Rocky Mountain: Prescribed Burn Rally Team summary

Prescribed Burn Rally Team Achieves Best National Finish at Rainy Rocky Mountain Rally An unusually heavy week of rain descended upon Calgary, Alberta just in time for the 2008 Rocky Mountain Stage Rally, creating challenging conditions for the...

Prescribed Burn Rally Team Achieves Best National Finish at Rainy Rocky Mountain Rally

An unusually heavy week of rain descended upon Calgary, Alberta just in time for the 2008 Rocky Mountain Stage Rally, creating challenging conditions for the organizers, teams and volunteers. The second round of the Canadian National series had thirty four entries and showcased new contingency programs and factory support from Subaru and Mitsubishi.

As teams traveled out to the first stages, a rare short break in the rain occurred and Mark and Jennifer flew through the familiar roads without incident. By the first reseed they had moved ahead of their usual regional competition, and just in behind the funded factory teams. The third stage of the rally was the longest and a favourite of Mark's; although turbo problems had prevented the team from truly taking the stage in the past, this time they pushed hard and drove Powderface all out. On the transit back to Calgary two top teams were stopped on the roadside, and another was left on stage with a blown motor. This attrition put the Prescribed Burn Team in the running for a top five National finish.

The impact of the weather was apparent early in the rally when flooding forced the cancellation of the short spectator stages. In lieu of the planned gravel course, the organizers devised a head to head, WRC style tarmac super special for the spectators expected at the Race City Speedway on Friday night. Despite the downpour, a sizeable crowd equipped with cameras and umbrellas turned up to see the teams and cars at service and on the track. The Prescribed Burn Team ended day one in fifth place overall, its highest National standing ever. Mark and Jennifer aimed to carry the speed and composure they attained on the Powderface stages into the Porcupine Hills, despite the torrential rain and rumours of car-sucking mud on Saturday's tricky and technical stages. Peachland, British Columbia started day two by setting fourth fastest times on the first two stages, moving them ahead of Mitsubishi teams from Quebec. Mark and Jennifer were surprised at how well they fared since they battled thick fog and confusion about chicane placement on the first stage. At the first service the focus was on tires, and many teams were changing to new gravel tires or narrow mud tires. Deep mud and rocks on the next two tight, narrow stages cost the team time and a lot of tire wear, but they managed to lose only one position.

Mark drove at the very edge for the grip and the conditions over the last two stages, but their closest competitors with mud tires gained ground. The Prescribed Burn Team finished the Rocky Mountain Rally in sixth overall, also collecting important points as the second place novice entry. Patrick Richard and Alan Ockwell won the event for the Rocket Rally Team in their new Subaru Canada WRX STI.

According to co-driver Jennifer Daly, the rally was a success: "I'm very happy with our performance and I think we are steadily progressing as a team. We were consistent and we are gaining confidence; sixth overall is an outstanding result. We relied heavily on our volunteer service crew to maintain the car and especially the tires at this event. They were dedicated and steadfast despite the terrible cold, wet, muddy conditions they endured all weekend." Over the course of the event, the rain flowed in rivers across the transit roads and into culverts on stage, creating huge puddles that splashed into the roof vents and engines of the rally cars, forcing at least one retirement. The Canadian National series is being filmed to air on TSN in the fall, and according to the veteran rally videographers, the 2008 Rocky conditions were the worst conditions they had ever seen . After reviewing the stage times, driver Mark Jennings-Bates summarized his performance: "We set a competi- tive pace on Friday and maintained it for the Saturday morning stages. Knowing that another 45mm of rain was due that day, we had to gain as much ground as possible early in the day on gravel tires because we were with- out a mud selection. The mud got thicker and deeper as the day progressed, and against other teams with spe- cialized mud tires, we lost precious seconds and dropped in the overall final standings. There are well equipped new or returning teams on the Western Canadian circuit and we're looking forward to some close battles this season." With new rivalries brewing, the team will begin preparation for its next outing, the Mountain Trials Regional Stage Rally, taking place in Merritt BC on June 13 & 14. Mountain Trials is a home event for the team and they will be driving hard for a podium finish.

-credit: pbrt

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