BA5 New Reader
6/21/16 10:28 a.m.

I did this a few years back now, but I think it's a good story, so I thought I'd share it here. The location was Soggy Lake in Johnson Valley. I always give a plug for when I tell this story.


So Friday night was travel night to get there in time for the event on Saturday. My wife and I boarded the plane at 9:30 PM Atlanta time. I unfortunately am not a member of the Sleeps-on-a-plane club, so I spent a rather uncomfortable 4.5 hours in a Delta economy seat fitfully trying to snooze at least a bit. The flight was uneventful though a bit turbulent, and after a rough landing (the plane yawed sideways in a way I've never really felt one do before, it was rather disconcerting) we were there at about 11:30 PM Pacific Time, which is 2:30 AM for those of you who don't enjoy time-math. Our hosts kindly picked us up from the airport and after about an hour drive and a bit of visiting we fell into bed about 1 or 1:30 in the morning.

The next morning came early, as the river-bed was about 2.5 hours away and my co-driver was schedule to be the first one out. We were up at 4 so that we could leave out about 4:30. We opened up that garage door to reveal my temporary chariot: A 1985 MR2.

That is grill paint that you see. Apparently my co-driver picked up the car from a kid whose mom was forcing him to sell it. It has a horrible black and white faux leather interior, a big aluminum shift knob with LED lights and an aftermarket radio that has no CD player. But we climbed in and when he started it up it was strangely familiar: The techno-ergonomic japanese 80's interior. The endless swaths of glass (climb in the prelude sometime and you'll see what I'm talking about, the cockpit is nothing but glass). The weird chuff of a poorly muffled 4 cylinder. We backed out and were off.

We slipped over the San Gabriel mountains in the early morning while it was still dark. Once we were over them we skirted the edge of the Mojave Desert while the sun started to come up. While driving along, my co-driver tossed the car through a small laguna-seca-corkscrew-esq turn. Suddenly huge blue-white billowy clouds of smoke started pouring out the exhaust and we could really smell the oil burning. Uh oh. We pull off to the side of the road to inspect.

There was no water in the oil. There were no apparent leaks that we could see. Everything seemed pretty good. My co-driver said that had happened once before and had gone away almost immediately. We cranked the car back up and nursed it along for a while. It apparently went away again. The oil was a hair on the over-full side, so we decided that it was probably sloshing and getting sucked up and dumped into the intake somehow. We kept going and after one wrong turn that involved crawling down a dirt road where no stone was smaller than a tennis ball we arrived on site.

Now that's what I call a site! It's a dry lake bed. The surface is perfectly flat and hard packed with some rocks, maybe about as big as a golf ball. When the dirt kicks up it creates huge, opaque clouds of dust. When it settles it's the consistency of flour and cakes onto everything. There were a few folks already there.

Just a couple of folks hanging out in the desert!

We got the car ready, my co-driver hopped in the car and he was off! The format is 25 minutes of lapping with a timed final lap. Number of laps determines the winner with the final lap time being the tie-breaker for folks on the same lap.

My co-driver went out and started doing his laps. About 15 minutes in we noticed him nursing it around for a lap or two, then back to normal. Then at the very end he started really nursing it around, just barely walking it around the course before he came in before finishing his session. It had been overheating really badly. It did not sound good. We open it up and it's bone dry. The filter (both of them!) is totally clogged with dust. We fill it back up and I try to wash out the filters so that the engine can actually breathe.

We crank it back up but it appears to be terminal. We think we can make it back home, but we don't want to risk another 25 minutes of abuse. So it was done.

This is the part where the organizer of the event (Jay Woodruf of comes over and offers his car for me to drive! I ask him if he would like me to pay for the use of his car, but he says no. So after he runs in his car I hop in and go out for my runs! It's a well prepped miata, and it's a total blast to drive!

Endurance Rally-X requires a totally new set of skills from racing on pavement. First, driving in the dirt requires a lot more steering input than on asphalt. It also requires x-ray vision, as the huge clouds of dust that are kicked up by the car are impossible to see through! So it gets really easy to get lost on course. Since it's a 25 minutes race in the desert, it requires one to keep a very close eye on the temp gauge (especially when it's someone else's car who was just kind enough to loan it to you). We had the heater going full blast for much of the run to keep things running cool and you have to run with the windows closed to keep the dust out. It was easily 120 degrees in the car. After I was finished with my run my co-driver and I bailed out of the car as soon as it came to a stop because it was so hot. The sunny 80+ degree desert felt down right chilly after getting out of the car! At one point I had to re-orient the driver's side vent because the hot air that it was blowing was literally burning my hand.

After working and thanking my car loaner we packed everything up and nursed the car home. We kept it slow, but it rattled it's way all the way home without a hiccup! We stopped at a Circle K and picked up a couple gallons of water for the car and couple gallons of water for us.

I got the results the next day. I didn't do so well (although I beat my co-driver!) but towards the end of my session after I figured out that driving on the dirt requires much larger steering inputs I started to turn some pretty fast times. All in all it was a blast!

Jerry UltraDork
6/21/16 2:25 p.m.

Nice story! If you haven't been around here much, plenty of other rallycrossers hang out (myself included). But I've never heard of a 25min enduro format. I'm assuming once car at a time? That doesn't sound like it leaves room for many entries.

BA5 New Reader
6/21/16 3:46 p.m.

My brother-in-law (it's his MR2) did rally cross for a while. I don't recall how he came across this event.

It was one car at a time. They had it set up so everyone had a time slot when they ran for the day. It wasn't very many people. Maybe a dozen or so that I recall.

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