stylin' and profilin'...WOOOO!
I don't often say much about the state of rally in North America, good or bad. Rally is something that I would much rather *do* then talk about. A lot of people here in NARDG have some heartburn over the way things have been going lately in the USA. I would say to anyone currently competing in the USA that Canadian rally events have a lot to offer. After 2 seasons of running mostly in Canada, I will give my lengthy and **very favorable review** of rallying in Canada.
- Recce: Canadian National events are 2-pass recce. That means you usually start with a blank notebook and write your own notes. No Jemba notes are available. I like 2-pass recce better than Jemba. I find 2-pass recce to be difficult (and my codrivers find 2-pass recce *with me* to be even more difficult). I think that new drivers may be better off starting with Jemba notes first before they try 2-pass recce just so they get some exposure to notes first. US events always have an excuse as to why they can't have 2-pass recce, and CARS gives 2-pass recce instead of excuses. Note: Québec regional events only offer a 1-pass recce for entries in the Championships with organizer supplied notes, and I wouldn't mind seeing Éric Tremblay change that to 2-pass recce for all entrants. Offering 2PR at QC regionals might encourage more American 2WD competitors (like me) to cross into Canada.
- Television coverage: CARS has absolutely fantastic television programs. Go watch one of their events on Youtube and you can see what a gorgeous rally television show looks like.
And it covers the top pros, 2WD, and even some of the regional competitors. Much has been said about television coverage of rally in the US, but currently there is no coverage of any kind. There's a lot more to be said about this, but I will let the masses do the talking for me in the comment section. Christopher Bowes, Warwick Patterson, Anthony Cloutier, Dean Campbell etc. have showed us what we *could* have for TV coverage, but don't.
- Volunteers: I have found the events to be very well-staffed with knowledgeable volunteers.
- Locals: I have encountered *one* angry local at one Canadian event (Défi '14) who was upset that he couldn't travel along the stage road to his cabin (I think thats what he said, he was speaking French and I didn't understand, fortunately René Leblanc helped me out and spoke to him instead of me, *merci* René). I have found locals who live along and near the rally routes at most American rallies to be quite hostile. Sno*Drift and Black River Stages in particular. This is a problem for US rallies that may be impossible to solve. There exists a state of mind that "I'll drive my car/ATV/snowmobile down any road I want whenever the hell I feel like it and there's nothing you can do about it." This greatly increases the likelihood of cancelled stages at US event. This hostile state of mind just seems to be much less prevalent in Canada.
- Cancellations: US rallies are plagued by stage cancellations, for many reasons. Belligerent locals, drunken fans, controls not in place, lack of workers, road conditions, government shutdowns (LSPR '13), and a number of other reasons cause US stages to be cancelled on a regular basis. We even had the loss of an *entire rally* (Utah) during the recce session for reasons that I don't know. In 6 Canadian rallies that I have attended I have counted a total of *one* cancelled stage. Just one. (Chevreuil 1, Rallye Défi '14) Question: Were there a bunch of stages cancelled at RMR this year? I heard that somewhere.
- Schedule: Canadian rallies run on time. US stages are perpetually delayed by many of the same things listed above. Don't expect to sit around for half an hour waiting for the stage to start at a CARS event. I won't say stages are never delayed, but the delays are rare and usually small. We had to wait for the third running of Centre-Burton at Baie due to sweep clearing cars off from the second pass of the stage.
- Fans: The fans in Canada simply love rally. They come out in large numbers to attend rallies, and they're not just a bunch of frat boys with flat-brim Subaru baseball hats, Pleidaes tattos, and "stanced" cars. Rallye Baie des Chaleurs is the most shining example of enthusiastic rally fans that I have ever witnessed. They are seen all along the stages, both day and night, and in some very remote areas. When you come through the Camp Brûlé spectator area, you will know what I'm talking about. And in Canada, they will help you if you go off the road, unlike in the USA where if any one spectator ever crosses the banner tape, the entire stage will be cancelled.
- Competition Level: I would say that the level of competition at RA events is stronger than CARS, and both of them are significantly stronger than NASARallySport. However, I competed in a BTRDA event (in the UK) this year, and the level of talent there far exceeds anything here, especially in the 2WD classes, of which BTRDA has many, from mostly stock 1.0L cars on up to R2's. Anyone that I competed against in the B10 class at Trackrod Rally Yorkshire this year would easily walk off with a 2WD National Championship in RA, CARS or NASA.
- Dust windows: At Rallye Baie des Chaleurs 2014, the weather was hot and the course was very dry, which led to lots of dust. The organizers gave the top pros four-minute dust windows and the rest of us got a three-minute window. THREE MINUTE DUST WINDOWS. I don't know if this was more feasible for the organizers to do this due to the smaller entry field of cars or if the road permits were for longer times, but I know I will never get a 3 minute dust window at any US event, ever.
- Québec: I have especially enjoyed rallying in Québec. I have heard Americans tell tales of French Canadians being perhaps rude or stand-offish to English speakers and to this day I have absolutely no idea what the F--- they are talking about. When I go to Québec, I arrive there from another country, I am unfamiliar with many of their customs and I do not speak the language (I learned some French, but I speak it very poorly). However, I have still been treated like family in Québec by the organizers, the volunteers, the guys like Louis Morrisette and Vincent Trudel that have joined my service crew, and the locals who work in the stores and restaurants. *Merci à l'québecois!*
- Exchange rate and costs: Last I checked, the US Dollar gets you about $1.40 in Canadian dollars, so this means that your dollar goes a lot farther in Canada as of right now. Keep an eye on this, the USD has been gaining a lot of gorund on the CAD recently. Fuel is more expensive in Canada, as are sales taxes, so this negates some of the currency advantage. But when a 2-day National Championship event with 2-pass recce can be entered for $770 US Dollars, I become much less concerned with provincial sales taxes and $3USD/gallon fuel costs (approximate cost of fuel in USD in Canada now). Do the math.
If you ever said to yourself, 'Wouldn't it be fun to go race in Canada?" right now may be the time to give it some serious consideration.