by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Tracey Gardiner (1); Tower City Race Team (2)

If you’re reading this, chances are that you don’t need an explanation of just how closely knit the rallying community is. It’s a sport where every competitor, no matter who they are, what class they’re racing in, or where they stand in the championship, genuinely wants the best for every other competitor.

That’s why it should be no surprise that, when Tower City Race Team rolled into parc exposé for the second day of Rally Colorado with five minutes to spare, everybody on site at the Rangely Auto Museum stood up and cheered. Knowing the journey that Adam VanDamme and Jacob Carlson had been on, it was more than a worthy ovation.

“This is history repeating itself,” VanDamme laughed. “100 Acre Wood was almost identical. On Friday, we blew a motor crossing the finish line of SS1, found a motor out of a barn, stuffed it in, came back Saturday, and just ran like crazy.”

“The last one, I wasn’t co-driving for,” Carlson noted. “I missed out on all the fun.”

“Yeah, Bryce Proseus was co-driving for us at 100 Acre,” VanDamme added. “(Jacob) missed out, so we figured we’d re-enact it for him, you know?”

The call went out midday Friday for another engine for the team’s Volkswagen Rabbit, after issues on SS2 knocked the team out early. But despite having to step out of the car before the first service area, there was no way that VanDamme and Carlson were abandoning the event, competing or not.

“These guys actually went out there and marshalled at the end of Friday,” said Roger Matthews, who drove to third overall in the event as the fastest 2WD competitor. “That was an amazing example of sportsmanship they set for all of us.”

“We actually worked the start line of SS6, just to watch some cars and hope that something came to fruition for the car,” VanDamme explained. “We were hoping that somebody would come up with something at Grand Junction, which was only about an hour and a half away, but nothing came up.”

Fortunately, the local rallying community was there to support the team, eventually linking TCRT up with Colorado native Sterling Chase, who was on site working with fellow 2WD entrants David and Allison Kern. Chase, who may have also been the event’s most vocal supporter with constant words of encouragement and ringing cowbells as drivers took off, was just the right person to help.

“Sterling is out of Denver, and he knew he had some motors out there, but we didn’t want to drive five hours away—we said that was just too far,” VanDamme continued. “But it started getting a little bit later, and I said, ‘You know what? We drove from Michigan, what’s another 10 hours of driving to go compete for the day?’

“At 9:00 (Friday) night, my cousin and I hopped in the truck and headed to Denver. We got back a little after 6—I went to bed, and everybody else started working on the car.”

“It kind of worked out well timing-wise,” Carlson added. “They were out getting the motor so we could pull the other one. We were in bed by probably midnight or 1, so we were able to get about five hours of sleep or so before they showed up and finished it up.”

From there, it was a race against the clock to make it to the start line on time—a race that the team would eventually win. Though fuel pump issues would again knock VanDamme and Carlson out of the running on Saturday, their heroic efforts just to rejoin the event were well noted by everyone who made it out to the event.

“We got it done just in time to get here, about three minutes before the driver’s meeting,” VanDamme said. “So it was tight—and we got lucky, we did a test fire and it fired up on about three cranks, real smooth.”

“We just love rallying,” Carlson concluded. “I don’t know how many points we were down just by showing up to this thing late, but we just wanted to run the stages. We drove all the way out here from Michigan, so we might as well keep going.”