The first SCCA Rally Sprint in the Pacific Northwest was wet and wild, but still a major success. The Northwest has been battered with rainstorm after rainstorm saturating the soil causing floods, landslides, and even a tornado hit Vancouver. Thankfully the venue at DirtFish Rally School was free of tornadoes, and the early morning albeit cold was looking rather promising with only a light shower. That all changed once the racing commenced as the clouds descended and the rain came.
The harsh wet conditions made the event that much more of a spectacle. After all, rally cars were meant to spend half their time sideways flinging dirt and mud right? I have to say DirtFish Rally School and Kito Brielmaier had a great setup. The old mill warehouse building was used for tech inspection, a staging area, and housed the Motofish coffee and Wicked Pies Pizza food trucks. Spectators could stay out of the rain while watching the entire rallycross course from inside the building. A short walk outside to Gazebo Hill also offered an enclosed structure (with a heater!) that provided great views of the Rally Sprint. For those that were dressed properly to bear the brunt of mother nature’s might, there were some great views from other locations around the facility too.
If you don’t remember what a Rally Sprint is and what makes it different from Stage Rally and Rallycross, I highly recommend you listen to the first part of our podcast we did a few weeks back where Kito explained it in detail. That link is here. The basics are that a Rally Sprint is longer than Rallycross, shorter than Stage Rally, but the cars have to be caged and equipped with many stage rally safety features. The scale of the Rally Sprint makes it more affordable and yet the number of smiles per mile were not diminished. Here’s a picture of the map for the single sprint stage run at DirtFish. The purple line designates the route used for the sprint. The entire day was repeats of the same route, but I don’t think anyone was bored as the conditions were different with each run, especially as the volume of rain changed.
We initially started the day at a 180 degree hairpin after a long straight (CW#2 on the map) where drivers tried their best “Scandinavian Flick” to get around the corner. Some got it very right, others not so much. The wet conditions caused many to misjudge their braking and go a bit wide…really wide.
Later we moved to the “Bunkers” (CW#3) and caught the drivers going around a very fast right hander that included two massive aqua-planing puddles.
The entrants initially ran by class with 2WD Limited doing their two runs followed by 2WD Open doing two runs, and then the AWD classes doing their two runs. This made for a bit of a long wait in between classes which was great for us media scrambling around the facility to get shots from different areas, however it soon became clear that the drivers wouldn’t get nearly as many runs as hoped in this configuration.
During the lunch break the teams met with Kito and they came up with a plan to have all the classes run together in a constant loop. This ended up allowing them all to finish with six more runs in the afternoon vs. just the two they ran in the morning. It’s great to see organizers being open and receptive to make adjustments so long as safety was not compromised, and allow everyone to get in a bit more racing fun.
Phil Meyers’ first run wasn’t so enjoyable as you can see by the photo. I caught him during the lunch break and he said “I took the light pod off, because I had it on when it was in the trailer. I put the light pod away, and I forgot to come back and latch the hood back down….took off and its 50 on tarmac and then onto gravel there’s a bump, and when we hit that bump it just went up. Because of the plastic up there, the armature for it got stuck in the plastic and so the hood was just stuck up. When it went up I immediately slammed on the brakes, but it wouldn’t come back down. So we drove the whole course with the hood up…except for the first 50 yards.”
For the second half of the day, we went up to Gazebo Hill. The weather turned downright tretorous, and the small building provided much needed shelter at times. Here, the cars came in from high speed straight after navigating a barrell chicane and then attempted to drift through a 200+ degree sweeping left hander right below the gazebo followed by a sharp hook to the right that went straight down a side road. It was difficult to get the drift into the long left two just right and then kick back the other way. Just ask Jeff Seehorn who hit a cone on his first attempt.
The Rally Sprint was not the only event going on, as there was Rallycross too. The course was tight and twisty, but boy were the competitors having a good time flinging mud and gravel everywhere.
It was a great day of wet and wild mud slinging fun until the last couple of hours when the cold and horizontal rain really started to creep in through the clothing. Our photographer Tedrick Mealy was getting some great shots while being soaked to the bone standing in the middle of that long left two below Gazebo Hill. Unfortunately, the weather got the best of the equipment and fogged lenses meant our shooting for the day was done about an hour before the event was over.
So what about the results? Well, that was probably the only down side to this inaugural event. There was no convenient way to know who was leading in the Rally Sprint, and they had technical difficulties in the afternoon because the rain waterlogged the time sheets. Time cards were eventually used to manually tabulate the totals, and they were still figuring it out the final tally by the time I had to leave. From what we could gather it seemed like Jeff Seehorn, who for the firs time had his fiance Tristan as co-dirver, was going to be the winner in the 4wd open class.
UPDATE: Results from the inaugural NW Rally Sprint are here!
Congratulations to the winners!
Chris Kobayashi – 2WD Limited
Adam Crane – 2WD Open
Todd Lengacher – AWD Limited
Jeff Seehorn – AWD Open
I have to give a massive shout out to all the volunteers. The rain was never ending, and yet they persevered. Even when timing sheets were soaked with water, they kept their cool and did what they could to keep the event moving. By late afternoon the temperature dropped to 40 degrees and wind gusts were so strong that rain was at times coming at 90 degrees. Although most dressed prepared for weather, I’m not sure so many of them expected the afternoon we saw. That said the organizers gave out hand warmers and made sure everyone got a nice hot beverage at the end of the day.
Massive thanks to Kito Brielmaier, SCCA, DirtFish Rally School for the amazing venue, Oregon Rally Group for timing and scoring, Motofish for the hot coffee, and Wicked Pies for the warm and delicious slices! I also want to thank to our photographers Jace Tuttle and Tedrick Mealy who always seem to find a way to get that perfect shot! And last, but certainly not least, thanks to the NW E-Crew and Sweeps teams who are such big supporters of every rally in the Northwest. These events couldn’t happen without them, and it looked like they had a little bit of fun in the mud too!
Full gallery of photos here and in our Facebook Album