How the Rally Community Gave One Driver a Second Chance to Race Up Mount Washington

After Amy Dilks blew her engine on her first practice run, competitors worked together to get her car running again for the big day.

Justin Hughes

Rally driver Amy Dilks wanted to attend the 2014 Mt. Washington Climb to the Clouds. Unfortunately, her car wasn't quite ready and the cost of attending the event just wasn't in her budget. When the 2017 event was announced, she knew she had to be there. She started with high hopes on the first day of practice—not of beating record setter Travis Pastrana, but of just competing in this prestigious event and completing it successfully. Unfortunately, her Subaru WRX STI ran into trouble during her first practice run up the top half of the mountain. 

"Halfway up the first practice run the car was overheating and lost oil pressure," said Dilks. "Five-hundred feet short of Cragway I had a massive engine failure and managed to pull out of the way enough for the practice to continue. My suspicion is that the oil pump failed or the oil pickup may have cracked. I was getting an intermittent oil pressure light before the failure. The oil temps stayed low at 190, while the coolant temp went all the way to redline." 

Regardless of the cause, the giant hole in her crankcase meant that her engine was done.

Amy Dilks

"New crankcase ventilation."

After all of the competitors had finished their first practice run, Dilks and her car returned to the service area. 

"Had it been any other event I probably would have packed up," said Dilks. "But Climb to the Clouds is such a unique event going home on the first practice day wasn't acceptable." 

Without a service crew, she began to remove the engine all by herself with insufficient tools. "I hadn't been planning on serious engine repair so I just had my light track box with me," Dilks said. Upon hearing of her predicament, people from some of the other teams came over to help her. 

By 5:30 p.m., the engine was out of the car, and they had located a replacement in southern New Hampshire. Dilks called a friend who was driving up to Mt. Washington from the Boston area with a truck to pick it up on the way. When the replacement engine arrived at 8:30 p.m., competitors and their crews from all over the service area descended upon Dilks' Subaru to install it. Finally, at 1:30 a.m., Dilks fired up the replacement engine. She was back in the running.

Well, almost. 

"We all went to bed knowing we had to button it up in the morning," Dilks said. "When I went to bleed the clutch we realized we had pulled the piston out of the slave cylinder. Rob [Sockalexis] remembered that [his team] Last Ditch Racing had a spare. So we threw that one in, bled it, and managed to make the second practice run." 

Now parts from other competitors, as well as their labor, had gone into Dilks' car to ensure that she would be able to run. She had missed most of the practice runs, but completed both of her official runs up the entire mountain on Sunday, finishing third in class High Performance Showroom Stock with a best run 7:54.99. 

While more than two minutes slower than Travis Pastrana, just finishing the event was at least as impressive an accomplishment under the circumstances. It wouldn't have happened without the help of her competitors to get her car back in the race.