coch08_pbrpost.jpgThe 2008 Western Canadian Rally Series opened with the Cochrane Rally of the Ranchlands outside of Calgary on March 15 & 16. This year Cochrane was a fast paced, exciting rally, complete with winter driving challenges, amazing offs and fierce competition. The entry field was one of the largest in Cochrane Rally history, with over 20 rally teams from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia competing. The Prescribed Burn Rally Team was one of four BC teams entered, consisting of driver Mark Jennings-Bates, co-driver Jennifer Daly and service crew Dave Hood and Alex Schubel. The 2007 season was plagued by mechanical problems, and culminated in a disappointing finish at the Kananaskis Rally. Since then the team has been working hard to get the car to be fast and reliable, with the help of Rocket Rally in Squamish BC. The Cochrane Rally was the first test of the new setup, and the team hoped it would be a good start to a busy season. A podium finish and class win were the goals for the Prescribed Burn team. Mark and Jennifer spent Saturday on reconnaissance, making pace notes to help them navigate the rally roads and post the fastest times. The conditions were clear and dry, but snow by nightfall meant that the racing conditions might change dramatically by morning.

Sunday’s stages were ice and gravel blanketed by a few centimeters of fresh snow. The conditions were highly variable depending on running order, and changed substantially throughout the day. The Prescribed Burn Team was first out on the road in the morning, setting respectable times despite the slippery and deceptive untouched snow on the stages. By the first service they proved to be behind the pace of the leading group, who were taking advantage of the grippy gravel that was appearing as the rally progressed. The second leg of the rally took place on the tricky and technical Harold Creek stages; these stages claimed two rally cars, and there was a near miss for the Prescribed Burn car as well. Early in stage 3 Mark and Jennifer came flying into a sharp left slightly unprepared, and ended up on top of the large snow bank on the outer edge of the road, sliding along it and managing to use whatever wheels were still on the ground to avoid going over the edge. This corner saw a lot more action after the Prescribed Burn team came through – some competitors bounced off the bank, and one car went off and rolled over completely. The rollover was the big story of the event, until another team launched their car off a crest and wedged it between two trees on the second pass of the Harold Creek stages. The crews from the crashed cars were uninjured but out of the rally.

Mark and Jennifer made up time during the final leg of the rally, where the stages are more open and suited to their newly tuned Subaru. They set top times on stages, and were within 10 seconds of second and third place overall. Delays from earlier in the rally caused two late stages to be cancelled, and the opportunities for the Prescribed Burn Team to continue making up time were lost. The team was still in line for the open class win, as the next closest open driver ended up hitting a bridge trying to catch them. As all the teams filed into the final control it became clear that the results were extremely close, with a large part of the field possibly on the podium. This situation is unusual in rally, and it took the officials a long time to declare the results. Mark, Jennifer and the Prescribed Burn Team took the Open class win, and placed fifth overall, 20 seconds out of third. The Bullit Racing Team of Colin Armstrong and Jason Thain won the event and the Group 2 title. The competition in Western Canada in the 2wd class is unparalleled in North America, and the overall podium was swept by 2wd Group 2 cars, including a RWD team in third place overall.

The Prescribed Burn Rally team is based in British Columbia’s Okanagan valley. Driver Mark Jennings-Bates and co-driver Jennifer Daly compete in an open class Subaru, supported by service chief Dave Hood and a team of local volunteers. For 2008 the Prescribed Burn Team will be running the entire Western Canadian Rally series, as well as select Canadian National and Rally America events.

The Prescribed Burn Rally Team is an Okanagan based performance rally team that is supported by BCResortHomes.com, Agar Paint & Autobody, BigO Tire in Westbank, Provisiondata.com, Stacy Screen Print, Wishbone Industries, The Great Canadian Oil Change and Bell Racing.

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