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Case Study: Comrie-Picard Lancer Takes 2nd Place at Rocky Mountain Rally with Innovate Wideband and Data Acquisition

Driver Andrew Comrie-Picard and Innovate Motorsports had a terrific event at the Rocky Mountain Rally 2004, a challenging driving event based in the foothills of southwestern Alberta. The Boisvert Mitsubishi team finished in second place overall and was the only privateer (non-factory) team to win a stage of the rally.

“I love the LM-1. Everything has worked perfectly, including the drop to our Autronic ECU,” said Comrie-Picard. “Given the challenges we had before the event, the actual rally seemed like a coda to the whole experience.”

The team had several pre-event challenges. After preparing the car and towing it to Alberta from Montreal, the specialized racing gearbox fitted to the car failed in simple Calgary traffic when it selected two gears at the same time.

“Let’s say it was a long night before the rally” said Martin Strange of the Musketeer service crew. He and Simon Losier from Blainville Mitsubishi worked from Thursday evening nonstop to Friday afternoon to swap the transmission and differentials to the team’s spare gearbox, which is a non-racing spec street Lancer Evolution model.

“The guys were pretty tired,” said co-driver Marc Goldfarb, “but they’ve faced these kind of challenges before and always come through. We've lost two engines in the last two years. Obviously we operate these engines close to their envelope, but the LM-1 is now allowing us to define where the edges of the envelope really are, and I'm confident that our engines are going to last longer as a result. In particular, I wanted to have the LM-1 logging data from this particular rally that is at high altitude in the Rocky Mountains - every year this event blows engines thanks to people using their sea-level calibrations. We simply unloaded the car 15 miles from the start of the event at high altitude, turned on the LM-1, and tailored our mixture to the conditions. Last year I ended this event with pistons spread across the mountainside, and this year I'm on the podium. Can't argue with that."

The second-place result is even more remarkable as the racing “dogbox” is generally reckoned to save a team one second per kilometer in a rally with its clutchless shifts. The competitive sections of the rally totaled 166km and Richard won the rally by 173 seconds. Comrie-Picard has not competed with a synchromesh gearbox for over a year, and all of his principal competitors, including rally winner Patrick Richard and third place Antoine L’Estage, were using dogboxes.

“The driving is very different with a synchromesh transmission. The ratios are longer and the shifting has to be planned much earlier in the corner. Also the weight transfer you can induce mid-corner with a quick clutchless shift is essentially impossible without the sychro box. I’m happy that we had a good result on the normal ‘box, but it’s so competitive at the front of the championship that we can’t afford to continue without the dogbox.” Said Comrie-Picard. He admitted that “Patrick was really flying and we would have had our work cut out for us even with the dogbox.”

Comrie-Picard and Richard between them won all the stages at the rally. The conditions were generally dry despite snow on the roads the week before, although a sudden hailstorm made certain sections of the Beaver Pond area muddy and tricky. Many cars rolled on the sharp dropoffs, including the factory Subaru of Tom McGeer, top Group 2 competitor Gord Olsen, the WRXs of Peter Thomson and Joel Levac, and the only VW new Beetle competing in Canada. Third place competitor L’Estage, also on Yokohama tires, stayed on the road but had a problem with the transmission and wastegate actuator.

The result puts Comrie-Picard and Goldfarb in a tie for second place in the Canadian Rally Championship and the leading privateers behind the factory Subaru of Richard. By winning the event Richard now has a powerful lead in the championship. “There are still four difficult rallies left in the season” said crew chief Francois Veilleux, “and anything can happen.”

Full results are available on www.rockymountainrally.com.

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