Desert Storm Rally celebrates its Tenth Year of Desert Rally Racing
The first round of the Bilstein Southwest RallyCup Series, presented by Lucas Oil and sponsored in part by Streetwise Motorsports and Subenet, will celebrate its tenth running on April 5-6, 2013. The Lucas Oil Desert Storm Rally, based out of Blythe, Calif., offers stage rally racing on a challenging course of non-paved roads covering nearly 86 miles of competition. A “special stage” on Saturday will give spectators the chance to bring the family, meet the teams and enjoy the thrill of the sport as part of an evening of racing at the I-10 Speedway.
Within the rally series, competitors vie for several championships, some with year-end cash awards. The event is also part of Rally America’s South West Regional Rally series.
The inaugural Desert Storm Rally was in 2004, organized by competitors Chris Powell and John Sundelin. It offered 100 miles of competition stages run over two days, according to Denise McMahon, the SWRC Series’ director.
“Desert Storm Rally is going into its tenth year,” said McMahon. “We want to really enjoy this great milestone and bring the competitors into this celebration.”
The rally weekend begins late afternoon on Friday with a spaghetti dinner fundraiser hosted by the Blythe Fire Department and a “parc exposé”—an open exhibition of the competitors cars—at the fire department at 201 N. Commercial Street in Blythe.
Competition begins bright and early on Saturday, starting from the Lucas Oil I-10 Speedway. The teams will run three stages, in both directions, returning to the Speedway to service their cars, and then once again head out to the desert roads.
Competitors will return to the Speedway for a brief parc exposé and will then run the Lucas Oil/Bilstein Super Special, a slalom exhibition course set up as the opening act for the Speedway’s Modifieds race, which will be televised on the cable channel MAVTV.
StageTrack will have a kiosk set up in the Service area where teams and fans will have a live view of where the cars are located on the rally course.
Although the entry this year is small, those who will be testing their skill on the dusty dirt roads promise to make the season opener set the bar for the rest of the season. The entry list includes competitors such as Desert Storm Rally’s original co-organizer John Sundelin with co-driver Ken Cassidy in a Ford Focus. Both Phoeniz, Ariz.-based national-level veteran rally competitors bring decades of combined experience. Brent Lee Motorsports will reveal its new Ford Fiesta R2, built by Team O’Neil Motorsports. The team is campaigning the Fiesta in this year’s Rally America National Championship, as well as competing in local events here in the Southwest U.S. Driver Brent Hercelinsky, of San Diego, Calif., has won championships in not only rally racing and RallyCross, but is a former Mint 400 competitor and go-kart racer.
An esteemed up-and-coming grassroots rally driver, Ray Piloto, of Henderson, Nev., began rally racing in 2012, where he took his Subaru Impreza 2.5RS to a first-place finish in the SWRC Open Light Championship, grabbing the series’ Rookie of the Year award. Just recently, he was hired as an instructor at Ron Fellow’s Performance Driving School at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nev.
Two competitors in the Bilstein Southwest RallyCup Series, Cameron Steely, of Greeley, Colo., and Leelyn Pritchard, of Oro Valley, Ariz., will share a bit about their rally experiences on a segment of Jimmy Beaver’s “Down and Dirty Off-Road Radio Show” (www.downanddirtyshow.com) this Monday, April 1. Beaver will begin his morning show at 9:30 a.m. PST featuring Robby Gordon, who will talk about his Stadium SUPER Trucks Series, followed by an interview with Miss Mint 400. Tune in at 10:30 a.m. for Beaver’s interview with Steely and Pritchard. Steely will run Desert Storm in a Ford SVT Focus with co-driver Preston Osborn, of Boulder, Colo. Pritchard won the 2012 driver’s trophy in the RacTech AWD Championship, presented by Bilstein.
In the U.S., stage rally (or performance rally) teams have a driver and co-driver (or navigator) for each car and competitors race in segments called stages on closed public roads, trying to get from the beginning of the stage to the end as fast as they can. Unlike other forms of motorsports, there is no practice allowed and the course is not revealed to the competitors until the co-driver receives the route instructions just prior to the start of the rally. The co-driver then gives the route instructions—often through the use of an intercom, sometimes at speeds in excess of 100 mph—through forest, desert and logging roads throughout the country.
The cars, all street legal to allow driving on public roads between rally stages, are compact and sub-compact cars with varying amounts of performance modifications depending on the class in which they are running.
Round Two of the Bilstein Southwest RallyCup Series will take place at the Lone Pine Time Trials, a high-speed event held on the abandoned Manzanar Airfield located in the Owens Valley of California, on May 18-19. More information on the series can be found at www.southwestrallyseries.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BSWRC.
About the Bilstein Southwest RallyCup Series: Formed in 2004, the series was established to provide high-performance stage rally events in the Southwest U.S. Its objective is also to encourage participation and promotion of the sport, especially at the grassroots level.
About Rally America: Based in Williston, VT, Rally America, Inc. sanctions the Rally America National Championship, the premier performance rally championship in the U.S. and a number of regional rally championships from coast to coast (www.rally-america.com).