The Idaho Rally 2008, organized by Rallydrift, Inc. and presented by Larry Miller Subaru of Boise, was run last weekend July 10 through 12 in various backcountry roads of the Boise National Forest east of Boise, Idaho. The historic mining town of Rocky Bar was the scene of some of the racing with a spectator area and a good view of a quarter mile stretch of the racing action. Each of the competitors made four passes through Rocky Bar during Saturday’s racing. Four stages were run on Saturday between Featherville to a point three miles north of Rocky Bar. The racing was run in both directions so each location alternated being the starting and the finish line. This 10 mile distance made up the last four of the 10 stages of Idaho Rally 2008.

Idaho Rally 2008 has the best roads in the rally world according to the winner of the event. John Dillon, navigator of the winning entry, from Thousand Oaks, California, told Idaho Racing News that Idaho Rally 2008 was the “best event in the country for the collection of roads”. Brian Scott the driver of the winning rally car added that the roads were good “all across the board, bar none.” “The roads are consistently good”, Brian Gottleib, another competitor, said after the two pass “recce” allowed by the promoter on Thursday, July 10.

This year professionally produced course notes called “Jemba Notes” were not available so teams were allowed a two pass recce, which allowed them to drive each route twice to make accurate notes. Last year a mishap occurred on one stretch of road due to a mistake during recce and two other teams using the same notes. Three cars were heavily damaged and one driver was temporarily hospitalized in Rally 2007.

As in most forms of racing the drama can be intense. But with performance rallies some of the drama is hidden to many of the spectators. With almost two hours of competition completed and one stage left to go the top two teams were at a virtual tie with only a 6 second difference. The team of Andrew Sutherland and Amar Sehmi from California was in the lead after Friday’s competition and was just behind the team of Brian Scott and John Dillon with one stage to go on Saturday. Sutherland rolled on to the starting grid as the first car out. As the team of Scott and Dillon approached five miles into the last 11 mile stage they passed Sutherland and Sehmi on the side of the road. Dillon, the navigator in the number 2 Subaru WRX told his driver that it was okay to ease up a bit now that they had passed the leader but Dillon said later that it didn’t feel like he backed off much. Their “slow” run was only about 6 seconds slower than their fastest time on the same stretch of road.

After all other cars had crossed the finish line or were accounted for Sutherland’s Subaru was towed back to the service area and the team received a DNF (Did Not Finish) for the stage and the day. A missing radiator cap that led to an overheated, and possibly blown, engine was the culprit. “We were going to replace that engine anyway,” Sutherland told another competitor. Sutherland has competed in several rallies in the past and came in second in Idaho Rally 2007 last year when it was run on asphalt in Owyhee County. Earlier this year he was the winner of several stages in the North Nevada Rally and is a proven competitor.

The team of Scott and Dillon took home the winning trophy and the bragging rights for the first dirt road rally in Idaho. Second and third best overall times were the teams of Paul Eklund and Jeff Price and Jimmy and Melissa Keeny. All three teams drove Subaru WRXs. This year almost all of the cars were front wheel drive imports. Subaru was by far the most popular car with almost half of the total. The Subaru WRX is actually named for World Rally and is seen competing all over the world in rallies and other events.

While road rallies have been run in the Pacific Northwest for several years it has never, until Rallydrift, Inc. was started by Jens Schkade, of Grandview, Idaho, been a popular motorsport in Idaho. Most of the teams came from out of state and some traveled for 12 hours or more to come to this event. Two teams had short travel distances this year; coming from the Boise area. Matt Christensen and his brother Eric Christensen made up one of those teams from Boise. Their car is a Pontiac Fiero, the only mid engine and one of only two rear wheel drive cars at the event but just one mile after starting the first stage of the second day their Pontiac developed problems and had to limp back to the start and could not continue. The Christensen brothers proceeded to the spectator area and enjoyed the rest of the day watching the racing with family. They are a racing family and vowed to be back next year.

With the good reviews for the condition of the roads and for the excellent overall quality of the event Idaho Rally 2009 should be even bigger. Gas prices or other unknown factors contributed to a few competitors withdrawing their entries at the last minute but with almost 20 total competitors the rally was one of the largest so far this season in the United States Rally Championship, the California Rally Series and the Pacific Northwest Rally Championship. Last year the car count was 11. A successful rally does not just mean a large car count.

With the thousands of dollars required good sponsors are a necessity. Specifically Schkade wanted to thank his sponsors Larry Miller Subaru of Boise and Johnson Brothers Hospitality of Mountain Home. In addition he wanted to thank all of the volunteers, the Pine and Featherville ambulance services, the Prairie Y Stop General Store, the Featherville Resort, and the spectators and competitors for a successful and safe event.

Story by Brian Calkins of Idaho Racing News

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