, and didn’t need to replace the entire transmission. They still replaced the driveshaft and several other damaged parts with only a few seconds to spare in their allotted service time.
Higgins and Drew went on to win the Ojibwe Forests Rally, and today, they finished off their 2015 season undefeated at the Lake Superior Performance Rally.
Unbelievable. Then again, they are to Rally America what Volkswagen Motorsport is to the World Rally Championship right now, so it’s harder to fathom the Subaru team screwing something up than it is to see them completely own the season.
Congratulations, Subaru Rally Team!
UPDATE: Turns out, both Finn and I got this wrong. Sean Medcroft — one of Travis Pastrana’s techs from the video who was pulled over to service the front left corner — emailed over to say that they only found a slight nick in the axle seal on the transmission. All they ultimately needed to change was the axle and suspension stuff that was damaged. That’s still pretty impressive to be able to diagnose that and get it wrapped up in ten minutes, though. This has been edited above.
“If we had needed to change the gearbox, I am sure we could have done it, but the fastest we have done one is about 12 minutes!” Medcroft wrote. That’s nuts!
Contact her at email@example.com.