6 7 8
Bubs Reader
4/29/17 5:35 p.m.

A dolly is normally not the best choice for transport to a Sprint/Stage event, but I figure since I'm just the Course Open car this time - what could possibly go wrong? Plus it's fitting considering the car's first ride long ago!

Tomorrow I'll be able to shake down the car on real stages with a codriver reading proper notes - a nice low-pressure environment for both myself and someone new to the "Silly Seat" ! After tomorrow, I have nearly two months to prepare to run my first RallySprint "for real", and if I have enough confidence in the car there's also some Hillclimb events I can do the next state over. So awesome to finally get back at it!

Bubs Reader
5/1/17 9:14 p.m.

What an absolutely incredible Sunday. I have been in a "Rally Hangover" all day today despite only being the Course Open car! Everything went absolutely perfectly start to finish. I don't have my own van to tow with yet, but thankfully I have access to company trucks. Here we see two vastly different hobbies that have folks on the road at 5AM!

Up until this point, I had never driven a real rally stage at speed, or listened to real life pacenotes. Aside from the different motorsports I've done so far, the closest I've come to that is Richard Burns Rally. Thankfully that went alongside my experience with the events over the past few years and allowed me to look at the stage notes and understand them right away!

I had put a feeler out for one of two different types of people before the event: Either an experienced codriver to ride along with me, or someone new looking for an extremely low-pressure environment to learn and try codriving. The second option was perfectly viable as Course Open shouldn't exceed 7/10 speed (although I may have broken that rule once or twice!), and that is who ended up joining me. We went over the pacenotes for the first stage, lead the competition cars through Recce and transit, and then we were off! From effectively sitting and collecting dust for almost two years (both the car and myself!) to hurtling down a narrow gravel road at 60mph. My new friend did an excellent job with the pacenotes, staying right on top of them as we made our way through the stages. I felt great, the car seemed perfectly content and we were hauling right along. My codriver only loses the notes one single time on the last stage of the day as I went...perhaps slightly too quick for Course Open through a section that was just asking for it. Then over effectively a Flying Finish into a L3 sweeper before slowing down into FTC. What a blast!
The day was complete, I was surprisingly comfortable on stage straight away and the car not only held up perfectly, but was also no worse for wear. But sadly, all done for now. Or so I thought!

My codriver had departed early to repair a boost leak issue on his personal car, and I was approached by one of the organizers. "Grab your codriver, you're going to do Sweep after the last car," he said with a grin. When I mentioned that I had nobody for the Silly Seat, he suggested one of our favorite fellow RallyCross driver and volunteer who had spent all day on Gate duty. His face lit up as I said, "Interested in a quick spot of codriving?" Shortly after, we're hurtling down the final stage of the day. James was also new to pacenotes AND riding on stage at speed. Despite this and having almost no prior warning of his rally ride, he also did a fantastic job at keeping up with the notes - even reading slightly ahead on some of the really technical sections. I was still restraining myself considering that we weren't officially competing, but I'd be lying if I said we weren't still hauling ass. Over the finish, heel-toe into second, left-foot brake and the car predictably comes around the L3 sweeper once again. Still a happy car, coolant temperature still well below 200°, everything still feeling perfect. James and I celebrate like we just won the rally!

In a way, I did win something - I felt like I've finally won my life back! [If you're new to this story, I have been fighting a life-altering physical disease] One of the main things about Rally - motorsports in general, for that matter - is that it almost never goes perfectly. It's almost as much about encountering issues and overcoming them as it is about the drive itself. But I couldn't be happier to finally be back into the fun, challenging and ever-imperfect and unpredictable world that is Rally. Even when things don't go perfectly, you're surrounded by fantastic individuals and positive energy that keeps you going no matter what - the epitome of "Press on Regardless" whether it's car trouble at an event or health trouble keeping you from competing at all! That positive energy that draws people in also brings everyone together - we're competitors, organizers and volunteers, but also sort of a big family at the same time.

This may come off as gushing a bit too much considering all I did yesterday was be the Zero Car, but please keep in mind everything I've overcome to get this far.

Now I have roughly two months to get my car ready to run my first "for real" RallySprint. Thanks for following my story for four years here, and six years total! I hope it continues for years to come. Stay tuned!

"The universe is geared toward entropy. Rally accelerates that." -The late, great Jake Himes. Rally driver, fellow B13 racer.

NGTD UberDork
5/1/17 9:47 p.m.

Congrats on having a good time! Good luck on your upcoming rallysprint.

I'm prepping for one near the end of June. I think I have just over 8 weeks to get ready.

midniteson Reader
5/2/17 4:50 a.m.

I've been following your story for years. Glad to see you ripping it up again. Best of luck out there.

java230 SuperDork
5/2/17 9:25 a.m.

Awesome! So glad to see the car out on stage!!! (even if your just running open/sweep its still on stage!)

B13Birk New Reader
5/3/17 9:38 a.m.

In reply to Bubs:

Love it man! So glad that you made it this far and will continue to have the opportunity to do what you love. I appreciate your transparency as you have struggled through your sickness and I'm even more thankful for all of the great advice you have offered me. Can't wait to see more from you and Raven in the future. Cheers

Bubs Reader
6/11/17 1:05 p.m.

Two weeks out!

Mechanically the car is no worse for wear after its Course Open test, but I still gave everything a check over along with an oil change before putting it back on the ground for what should be the final time before the big day. Another quick road test confirms everything - still running cool and running well!

I also bought a van! The Astro platform wasn't on my radar until I got to test drive one, fully loaded with an STi race car in tow - up a very steep hill. They tow remarkably well when they're the AWD model with the factory tow package, which is exactly what this one is! Thankfully one of the only things it needs before it's serviceable is new leaf springs, as those were going to be upgraded anyway. I'll be replacing them with brand new units with 800lb helpers on each side, along with installing an auxiliary transmission cooler. I'll either be towing with a galvanized steel or (preferably) an aluminum two-axle trailer with brakes. I'm not too worried about having it ready to tow to the June 25th RallySprint as I can still borrow a work truck, but I'm already quite happy with this van and its potential year-round practicality.

My new helmet and first HANS device also arrived recently, and I still have the racing suit I was gifted when I was still battling my health issues. I was able to sit in the car with the helmet and HANS and seems to be a perfect fitment with no clearance issues on the cage.

Far as I can tell, I'm nearly ready with time to spare and there's no reason that I'll be able to accomplish my goal - even if I am two years behind schedule! I'll update again either just before or after the event.

Bubs Reader
6/28/17 6:45 p.m.

Video of final stage!

On Sunday, the dream came alive after two years of health-related delay - and it was everything I could have ever asked for. The car handled amazingly, especially considering that there's still plenty of improving to do. After all the struggle to get to this point, there were periods of the day that genuinely felt like I was dreaming. I'd get a half mile into a stage and suddenly it would dawn on me once again, "this is really happening!"

The van's still at a friend's shop for repairs and upgrades, so borrowing a work truck for now.

I was so fortunate to be able to have such an experienced codriver - the famous Ryan Symancek - in the right seat, the same man that helped me when I was looking to buy this car in the first place as I found it on Craigslist in a town 450mi from me, which happened to be 20min from his house! Then it appeared on the first episode of his /DRIVE series My Life as a Rallyist, and ultimately things came full circle on Sunday. After codriving for so many people, including a 2WD record run up Mt. Washington in 2014, I couldn't have asked for anyone better! It was immensely helpful to have someone with complete confidence in my driving and being able to tell me when to push harder, especially on the tricky downhill stages in the morning. His level of experience made our day about as perfect as it could get!

I did drive a bit conservatively as I really did want to simply finish the event, but we were still bombing right along and putting in respectable stage times. Doing Course Open previously helped me be much more comfortable straight away, so it was just a matter of pushing the envelope a little more. As I've always known, the SE-R rotates incredibly well with left-foot braking and it was so incredibly satisfying linking corners with a Scandinavian Flick at speed after all the years of practicing technique in RallyCross! Then crossing through the flat-out sections, hauling along a single-lane dirt road at 85mph, through chicanes, over crests and jumps - Team O'Neil's roads offer virtually everything you could expect at a rally!

The struts had been used previously on a different B13 at STPR, so by the end of the day they were getting pretty tired, but we were able to pull off a finish, which at my first real stage rally is quite a feat! We were just off the G2 podium but also midpack overall (of all classes, 2WD/AWD turbo/NA), and I'm completely satisfied with that! Upgrades and serious competition can come later, I'm just so completely thrilled to finally be on stage!

My dad came up for the day and ended up out on stage with a friend of mine, a photographer!

The entire day was so incredible, and making it even better was all the support and congratulations from what has become my Rally Family here at NER - the organizers, volunteers and fellow competitors, all cheering me on literally all day. It reminded me that their love and support is exactly why I never gave up in the first place, even when everything seemed to be over. Finally back at it and the future seems so bright - I'm just so happy to be here.

To be able to buy this car effectively as a wreck destined for scrap, bring it back to life, race / DD it for a few years and then Logbook it and get it out on Stage - feels good, man!

NGTD UberDork
6/28/17 7:17 p.m.


turtl631 Reader
6/29/17 12:34 a.m.

That's awesome!! I really enjoy My Life As A Rallyist on YouTube. It must be a huge thrill to get out there. Not much rallyX around here so I haven't dabbled yet. May do a trip out to Team O'Neil for a rally school someday. Keep pushing that B13. Nissan was amazing once!

TED_fiestaHP Reader
6/29/17 9:14 a.m.

Great story! Glad to hear you got back into the sport after your setback. I have MS, glad to see how you worked hard to make the most of your current condition. You can always make the most of what ever you have. I would recommend shopping around for a different Doc. Let him know what you do and his job is to help ensure you can continue having fun as long as possible. With any chronic issue, there will be good and bad days, just have to make the best of both the good and bad days. You never know how these things will develop, I have been very lucky. Sometimes they tell the worst case possible outcome, but that might not be your future. One thing I have been lucky with my Ins covers the medication really well. For expensive meds always ask about the mail in program, gets mailed to your house and to co-pay is a tiny fraction of what it would be to pick it up at the drug store. Why is health Ins so expensive, MS....

Bubs Reader
6/29/17 4:17 p.m.


You're correct about the good and bad days! At this point I'm not on any specific medications, I just take a few health supplements and I've been better than I ever was with the medications prescribed to me - whether during the misdiagnosis when they were treating my genetic disease as an infectious disease, or what was prescribed for AS. I don't want to go on any of the so-called "biologicals" due to their terrible side effects. But I would still like to see a competent rheumatologist at some point, and I could also go on a full anti-inflammatory diet as I've cut out as much as as I easily can, but there's always more I can do!

TED_fiestaHP Reader
7/1/17 2:33 p.m.

I hear you about side effects, similar issue with typical MS meds. But medication could slow down the progression or maybe keep you from getting worse. There have been some new advances lately. You are correct about improving your general health, the more fit and healthy you are the better your general condition will be. Hope to hear about a great summer race season. Keep up the positive out look!

Bubs Reader
2/7/21 5:07 p.m.

Between my health struggles and that period of time where Photobucket straight up blocked external hosting, I lost motivation to keep updating here a long time ago. A lot has happened since then, so I'm going to update in two separate posts, because they are episodes of their own.

It was so exciting to overcome my health limitations and complete my first Rallysprint. The next one to follow was in the winter of 2018, and we had genuinely perfect winter conditions for the event, and my studded Hakka8s. Between those and the car's LSD, there was nothing like screaming down roads with a mix of glare ice and thin layers of snow with 100% confident control. This was honestly some of the most fun I've ever had behind the wheel!

Unfortunately, my condition continued to decline, and it started becoming far more than "making the best of things", and turned into actual struggle. The inflammatory process began to involve my hands, wrists, the tendons and muscles in my arms, and my spinal issues began to involve my neck. I no longer had upper body strength to make up for my compromised hips, knees and ankles. Working on the car became all but impossible, and even getting in and out of the car itself was dreadful. Simple, mundane daily tasks were becoming massive undertakings. As much as I loved accomplishing this, it was becoming tougher and tougher to enjoy. When putting on socks becomes a five-minute process that you have to take breaks during, the idea of maintaining and racing a rally car seriously comes into question!

Fast forward to July 2018, and I was still holding it together just enough to give it one more go.

Exhausted and struggling to walk, I wedged myself in the car and drove my heart out. I was having fun in the moment, but in the back of my mind I had a feeling this was going to be the last time I ever did this. As always, the love and support of my club meant I was going to continue volunteering until I was incapacitated, but far as I knew my competition days were ending that afternoon.

I love my friends. It was lifesaving having a crew that day, it was a new feeling watching someone else swap out my wheels and check over the car! It was the only way I could even race that day, I couldn't even push a jack-handle down, let alone wrench! Everyone in the entire New England Region SCCA Rally program - RallyCross, RallySprint, Road Rally, they're the reason I kept pushing and, even when I wanted to so badly, never gave up.

I had a wonderful day, my third stage event in the books, towed the car home, put it in the garage and continued my decline. Just kept going to work, suriving but finding life more and more difficult by the day. The car sat, and sat, and sat. The month after my last race, I drove to an open house of sorts at Team O'Neil Rally School to see my friends and fellow drivers. Got a few offers to drive a bit, got helped into a friend's logbooked E30. When I was done I had to have two people extract me from the car, screaming from the pain of the normally mundane task of exiting a caged car.

After this, I didn't even bother trying to get back in my rally car again. Why even bother, I thought? If I tried racing again and the car rolled or caught fire, I would die in it before I could get out on my own, and I was too sick and exhausted all the time to enjoy anything anyway. I started feeling frustration even looking at it. Despite my love for the car and everything I'd been through with it, it upset me seeing it collect dust while my body collapsed at age 28. Eventually I broke down and decided I didn't want to see it anymore, the constant reminder of what I had lost the ability to enjoy. Listed the car for sale, had someone come and get it and watched it drive away. It had to be done, but it felt so hollow watching everything I'd done just drive off. BUT it was either that or just let it sit and collect dust forever, because I couldn't even use it. I just sat down on my bed and cried, honestly. There's no sugarcoating that.

Now, you may be reading this and thinking "Wow, this is f*#$ing awful, what a terrible ending," and at the time, it was indeed the end. But, that was like three years ago at this point, and more was yet to come. I'm going to type up Episode 2 now. Stand by! 

Bubs Reader
2/7/21 5:39 p.m.

At this point, it's still 2018. The car is gone, I'm falling to pieces. Even continuing to live independently was coming into question. To keep my spirits up, I continued driving the "timing bus" to NER's RallyCross events, and when I was able to, there was always people willing to offer me a spin in their car. It gave me a reason to stay motivated, to get up and out of the house for more than just work. And I just so desperately wanted to stay involved with the community I loved so much.

I'd tried everything under the sun, at least for an American without health insurance. All affordable medications, every dietary change imaginable (I even went vegan for a year), exercise regimens, supplements, THC, CBD, virtually everything except prescription painkillers, only because I knew the latter only masks the pain, doesn't help inflammatory damage and can be addictive.

Ultimately it took an actual "I have fallen and cannot get up" scenario to force my hand and look into yet more options. I convinced a doctor to let me go on a course of steroids to buy some time and keep me mobile. As of right now, I'm on a combination therapy of low-dose steroid and a synthetic DMARD that's used as a chemeotherapy drug in higher doses, which is helping keep my body's self-destruct process at bay. It's not ideal, I will probably have to reckon with the side effects at some point, but it allows me to live well for now. I've also changed careers to a much lower-stress job that I absolutely love, and I'm currently working to access some of the previously-inaccessible biologic treatments that may be lifechanging for me. But I'll have to fight and advocate for myself, and if those don't work, it'll be a matter of explaining to doctors that I can either stay on a more dangerous course of treatment that -works-, or go off it, become completely disabled and have to have someone care for me for the rest of my days. It's that simple, the disease itself will incapacitate or kill me on its own anyway, so why throw away something that lets me live my life on my terms?

ANYWAY amongst all that, I located my rally car and bought it back. Didn't see that coming? Neither did I! Got to make hay while the sun shines.

These days I have more "good days" than bad, and even the bad days are pretty managable, so I have energy to enjoy my hobbies most of the time, and that's all I can ask for.

I set about refreshing some things on the car, which had not been raced since I had sold it. Did some things I always wanted far as aesthetics go, including repainting the roll cage.

COVID delayed my return to racing, but it wasn't all bad. Gave me plenty of time to do what I needed to do. When the time arrived, I was ready.

Ryan Symancek once again joined me as my codriver, and we got right off to where we had left off some 2.5 years prior. For the first time, I got to enjoy a stage event COMPLETELY. Not just making the best of it. Minimal pain, a clear and alert mind, no exhaustion, just having an absolute blast.

My car held up amazingly in spite of its long hiatus, and I even caught an AWD car near the end of a relatively short stage. This was the perfect moment for my rational brain to shut off, and I drove even faster to catch and overtake it. Absolutely smoked my brakes on the downhill, but well worth it! This was incredible, and I'm so fortuate to not only get another shot at all this, but to even get to do it in my same old car. It really does feel full-circle. AND the car was ready to it all over again just a month later! Very lucky to have two back-to-back events in these times.

No matter what happens to me in the coming months and years, I'm grateful for every second that I can still live independently, love my life and keep doing the things I enjoy so much. This car is safe in my garage indefinitely, I'm not giving it up again no matter what, because even if I fall down again I'll just keep fighting to come back up. I'm planning to keep running Rallysprints whenever I'm feeling up to it, they really are the perfect condensed stage rally experience for my needs. Anything I do from here on out is just icing on the cake.

Cheers, and thanks for reading!


crankwalk (Forum Supporter)
crankwalk (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
2/7/21 6:20 p.m.

Hell yes. So glad to see this thread pop up again. Thanks for sharing everything and keep fighting. I lost an aunt to MS and she more or less gave up immediately and lost her life from it. I have an uncle who also has it and saw what happened after his sister just gave up and he has fought and fought for 20 + years now and is still on his feet. It's a really E36 M3ty disease and hate that you have to deal with it but you have the right attitude about it. 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
2/7/21 7:03 p.m.

Glad to see you back!  As a fellow 2wd rally person, former B13 owner, and "I'm too young for this chronic illness" haver, a lot of aspects of your story really hit home for me and I'm so happy to see that the story didn't end when you sold the car.

For whatever it's worth, I've been on a biologic (enbrel) for about a decade to keep psoriatic arthritis in check, and apart from having to be careful about infection it has been a good treatment for me so far.

Bubs Reader
2/7/21 7:29 p.m.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ said:

Glad to see you back!  As a fellow 2wd rally person, former B13 owner, and "I'm too young for this chronic illness" haver, a lot of aspects of your story really hit home for me and I'm so happy to see that the story didn't end when you sold the car.

For whatever it's worth, I've been on a biologic (enbrel) for about a decade to keep psoriatic arthritis in check, and apart from having to be careful about infection it has been a good treatment for me so far.

Seeing your results on a biologic is very encouraging! I am really hoping to be able to get on Enbrel or Remicade this year, it'll just be a matter of finding a doctor that will work with me on prescribing it and helping me access it as an uninsured person. We'll get there! Lately I've also had skin psoriasis going out of control, so all the more reason to try to get on a biologic ASAP.

irish44j (Forum Supporter)
irish44j (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
2/7/21 7:49 p.m.

Good to see you back at it. I can't even imagine how tough it is for you to keep fighting, but happy you are. 

Nitroracer (Forum Supporter)
Nitroracer (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
2/7/21 8:04 p.m.

I was happy to see this story continue but, man the latest update sure is a roller coaster!  I'm glad you are in better health and able to enjoy something that means a lot to you.  Thanks for sharing!

Kick ass B13 too!

B13Birk HalfDork
2/8/21 8:36 a.m.

It does my heart so much good to see this update. I have kept up with all of your stuff through BookFace.... but seeing you get the chance to share it with everyone here and to receive the encouragement and celebration you deserve from all these awesome people is the best. You have all the reason in the world to be negative or give up and yet you choose a better way... That my friend is truly inspirational. Keep it up.  --- Also, We need more Kei car updates too LOL.  

Also- You are super fortunate to have Ryan as a friend and Co-driver. From everything I have seen and heard he is an incredible co-driver. --- And clearly an even better friend. 

Rally on! 

- Birk

java230 UberDork
2/8/21 9:41 a.m.

Amazing story!! So glad the car is back in your hands and your fighting on! Keep it up.

FooBag (Forum Supporter)
FooBag (Forum Supporter) Reader
2/8/21 10:45 a.m.

Damn, who is cutting onions in here... I'm so glad that you've managed to turn a corner and get to enjoy your car again.  I sincerely hope that you find your glass slipper of an immunosuppressant to stop any future decline. 

B13Birk HalfDork
10/28/21 7:49 a.m.

BUBS we require an update! I know you have some new toys!!!

6 7 8
Our Preferred Partners