"The AudiWorld Forum in person" and "a family reunion" are some of the phrases heard from participants to describe TT-East this year. This is the sentiment that brings TT owners to the event year after year from all over the country. First time attendee Peter Rodenburg (roadyTT) discovered this to be true even before he arrived at the event: "Shortly after I caught up with the members of the caravan group it was obvious to me that the event was going to be nothing short of special. Upon recognizing many of the attendees by name, I realized I was among great friends whom I'd never met but known for years."
The setting for this year's event was nearly a mile high in the Allegheny Mountains in beautiful Snowshoe, W.V. Snowshoe Mountain Resort lent itself well to a TT-East event; besides the great roads within minutes of the hotel, everything needed was practically adjacent to the main facility. This was a great feature since it enabled a smooth flow and conversations didn't have to be cut short for things such as driving to restaurants or going to and from the autocross. Another element that helped to keep the group in the same place was the presence of car wash facilities and refreshments in the parking lot, as well as an on-site BBQ lunch during the autocross. The same parking lot that was dedicated for TT-East attendees at the hotel made a good location for the autocross. Besides the stunning mountain backdrop, it was sunken so spectators could see the entire course from the roadside above. For those that didn't want to participate in the planned drives or autocross an abundance of alternative activities were available at the resort (many suitable for all ages).
Friday began with a drivers' meeting before we headed out on one of the many scenic drives-drives. Ultimately these drives would satisfy every type of enthusiast being that they were planned over some of the best driving roads in the country. The routes that were chosen meandered through the mountains and valleys of the Alleghenies which naturally delivered breathtaking views and challenging courses. There were several stops along the way, including the Waterfalls of Hills Creek, Seneca Rocks, Cass Scenic Railroad, The Greenbrier Resort, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which is the location of the world's largest fully maneuverable radio telescope. A good measure of the drive levels were how many opted not to go in large groups or in any groups for that matter to avoid exceeding their comfort levels. Friday night had no planned dinner, which gave everyone a chance to try one of the many restaurants within walking distance of the hotel.
Saturday began like Friday with a drivers' meeting. Rather than scenic drives, however, some 33 attendees participated in an autocross. After the meeting all of the participants were required to remove all loose items from their cars and line up for tech inspections, where experienced eyes conducted safety inspections. Then everyone heard the rules and was given several walk-throughs of the course. Even though this was my first autocross, I was comfortable participating because of the thoroughness and professionalism with which the event was conducted.
The autocross was everybody's favorite activity of the weekend. Even the spectators had a good time. The most memorable run had to be the last run for Brandi Burnett (BBsTT). She "drove it like she stole it," knocked 4 seconds off her best time, and gave us all quite a show (and made a lot of noise). After the official runs were over, many determined drivers who were "in it to win it" continued doing fun runs in an attempt to improve their best time.
The success of the autocross was due largely in part to the efforts of TT owner and WV resident Chris Conners (AchTTung ALMS). Chris braved hours of driving a van along the twisty back roads of WV days earlier to bring the cones needed for the course. He, along with other volunteers, worked until 11 pm the night before to get the course ready..
When it was all over only, a few hundredths of a second separated the first, second, and third place winners:
Saturday night was the traditional dinner banquet and raffle with piles of prizes from generous sponsors including AWE Tuning, Modshack, MCPi, Forge, Bentley Publishers, Detailers Domain, Stoner, Langka, Group 4, and Green Earth Technologies. Trophies were presented to the Autocross winners, the Flatbed award winner (more on this in a minute), and the Road Warrior award winner. The Road Warrior award went to Brandi Burnett who drove her TT over 3,300 miles round trip to make it to the event.
One pleasant surprise during the raffle was the winner of the Modshack VTDA air intake, William Baxter (BaxTTer). The raffle winner only recently acquired his TT and had not yet performed any modifications to it. Since most attendees already own a VTDA or similar product, the luck of the draw couldn't have favored a more fitting person. As a special bonus, product creator Steve Schwing (TTschwing/Modshack) personally installed the VTDA so William could enjoy it on his ride home.
Although TT-East is about having fun, donating to a local charity has become a part of the event, as well. The Snowshoe Foundation was this year's beneficiary. The foundation is dedicated to the financial support of local community organizations whose activities benefit the people of Pocahontas, Randolph and Webster Counties of West Virginia. The areas of health, human services, education, recreation, the arts, culture and the environment, with an emphasis on children, youth and family programs are the primary beneficiaries. The honors of occupying the front two spots in the group photo were auctioned off during the banquet, which raised over $300 for the foundation - a small portion of the overall $1300 raised!. Additionally, a poker run added a charitable component to the scenic drives. For a small donation, participants in the poker run had a chance to win a Snowshoe Resort vacation valued close to $3,000. The winner of the vacation was Stephanie Heller, girlfriend of TT owner Bryan Irolla (BTTI).
No account of TT-East would be complete without mention of this year's Flatbed Award winner and first time TT-East attendee Rich Craft (formally CrafTT). The Flatbed Award is given to the person whose car breaks down during the event and requires a tow to a shop for repair. Friday afternoon while trying a new launch technique a coupling on his car's driveshaft assembly broke apart - the sounds of which could be heard from up in the hotel rooms across the street. As we all rushed over to check on our fallen brother and to offer tools and assistance, Rich demonstrated a lot of character in the way he handled the situation. Instead of getting upset, he shrugged it off, made some jokes and proceeded to be the master of his own fate. After working for over 2 hours in the parking lot he had the damaged portions removed and other than not having a functioning quattro system, Rich's car was drivable again. The next day Rich went on to impress everyone further by driving the wounded car in the autocross and taking a respectable 7th place.
When asked what he thought of the event, Rich responded: "One word: incredible. Talk about good people. It was by far the best car event I have ever been to! Heather and I are hooked for life. I can't wait for the next one already."
Rich added, "Hans deserves a standing ovation for the event he put together. Being the first TT-East ever for me, I couldn't have even imagined how great it would be. Even though the gray rocket ship didn't stay together, I had a blast. It's kind of weird that most of the people meet only once a year, but when they do get together it's like a family that has never separated."
PS: In a further showing of his sense of humor after returning home from the event, the aforementioned Rich appropriately changed his AudiWorld screen name to ShafTT.
Sunday morning after checking out of the hotel, we all gathered for the group photo at the base of the mountain. This gave us one last time to socialize while TT owner and photographer Sal Coppola (ITALSKIER) instructed us one by one where to place our cars for the shot. Shortly after Sal took the picture everyone said their goodbyes and started their long journeys home.
Thanks to Hans and Annie Isler, Steven Janofsky, Nathanial Manchin, Chris Conners, George Baker, Ted and Bud Dannemiller, Robert McClain, the staff at Snowshoe Resort, the TT-East sponsors, and all of the other organizers and volunteers who helped make TT-East so successful.
Last but not least, I want to thank everyone who attended the event. Regardless of where the event is held, or the scheduled activities, the great people are the true reason TT-East has become the tradition that it is today. As Chris Conners so perfectly put it: "The cars are the catalyst behind the event, but the people keep the reaction going."
I hope that everyone keeps the tradition going and attends TT-East 2009. See you all next year.