Desert Storm Rally Brings Back Night Stages and Excitement at the I-10 Speedway
BLYTHE, Calif. (March 23, 2014)—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 11th running on April 4-5, 2014.
The Lucas Oil Desert Storm Rally, based out of Blythe, Calif., offers stage rally racing on a challenging and competitive course of non-paved roads covering just over 120 miles including night stages on Friday. A “special stage” at the I-10 Speedway on Saturday evening will give spectators the chance to bring the family, meet the teams and enjoy some great racing, according to Blythe firefighter and track promoter Ronnie Hassler.
“The race fans are looking forward to again seeing again the rally cars in action,” said Denise McMahon, the rally’s organizer. “This year we are looking forward to having the night stages happening as well as a new format at the Speedway which will include a dirt field.”
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. The first car will start the evening stages of Day 1 about 6:30 p.m. from the firehouse. Teams will run four stages, including two turnarounds.
Competition begins bright and early on Saturday, starting from the Lucas Oil I-10 Speedway. The teams will run eight stages (four in both directions), returning to the Speedway to service and then a Fan Appreciation before running 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. RallyData will have a kiosk set up in the Service area where teams and fans will have access to near-live timing.
The teams 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 both experienced and novice competitors coming from all over the western U.S.
In the AWD classes, piloting a Mitsubishi Evo IX, is veteran rally competitor George Plsek, from Solano Beach, Calif., who began his motor sports competition racing go-karts in the Czech Republic when he was 11 and has a long history rally racing in both regional and national rallies. There are a lot of Subaru’s on the entry list, some whose names may not yet be familiar. However, watch out for John Trucks and co-driver Chris Fine, from Chino, Calif., who had an impressive rookie season in 2013. Four teams are coming from as far away as Colorado and Wyoming.
The 2WD classes promise some great competition as well. Brent Lee, from San Diego, Calif., has won championships in rally racing and RallyCross and has also competed in the esteemed Mint 400 off-road race. He will once again be rallying in his Ford Fiesta R2. Known for his characteristic pink-tinted mohawk and matching pink-plastic ‘80s shades, fan favorite Jason Lightner, from San Marcos, Calif., will bring his white and pink Porsche 911. The husband-and-wife team of Markus and Alicia Saarinen, from Mesa, Ariz., haven’t always had the best of luck in their Mini Cooper, but after showing remarkable improvement last season, are going to go for the gold. And, what’s a rally without at least one team competing in a truck? John Black is back this year in his Ford Ranger with his regular co-driver Lori Stone, from Simi Valley, Calif., calling the notes.
Another bonus is the traditional Storm Attack, a challenge for the two-wheel-drive vehicles to show their stuff against the all-wheel-drive teams. Money paid to enter this distinctive competition will go toward cash prizes in each category. A portion will be donated to cover the veterinary expenses of Bruno, a K-9 dog that suffered severe injuries from gunshot wounds while trying to assist the Anaheim Police Department apprehend a suspect. McMahon and her husband Pat, both animal lovers who reside in that city, were going to donate the funds to the animal shelter in Blythe.
“One of the competitors, John Trucks, said [at another time] Bruno helped save his brother’s life,” McMahon said. “Bruno’s going to make it but we want to show our appreciation to the Anaheim PD’s K-9 Unit—Bruno is our hero.”
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.
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. Round Two of the Bilstein Southwest RallyCup Series will take place at the Mendocino Rally, July 26-27, in Ukiah, Calif. More information on the series can be found at www.southwestrallyseries.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BSWRC.
Detailed information about the Desert Storm Rally is available at www.desertstormrally.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DesertStormRally and Twitter at @DSRally.
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).
MaryAnne Shults, Media Director
Denise McMahon, Event Organizer
Photo: KICKIN’ UP A LITTLE DUST: Brent Lee went on to compete in several rounds of the Rally America National Championship after campaigning his Ford Focus in the 2013 Desert Strom Rally. Credit: Sebastian Krywult/turndriverside.com