Written By Jason Leaming

Rochester Fairgrounds has always been a fan favorite for the SCCA RallyCross crew, and since I started in 2018 (has it really been that long?), every time it has been a challenging site full of slippery mud, many puddles, and cold rain. This time around, the rainclouds decided to stay socially distant, saying hello to us with just a 2-minute sprinkle of precipitation around midday. This left us with a course that was quite grippy, with dense dirt that let us feel some surprising lateral G-forces. A few drivers (myself included), trailered their cars to the event on mud rally tires, but a quick early-morning course walk made me feel that I’d be better off on my dirt tires. I switched soon after getting my car through tech inspection, and was glad I did. Being the first points event since COVID-19, we were all full of competition spirit and definitely ready to race under the clouds of the quiet New Hampshire town.

And so the runs progressed. Photo by Nemesis Photo

The course changed a lot throughout the day, using various parts of the horse track and the infield. This kept things interesting throughout the day as we never knew what to expect. While exciting, the constantly-changing course (combined with my lack of good sleep the night before) caught me off guard early on when Vojtech Kubec came up to me in grid and asked if I noticed the change in direction of a single pointer cone on a run we both just completed. My heart immediately sank with disappointment as I knew I had just messed up after doing so good so far, but I laughed it off when I realized how obvious the course change was when we both saw the next few cars drive the course and not the tire tracks of the cars before. That’s a 10-second penalty….what was I doing? These are the basics, the very basics that I have practiced and pointed out to other drivers in the past! It was at this time I knew I had to pull out all the stops and drive like I mean it if I wanted to stay on the podium. And drive like I mean it I did.

The day stayed cool and the sun came out only for a little while in between the dominantly cloudy sky. Definitely a classic example of New England “flannel weather.” The fall foliage provided the perfect scenic background to the spectacular action photos that were taken during the event.

Your loving author, “driving like he means it.” Photo by DaggerSLADE Media

I’m not sure how the front bumper stayed intact on Ryan Moyes’ Abarth… Photo by DaggerSLADE Media

The afternoon course crossed over the morning course in a few locations, providing small but fun jumps (or yumps), much to the dismay of cars with low ground clearance. These course features combined with the grippy soil provided fertile grounds for some truly great photography with many cars with only three—or less—wheels on the ground in some corners.

There were some new sounds this time around, most notably the whine of John Stanwood’s newly-supercharged VW Scirocco, also shared with Nathaniel Stanwood. There was also a very fast EG Civic that completely changed engine sound at higher RPM (which I attributed to Honda’s VTEC cam profiles changing), sparking conversation among the corner workers and it definitely made me smile every time it blazed by. There was also an odd sound (and smell, for that matter) of the 5-cylinder turbo diesel under the hood of Joseph Leaming’s classic Mercedes 300CD Coupe—certainly not a car you’d expect to see at any time, much less so at a racing event.

Modified Front Wheel Drive saw a heated battle with some very fast, (and all of them red) Volkswagens, Philip LaMoreaux aggressively and stylishly driving an MK3 Golf to victory, followed by Chris Zanis in second place with his MK4 GTI by a mere 2.607 seconds overall. Michael Gallant also drove less than 2 seconds behind Zanis in the same GTI, taking third.

Modified All Wheel Drive was full of action with Jeff Denmeade emerging victorious in his Bugeye WRX, Chris Regan 7.255 seconds behind in his always faster-than-it-looks Mazdaspeed6, Tony Gearheart only 2.483 seconds away taking third in his stage-prepped Blobeye Subaru STI. It became apparent that turbocharged horsepower would be a definite advantage with all the grip the dirt allowed, aided by some generous straights that were put into the changing course throughout the day.

Jeff Denmeade enjoying a very bumpy section of track. Photo by DaggerSLADE Media

Finally, the class that got the (arguably) most spectacular photos was Modified Rear Wheel Drive, led by Vojtech Kubec, a consistently quick driver in his NB Miata. 6.860 seconds behind the lead was yours truly, Jason Leaming in my orange VW Super Beetle taking second place after making some helpful brake bias adjustments (and a bit of silent pep-talk) at lunchtime. Third place saw a freshly-modified (and now terrifyingly fast) Volvo 242 piloted by Michael Pettengill, just 7.509 seconds off my pace, finishing the day respectably on the podium. It has been said the difference between the good drivers and the great drivers is simply the fact that the great drivers execute the basics just a little bit better. Maybe I’ll take the hint and pay closer attention to the pointer cones next time!

You could hear the Roots supercharger scream before you saw it coming. Photo by DaggerSLADE Media

A very fast, (mostly) red Golf with Philip LaMoreaux behind the wheel. Photo by DaggerSLADE Media