2017 Muscatell Subaru Ojibwe Forests Rally
Though I was without a co-drive, this years Ojibwe forests Rally was not without excitement for me.
Rally came to back to Minnesota at the weekend with the Ojibwe Forests Rally. The final round of the American Rally Association's inaugural championship.
Last year, if you remember. I was co-driving for Adam VanDamme and scored a 2nd place in the 10,000 Lakes Rally on the Saturday. This year, due to the low number of entrants, I was without a co-drive. But not to worry. I was still involved. My new found position as a contributor to the Open Paddock podcast meant I went along as media. My primary purpose was to be the analyst on one of the ARA's popular Facebook Live reports. The rest of the time I was on stage indulging in one of my other passions, photography.
My media passes and vest.
It felt strange to be at a rally, wandering around service and Parc without actually being a member of a team. But there were many friends around to chat with. I even spent time with Adam reminiscing about last year.
"Remember when we shredded a tyre and all the rubber came inside the car?" We laughed.
“Remember when we hit that bird and all those feathers came inside the car?" We laughed out loud. Good times.
My Open Paddock/ARA colleagues Mike Shaw and Matt Kalish were busying themselves interviewing competitors at the press conference, so I headed out on stage to find a good spot to take pictures.
Mike Shaw interviews Ryan Millen and Rhianon Gelsomino 2WD champions who won every ARA even this year.
I'd been scoping out possible locations via Google Earth a few days previously and had discovered a neat spot on an uphill hairpin that I thought would catch out the two wheel drive guys. Most folks go to see the big names, Pastrana, Higgins etc; but as I compete in regional 2WD I’m more interested in those guys. It’s where my friends are.
The colourful Subaru of Jeff Seehorn and Karen Jankowski kept to the inside of the hairpin
The Ford Fiesta of Barry McKenna and Leon Jordan took a wide line
The Subaru of Sam Albert and Michelle Miller slam the brakes on as Sam realises his line won't get him around the corner.
I was right about the corner. Though the top four wheel drive cars made easy work of the slow turn and climb, others were not so lucky. As each car passed the corner, it got more and more churned up by the gravel tyres digging in finding grip. Different lines were being taken to find undisturbed road surface. Some worked, some didn’t, culminating in the Dodge Neon of Matt Coatsworth and Ben Anderson getting well and truly beached, and cars had to carefully navigate their way around them, through the churned up road surface. I left the guys stuck in the sand as I had to head back to service to meet my colleagues ready for the Facebook stream.
Greg Healy and Philip Barnes made a splash in the Datsun 280Z
The beached car of Matt Coatsworth and Ben Anderson caused a traffic jam
As a part of the ARA event coverage, the Facebook streams have been a huge success with 7-9,000 people watching around the world, and I was quite excited to be a part of it. I wasn’t particularly nervous. My job was to tell those watching what it was like to be on stage and as the experience of going over the jump is indelibly etched in my memory, I felt I’d be able to talk about it. It’s a little daunting to keep talking as you wait for the cars to arrive, but Mike kept questions coming that I had an answer to, and all too soon the experience was over. As media, you are able to stand much closer to the action than the spectators, and to have the cars take off, fly past you, and land feet from you is another experience I’ll remember for a very long time. I've been working on the podcasts with Mike and Matt for a while now, and it was great to actually meet the faces behind the voices that I only usually hear over a Skype line.
The famous Red Bull jump.
As gorgeous as Friday had been, Saturdays weather was the opposite. Rain, rain, and even more rain came down as I headed to my chosen location on stage. Once again, my Google Earth research paid dividends and I found a rather muddy, tight right hander where I could climb up on a bank on the inside of the bend. I was pretty happy. In fact I enjoyed the location so much I decided to stay there for the second pass through of the cars. The rain kept coming down and it didn’t stop until the last car had passed though the stage. My muddy corner got more and more churned up and slippery.
David Higgins and Craig Drew slide through the mud
Lauchlin O'Sullivan and Scot Putnam takes a similar line to Higgins
Dennis Romero and Jose Maria Rodriguez colourful car looked great, even when dirty.
Then it was back to Detroit Lakes for the street stage. Once again, my media vest allowed me to get close to the action. Maybe a little too close, once I actually stopped taking pictures and took a step or two back as Al Dantes drifted wide around the corner. I know Al though. He wouldn’t run me over intentionally. Later on I was glad I had moved along when Travis Nease and Krista Skucas lost grip and drove into the barriers where I had been stood previously.
Al Dantes and Brandon Snyder get wide.
It was Tret West and Brandon Reinhardt's first rally and they finished third both days.
Then sadly, as the prize giving ceremonies started I was struck down with painful back spasms and had to leave, Being stood up for 2 days and the damp of Saturday was too much. I was disappointed that I was missing getting some champagne spraying pictures. But now I look back and think how great it was to be a part of such an exciting weekend.
I can’t finish without a word of thanks to Matt and Mike for allowing me to be a part of the rally coverage, Erick Nelson and the organizing committee for putting on a great event, and last but not least the volunteers. Many of whom were outside in the heat one day, and in the pouring rain the next. Without them an event like this would not be possible.
Cheerful volunteers Katherine Freund and Lorrie Holmes at MTC on Friday.