Today, in a return to our live rally Q&A sessions, we have an entire rally team. Say hello to Panda Crane Rally out of Seattle, Washington. Panda Crane is a perfect example of what happens when a group of friends with a small budget, big dreams, very little sanity, and a love for the Toyota AE86 decide to go from talking about rallying to actually competing.
Unfortunately since I'm on the opposite coast from Panda Crane I didn't know enough about the team to write their introduction, so I asked them to describe themselves in their own words:
Adam Crane discovered rally in High School, and took a trip to the Oregon Trail Rally in Tillamook in 1999. He still remembers the sound and smell of every car going entirely too fast down forest roads. Instantly hooked, he volunteered, spectated, and made friends at any event he could get to. It all changed in 2002 when Adam first co-drove for Chris Beebe in an AWD VW Bug. While he did a horrible job and caused Chris to crash out within the first minute of the rally, he decided then and there that he was going to build his own rally car.
While in college at Western Washington University under the Vehicle Research Institute he met two key people. Britta Neilsen, his future co-driver and also wife, and Dustin Embrey, pit crew member and future coat tail rider. He graduated in 2006 which also happened to be the year of his first rally at Doo Wops. Since then he has raced his 1987 Toyota Corolla “Patches” in over 20 events in five different states. He is currently finishing up construction on a new Beams powered Corolla rally car “Hatches”, that should be ready for its inaugural race at the Oregon Trail Rally next year.
Dustin Embrey has been a fan of Rally since driving his 1978 VW Scirocco down private dirt roads too fast in High School, but never saw it live until 2010 while pitting for Adam in Canada. Jeff Stoner, a good friend of Dustin’s came along to the several rallies that year and team “Shit Show” was born. While discussing cars over beer at the Red Hen in Ballard Washington, Adam and Dustin were discussing going to an unofficial Ice race in Canada. Adam mentioned he knew of a Corolla GT-S sitting in a field for $500. The next weekend it was in the back of the box van on its way to Seattle to be turned into a temporary Ice racer.
14 Months later the car was purple, had a full roll cage and was ready for the Olympus rally in Ocean Shores WA. Jeff joined Dustin as his co-driver, and despite a backwards wired radiator fan, a missed note on turn 5 of the first stage causing an off, and countless mini mistakes and penalties, they finished the event. Since then the Purple Panda has competed in over 13 events, even once with Adam driving it to a class victory. In 2012, Dustin and Jeff drove the car all the way to Guanajuato Mexico to compete in the Regional division of WRC Mexico. After getting held at the border for 2 days, around $1400 extra in border “fees”, an exploding Radiator, and altitude tuning issues, they were still able to finish first in Class C. Dustin recently rolled a new Corolla shell into the garage, and so the cycle begins again.
Panda Crane recently made an appearance on the American version of Top Gear as one of the cars at the Nameless Rally in last week's rally episode. Now I leave it to you and your questions. Why do they love old RWD Toyotas so much? What's it like competing in WRC Mexico? Where'd the name Panda come from? Ask down in Kinja below and find out. Adam and Dustin are both here and will each give their own perspectives and responses.
UPDATE: Dustin and Adam had to go but they intend to check back in later for any questions they missed. Thanks, everyone, for another fun session!