For the truly devoted rally fan, it isn’t always about the Rally America National Championship. Sure the Rally America rounds are exciting and always draw a crowd, but they only come by once a year. Regional rallies on the other hand are the bedrock of the sport. This is where teams get a chance to test new setups or parts on their cars. Where both drivers and co-drivers can hone their skills without the pressures of being on the national stage. Regional events are especially important for inexperienced crews to learn the rules and processes of a rally and how to properly go through time controls, scrutineering, etc. From a fan’s standpoint, you get a more personal connection with the local teams as these are the mechanics, accountants, electricians, etc. that live in your area. They aren’t the big sponsored drivers behind a gated paddock that you have to stand in line for an hour just to get an autograph from. Instead they are everyday people who just happen to love racing and tinkering with cars. I always find it amazing how easy it is to talk to the men and women who race locally, and how much I tend to have in common with them (other than the rally driving of course!).
Most regional rallies are short, but it doesn’t mean they are any less of a car breaker. These shorter rallies prevent drivers from preserving their cars over multiple days like a national event would require. Instead it’s a one day sprint for a win against friends and sometimes even family. Arguably the bragging rights of a regional win against your peers is as important if not more important than how you finish in a national event.
This weekend happens to be the Mt. Hood Regional Rally outside of Hood River, Oregon. Gone are the dust and heat of the summer, replaced with the cool temperatures and rain of the northwest in the fall. Drivers will have to take it slower and will be sliding a lot, but that just adds to the fun. Even though it is just a regional event, they still have more than 30 cars registered to drive the 7 stages over 50 competitive miles of forest roads.
If you aren’t lucky enough to live nearby and attend the Mt. Hood Rally, you can actually listen to it live online at http://mthoodrally.com/Spectators. I for one am especially curious to hear how co-driver Daniel Norkus, who I reported rolling in a Honda Civic at Olympus (twice), finishes at Mt. Hood. He’s with a different driver and in an open class Subaru STI at this event.