22nd ANNUAL LANCASTER RALLY BACK IN THE HIGH DESERT MAY 6-7 DESPITE ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST RAIN DAMAGE, SANCTION BODY CHANGE The 22nd running of the Subaru Rim of the World Rally coming up May 6 -- 7 will be the most exciting, most...
22nd ANNUAL LANCASTER RALLY BACK IN THE HIGH DESERT MAY 6-7 DESPITE ANGELES NATIONAL FOREST RAIN DAMAGE, SANCTION BODY CHANGE
The 22nd running of the Subaru Rim of the World Rally coming up May 6 -- 7 will be the most exciting, most entertaining high performance auto rally ever held in Southern California, but a new sanctioning body and the rain-soaked course has made the planning more exciting than organizers would have wished.
"Perhaps the heroes for this year's Rim are the volunteers who have taken on shovels and rakes to help fix the eroded roads of the Angeles National Forest where the rally will run, and the Forest Service officials who have helped us manage to pull together the rally in spite of the stresses and work load they face as a result of the rain damage," said Ray Hocker, from Ridgecrest, chairman of the event.
Hocker pointed out that it hasn't rained this much in the High Desert in 120 years, and that only three years ago, the area had its driest season ever -- 4.42 inches. The total to date for 2005 is now over 35 inches, and the deluge has caused much road erosion and damage. Forest Service personnel have had to devote the pre-rally weeks toward assessing the worst areas in order to apply for much-needed emergency funding. While rallyists have offered to grade the roads, this isn't the answer as the Angeles fire roads have a unique drainage design that must be graded to special standards.
The sport of Performance Rally, which attracts more racing fans worldwide than Formula 1, Indy Car or NASCAR, takes place on every continent, but the Subaru Rim of the World Rally, presented by Autosport Engineering, is the only rally in North America that takes place in a major metropolitan market, giving it the tag as "the Super Bowl of Rally."
In the Subaru Rim of the World Rally, the cars race one-at-a-time against the clock on closed ridge-top fire roads -- each time trial is called a stage - in the Angeles National Forest, with the cars recording the lowest total elapsed time at the end of the event being the winners in each class. The co-driver, who sits in the passenger seat, has a route book which guides the team through the course turn-by-turn, and has a rally computer to aid him or her by keeping track of mileage intervals and elapsed time. The driver will go as fast as he or she can -- no speed limits -- with coaching from the co-driver describing the road configuration ahead.
The drivers meet their crew every couple of stages for service on the cars, and drivers must obey all local traffic regulations when their cars are not actually driving on the closed stage road. Unlike traditional racetrack driving, where repetition on the same course can lead to the "best line" or "best setup" for each corner, rally drivers must react to blind conditions at racetrack speed.
Besides the rain, the most significant change in this year's Rim event is the change in sanctioning body -- the national organization that enforces the rules and administrates the championship. The Sports Car Club of America, which founded the national rally series and had run it since 1972, decided to drop the series at the end of last year, and two different race organizations have picked up the slack. Hocker and the Rim organizing committee decided to go with the United States Auto Club (USAC) and the National Auto Sport Association (NASA), who co-sanction the United State Rally Championship (USRC). According to Hocker, the change is a significant internal switch, but, for the public, it will be the same rally cars sliding down the gravel roads at thrilling speeds.
"We have worked with these folks at rallies we have organized in Nevada, and they have proven to provide stable rules and enforcement, a credible championship structure, and international stature for our event. We will be pleased to welcome USAC and NASA to the Subaru Rim of the World Rally, and we know our competitors and rally fans will like the event with their sanction," said Hocker.
The first indication of confidence in the new alliance is the quality of entries already confirmed for this year's event, including last year's North American champion and Rim winner Patrick Richard from Vancouver, B.C., Canada in his Subaru WRX; Peter Workum, also in a Subaru, also from Canada originally now living in Phoenix -- and a second-place finisher in the first USRC event at the Cherokee Trails International Rally in Tennessee just three weeks ago. Leon Styles, from Mission Viejo, Calif., driving a Mitsubishi Evo VII, and last year's Rim runner-up, is also entered, along with last year's third place Rim finisher Stephan Verdier, from Huntington Beach, Calif., in a Subaru WRX. More than 60 cars are expected for the event.
The event will be broadcast on Motorsport Mundial on Speed Channel including the international feed to more than 50 countries worldwide. The Subaru Rim of the World Rally will also have a <www.rimoftheworldrally.com/RallyRadio.htm>radio network online, with broadcasts starting at 2:00 PM on May 6.
Except for spectating opportunities on Saturday morning stages in the woods, most of the Subaru Rim of the World activity will take place at the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds in Lancaster starting at noon on Friday, May 6. Admission to the Fairgrounds is five dollars per person starting at 5:00 PM, but early arrivals from noon -- 5:00 PM can see the cars and watch tech inspection for free, as well as enjoy the Rally Expo Vendor Fair. Friday night activities include the Super Special Stage, America's only side-by-side stadium rally stage, as the start to the rally, and, after several Forest stages, the posting of scores.
On Saturday, May 7, the Fairgrounds opens at 10 AM, while the rally cars run their next round of forest stages with spectating available at the Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area in Gorman. From then until midnight, the Fairgrounds will be open for a myriad of activities, including the continuation of the Rally Expo Vendor Fair with top speed and custom suppliers' products on display, an import car show, vintage race car display, an Autocross giving the public the chance to take timed runs, rally video games, three separate service stops for the rally cars in competition, a remote control car exhibit, rally souvenirs on sale, plenty of food and drink, and a rally service crew competition.
The rally competitors run three more side-by-side Super Special Stages in the 7,500-seat arena with the final run as the last stage of the rally. The winners will be congratulated in the Subaru Champagne Victory Ceremony, with the fans having a chance to come out of the stands and congratulate the teams. The four Super Special Stages are included in the $5.00 daily admission.