Scioto trail forest rally
day two of the southern ohio forest rally promised as much fun and games as the first day.
There was no time for any tinkering with the cars before we set off for Parc Expose in Chillicothe, on Saturday morning. But even that simple trip was not without its problems. My wife had left base camp before us to get to volunteer briefing but called about 10 minutes later to tell us that a tree had fallen in the night and our route to the main road to Chillicothe was blocked. I had to find a new route to Parc, and quickly. This of course wasn’t straightforward and our 30 mile trip to Chillicothe stretched to over 40 as we avoided the problem. We had left in plenty of time, so we still had enough time to refuel and run the car through the car wash before we entered Parc with moments to spare
I felt compelled to offer an excuse as we arrived and told them of the tree down and our enforced diversion.
“I know.” Said Bob Neilsen. “We were following you on EZTrak.” EZTrak, for those reading this article and not in the know, is the GPS tracking system used by the organizers to keep track of the cars, principally to find out if of any of them have had a mishap in a remote part of a stage. Fans use it to see the where on stage their favourite cars are. It was a bit spooky to know that we were being watched before the rally had even started.
Once we were parked up in our place, we were treated to throngs of locals looking at cars and asking questions of us.
Ready to go on Day 2 of the Rally. The yellow box in the window is the EZTrak device. (Todd Robbins photo)
“What do you think of our trails?” I was asked as I struggled to get into my race suit.
I never tired of answering that question because the trails were wonderful. So much fun for the drivers and a great test for my pacenote calling.
The discussions I had with the locals were great. Everyone was so hospitable, they were proud of what the area had to offer. Wether we were in Parc or at the gas station refueling, people wanted to know. It was great to be a part of.
At the appointed hour we all lined up, and headed out through the streets of downtown Chillicothe to the Scioto Trails forest, the location for the days three stages. Stages that, like the day before, would be driven three times. Twice in one direction, and one time in the reverse, with a service in between each loop. At each service our crew worked diligently to get the car back out again.
Saturdays trails were very similar to those from Friday, but from the people I talked to it seems like Saturdays stages were preferred by most. I can’t say I noticed much difference between them, though the road through the spectator point was particularly testing and caused us to get our back end out of line once and also put a car or two into the trees where they couldn’t get back from.
We get tail out through the spectator stage. One car was not so lucky. (Eric Schmidt photo)
There was a change of road surface from gravel to tarmac and back to gravel again that caused the problem to test the drivers.
Saturday was as hot as Friday had been and the two trips back to service were enough to get me quite badly sunburned on the back of my neck, as I found out the next morning taking a shower…
Service was one of the few things that I had an issue with in the event. Well, not the service as such, but the regroup afterwards. Service was either 30 or 45 minutes long and it was followed by a regroup of about half an hour. Now I’m sure there are very good reasons why there was such a lengthy regroup, but for the most part for us competitors, it was just an inconvenience. Especially given the heat (see sunburn above).
Bill directing/getting in the way of the crew during service
Friday had seen many cars crash out or break, some cars managed to rejoin for Saturday after a hard nights work. In some cases a very hard night, in this regard a special mention has to be made for the team of Arek Bialobrzeski and Dominik Jozwiak who DNF’d on Friday, then pulled the engine, installed a new head gasket and reinstalled the engine to be ready to go on Saturday. POR guys!
Saturdays roads took their toll on the entrants too, almost every time we turned up to the stage start line we would be told that "there are x amount of cars" off the road. Personally, I was sad to see my favorite car in the event, Seamus Burke and Martin Bradys Mk. 2 Ford Escort had gone straight on at a left 2 drop outside.
The start line crew at one stage shared a little humor over the amount of cars crashing out on stage. A little R/C car crashed with an OK sign on it. (Bill Marenich photo)
As I mentioned earlier, I ended up getting sunburned, but it wasn’t all perfect sunny weather. The weather forecast had predicted rain, heavy rain both days. Some storms did pass through, but not generally where we were. The path of the rain and storms was dictated by the contours of the land. A heavy storm pocket could travel down one valley and a lighter pocket down another, whereas another valley might see nothing at all. We had experienced that on the Friday when we were taken out by a greasy road surface. We had seen a little rain on the previous stage, but clearly a heavier shower had been through the start of the next stage. I also heard tell that at service park on Friday, the storm that passed though was so hard it blew several tents away! Meanwhile, on stage we had almost nothing. The thick tree cover keeping us all dry and fairly isolated from the vagaries of the weather.
Our final pass through the last three stages was exciting, we managed a rather skillful pass though the spectator area, and a run on the ragged edge through the final forest stage as we cut and ditch hooked curves and came perilously close to hanging the rear wheels off the drop offs. So much so that it left Bill shaking with adrenaline.
When we arrived back at the fairgrounds we saw that the surface at the speedway oval was a quagmire, so much rain had fallen in our absence. It had been gorgeous when we left.
We had kept our noses clean, stayed on the road and made it to the super special stage at the Ross county fairgrounds. Once again, the people of the area showed us how excited they were to have rally back in the area by packing the grandstands, despite the aforesaid heavy rain that turned the track into a mud bath.
Lined up for the Super Special stage against the Subaru of Jon Kramer and Zachary Jacques. (Lorrie Holmes photo)
At the super special the cars ran in pairs, but not really against each other, as there were two different laps laid out in the speedway. The cars ran one of the laps, then swapped over and ran the other one. It was a little confusing to say the least. Previous cars passage through the stage made it difficult to see the finish line as the red markers were covered in mud, and no-one took our time card at the end of the stage. But we enjoyed ourselves sliding the car into the curves and around the chicanes. I hope the packed grandstand enjoyed it too. I think it would have been a better stage if the two laps could have been run continuously like they would in a WRC super special instead of having a lull in the action between the two laps.
That was it. The Southern Ohio Forests Rally was in the books. No podiums or champagne spraying for us, just some great experiences and memories to make our 13 hour drive back to Minnesota worthwhile.
So it’s thank you time. Thanks to everyone at TriCity Evolution Rally team. Bill, for asking me to co-drive way back in January. Dexter and Brendan in the second car, too bad your experience didn’t last longer. Michelle, for keeping us fed and watered. Most importantly our crew of Todd, Joe, David and Michael for keeping us on the road.
To the organizers and volunteers, of whom there are too many to thank (Including my wife, who was MTC Captain on Friday) all of them worked so hard to make the event the success that it was. I hope we’ll be back next year.
Thanks for the welcome Southern Ohio. See you next year.