The October 1999 Synaptic Flatulence


"Where's the Calgon when the water's so hard?"

by M. E. "Mad Mike" Halley

It sure seems like the Stage Fright Rallye Team’s Dodge Ram 50 ‘RallyeTruck’ winds up in trouble any time it‘s in Minnesota combined with a hint of water. At least so far. May’s HeadWATERs SCCA ClubRally doings up north found the truck being driven through a big mud puddle and the resulting deluge-through-the-carburetor effortlessly destroyed the engine. The handwriting was on the wall, why was no one heeding it?

In late August, without a hint of trouble, driver Mike Halley and codriver EMily Louise Burton-Weinman shepherded a repaired and much-modified pickup through the first half of the ClubRallys run in conjunction with the Bemidji-based Ojibwe Forests Michelin SCCA ProRally. Friday’s decidedly NOT water-themed Paul Bunyan’s Ride ClubRally offered but one small water hazard (which was easily avoided) and the truck came home with the Production title, a fine 4th overall finish (the top five overall were each champions of their respective class) and the most boring service effort the team has ever been involved with. Typical service instructions aimed at Crew Chief, Heath Vogt, or driver-on-deck/service helper, Adam Burney, went something like, "Hey, bring the Windex back out, there’s still a smudge on that chrome wheel!"

The Rally Gods even smiled on the SFRT rallycross effort the previous evening. Staged at the Bemidji Speedway, there was but one small muddy spot to endure during the "!!!Rally-X." Even after a harrowing 17-hour tow (that included flat-towing the RallyeTruck behind Vogt’s Toyota and dropping off the next Mayhem-mobile in Minneapolis – which is whole other story) the senior half of the Oklahoma driving duo logged a dandy fifth overall (out of 30+ entries) and won the 2wd Prepared Truck classification (Vogt, by the way, came second in his class running against the cars!). The only bad news for SFRT was a busted differential. For once, however, the team had a spare that was expertly welded by Mark Utecht beside his service van the next morning (Note: Check out Mark’s excellent article on this art. I can attest to his ‘locked diff’ vision and you can read about it at In reality, Thursday’s bad luck exposed a chink in the team’s armor which, once fixed, contributed to the winning of Friday’s war.

Saturday, as it turns out, was a whole other story.

Just the name of Saturday’s Ojibwe companion event should have been omen enough. "10,000 Lakes" they called it. How much water do you suppose might be in 10,000 lakes? Tons and tons no doubt. Never the less, the Okie truck ventured north from the headquarters, again with EMily riding shotgun, but piloted this time by Spec Racer Ace Burney who was tackling his first true stage rally.

The Saturday service crew alignment of Vogt & Halley found their way to the first service area somewhere near Canada and waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. Leader, and eventual Ojibwe winner, Noel Lawler chugged by the SFRT pit in the Libra Racing Hyundai Tiburon. Paul "Thumper" Choiniere and step Dad John "Stuffum" Buffum came by in their similar conveyance. In fact, just about every car in the rally and even a couple sweep trucks went by before word came that the #601 had bounced off a tree and landed in a swamp. Once again, the Minnesota/water/RallyeTruck combo served to put a damper on the weekend and gave team owner "Mad Mike" a real chance to live up to his billing.

This time, however, the damage to the truck looked significant. The driver’s door wouldn’t open since both it and the B-pillar were crushed into the roll cage. The driver’s side window was shattered and its remnants were spread throughout the cab. All four Hella Rallye 2000 driving lights were half full of swamp water and looked like mobile aquariums awaiting little fishies. The engine had died nanoseconds after sheet metal started chewing tree bark, so the new engine’s status was unknown. Burney was in a truly unenviable position. He had wrecked someone else’s truck and set up one of the best known CenDiv personalities for her first ever ambulance ride. Worse, there was one mad Mad Mike, an entire SCCA Division of EMily fans (any number of whom are happy relating diaper changing stories) and over a thousand miles between him and home!

Thanks to almost 12 hours of Paul Bunyan’s bouncing Ride Friday, EMily’s third-ever-codriving stint had left her with a sore neck. The end to her fourth was abrupt enough to make the pain a bit sharper. She quickly learned that the phrase "sore neck" should not be uttered in the presence of EMT types who have known you since birth. The first question was, "Where does it hurt?" Then it was, "We’re just putting this neck brace on to be safe." Then, after a cell phone plea to her father (Bruce Weinman - rally organizer who was stuck some 60 miles away) was answered with, "Don’t be a pain … get in the ambulance," she was strapped to a backboard and deposited in the big Ford.

Following her in was Halley.

"Who are you?" the driver asked.

"Uhmmmmmm, surrogate father?" he answered noncommittally. The blank look on the ambulance crew’s faces made him add, "I’m the team owner - who put her in the car with the guy who wrecked the truck."

"Oh. Sit down up front," was the response, stated like that sort of thing happened all the time.

In the end, Emily was x-rayed and treated for a sore neck while Adam lived to head for Owasso, Oklahoma again. But the Stage Fright Rallye Team saga was not yet over.

Passing through Kansas City near midnight an older Pontiac sideswiped a car abandoned near the median. The contact ripped the older GM car’s rear bumper off and sent it skidding across three lanes. There was no way to avoid the obstacle so Halley managed to hit it with just half the brand new Cooper front tires – blowing it out immediately. Halley wrestled the rig to the side of the road and the team commenced changing both right-side tires in the dark.

The last few hours of the trip, thankfully, were uneventful.

As of mid-September the truck is home from the body shop and plans continue that will find Halley running his first national since the 1983 Susquehannock Trail ProRally in Pennsylvania. The RallyeTruck has been entered in the Prescott Forest Michelin SCCA ProRally scheduled to run October 2 in the mountains north of Phoenix, Arizona. Flying west for her first attempt at a full national will be Minnesotan EMily Louise Burton-Weinman (who was three in ‘83!). Halley and latest Crew Chief Bruce Weinman will be the only males in a team that will boast no less than five members of the opposite sex since all three "Oklahoma Halley Girls," and family friend, Gayle Simmons, will join EMily in Prescott to help prove that "Girls Kick Butt."

Check back here in a few weeks when the next Stage Fright Rallye Team report will chronicle how the FlexBow/Rally Distributing/Head Country Bar-B-Q sauce RallyeTruck fared out west.