Sandpanther (sandpanther) wrote,

Oregon Trail Rally, Day 1

Oregon Trail SCCA ProRally, day 1

The day started coolish, with teasing clouds hovering on the horizon, hinting that they might move in and keep the day cool. We left my friends' apartment and headed to the Hillsboro Stadium, where the rally cars were going to be on display, and the race was officially going to start from. This was the easy part, as it was only a couple of miles away, and turns out to be located practically across the street from where one of my friends works.

We knew we were in the right spot when a car all tricked out for a rally turned into the stadium ahead of us. We followed, grabbed a parking spot, and wandered around, wondering what to do next. Before long I found several of the factory-backed Open Class cars. These are the main ones that get the coverage, since they are allowed the most modifications. Manufacturer backing also means that they have the better drivers (some of whom are paid professionally), and have the money thrown at the cars to make them seriously competative. I wandered around, peering bashfully at cars, and taking random pictures. I didn't get too many before my camera batteries died. For some odd reason, I hadn't thought that I was going to be taking that many pictures, so I only brought one set of batteries along (with an unknown amount of charge), no charger, and no spares.

I soon realized my folly when I saw a great number of cars where I thought, I wish I could take a picture; so-and-so would get a kick out of this. Since I couldn't take the pictures, I will list as many as I can remember for the folks at home.

llamabitchyo would have been pleased by the number of Evos, especially the white Evo IV. (It did not, however, have "monstor" spelled across the hood in large letters.) OTOH, Iwaki would have been horrified by the red Dodge Neon. I did manage to catch a picture of that one running on the stage, however.

rhylar would have been fascinated by the Civic DX hatchback. I'll have to look up which class it's running in. There was also an old Rabbit that I noticed.

The most surprising rally vehicle I spotted was a pickup truck. Werb?

The most surprising vehicle at all that I spotted was a Lotus Elise. Mmmm, *drool* Mind you, it's not every day that I get to loom over a car. I most certainly could loom nicely over the Elise.

I was hoping to find somewhere where I could buy kitch from the manufacturers. Since seeing oberstein's, I've been wanting a Subaru lanyard. And I need a new baseball cap, and a rally sounds like a great place to get one. Annoyingly, I could find no one who was selling anything! But... but...!! *sniff*

We hung out in the parking lot through the driver's meeting, then started wandering back to the car. On the way back, we paused to check out the engine of a car that had its hood up. One of the mechanics was standing there, and seemed to want to talk, so we struck up a conversation. He was nice and friendly, and it was pretty cool having someone to ask all kinds of questions of. He was from Minnesota. The car's codriver wandered up, and he's from California. I wonder how all these people get together to work on the same car. Ah, the mysteries of life.

I asked the codriver (whose name I can totally not remember, sadly) several questions about how he got started, thanked him for his time, and we moved along.

I really wish I remember these guys' names, so I could check and see how they are doing. All I remember is that the car was a Subaru, it was yellow, and they were in Open class. Since Open is the class that gets the best TV coverage, I'm hoping to see something on then on Speed's coverage of the rally in a couple of weeks.

From there we headed off to breakfast, and to study the spectator literature to try and get an idea on where to go next. After breakfast, we headed off to one of the stages.

There were two specator areas. Since one of my friends' back was hurting, I wasn't figuring on spending that much time on the stages anyway, so I picked the one that seemed like it would be closer and easier to get to. I suppose it would have been easier if the directions were correct. Sadly, they started from an exit from the stadium that we never managed to find, and ended up being confusing from there. We did finally manage to get to the stage area. There were a few official-type people hanging out there. They told us that there wasn't anything happening on the stage at the moment due to a large accident. The accident was large enough that they threw the stage, since the driver (or codriver, or both -- it wasn't really clear) had to be air lifted to the hospital. Eek.

Since the official guys told us that this stage was going to be run again in an hour, we decided to head on up to try and get a spot. After a little confusion on where to go, we got headed in the right spot -- only to be told soon after that the stage was actually cancelled, and would not be run again. Darn. So much for catching that stage.

The information in the packets that we had said that the next stage would be getting underway in about half an hour. It also said that we needed to be in place on the spectator areas half an hour in advance. Darn. Chances looked dim for our getting to catch any action on the stages.

(As an aside, I want to check and make sure that the driver and codriver in that accident are all right. They didn't have too many details when we caught up to the service park.)

Since we were out in that direction anyway, we decided to try and stop off in the service park and see if we could catch any of the cars being service. There is something fundamentally cool about being able to completely change a transmission in about seventeen minutes.

We found our way to the service park, and discovered all the cars hanging out in service, and hordes of people, both drivers and obvious spectators, hanging out having some kind of meeting. They mentioned something about the cars being about to head out to the stage, and indicated that it would still be possible to get into position in the spectator areas. Woot! We jumped in the car and headed out.

Before too long we realized that the directions were, unsurprisingly, nigh-useless. We were just about to turn around and go the other way when we spotted a car that we recognized as having been at the service area. Quick, follow that car! They turned out to be an excellent guide, and led us straight to someone who pointed us in the general direction of parking, and gave us general advice on how to get to the spectator area on the stage.

We hiked over hill and under dale (or at least down a bank and over a stream), and came to the spectator area. One side of the road looked to be pretty full, but there was a nice bank on the other side of the road that looked appealing. From that vantage, we could see the cars come around left-hand bend, through a short straight, and into another left-hand corner. Not bad.

We wait. And wait. And wait just a little bit more. Eventually they send a car through slowly. I figure this is the sweep car, and we should have something more exciting come along in about two minutes. We wait.

We wait some more. We hear a car coming along fairly fast at the same time as someone spots some spectators walking along beside the road in an area they should not be. They get shouted at to get off the road. They manage to in time, and fortuatnely the car was not one of the rally cars. We wait some more.

Eventually an SUV with lights comes flying along. It was pretty neat to see, especially with the anticipation of it being a sign of things to come. About two minutes later an Evo comes flying past, kicking up dust and rocks and vanishing almost before I realized it was there. Whooo!! That's more like it!

This is the first time I've ever spectated a rally stage live. I've watched TV coverage. I've listened to World Rally Radio. But I've never actually stood out there in the dust and sun and watched the cars come by once every couple of minutes. It was cool. The cars were a lot more quiet than I expected. Not that I would ever say they are quiet, oh no. It's just that it's possible for the car to get fairly close before I could hear it. That combined with not being able to look down the road made it interesting. It certainly showed why you stay off of a live stage! (Not that the spectators always did that. But then I've never said that specators were always really bright.)

So what it's like... You stand there for a while, chatting with the folks around you. Then the specators farther down stir. Sometimes someone would call "car!" and sometimes there would be a whistle. Sometimes there would be almost no warning at all before a car suddenly appears heading slightly sideways through the turn, kicking up gravel and unbelievable clouds of dust. There was something weird about the entrance to the next turn, so many of the cars did a strange wobble before getting it under control and disappearing around the bend. Though that was frequently hard to see due to the large amounds of dust hanging in the air.

Once the car vanishes, for a while the spectators amused themselves by watching which way the dust would blow, cheering if it went the other way, trying not to breathe too much of it if it went theirs. Then everyone returned to chatting and waiting.

Oregon Trail has smooth gravel roads, and moderate dust. Previously it had been run ealier in the year, so there was less dust, and more chances of snow being found on the higher stages. This year, there is no chance of snow. We did get some faint showers for a while. But they weren't really serious, and they did not last very long. Otherwise, the weather was excellent. There was just enough cloud cover to keep things from being too bright or too hot.

One thing that fascinated me was the variation in the line that the different drivers took. I had figured that they would all more or less stay on a similar line. But no, there would be differences. The dust was generally a really good indicator of both how fast the car went by, and also of their line. Some would pass closer to our bank, while others would go more to the other side. Some would downshift coming into the turn, while others would not. There was a lot more variation than I expected.

We had almost forty cars pass. Then the marshalls declared that there would be a 20 minute break. Huh? *shrug* The side of the stage we were on had no access back to the spectator parking, so many people wanted to cross back over the road and head out. For a while, the marshalls would not let us, and shouted at anyone who tried to cross the stage. Eventually, the relented and said that we had five minutes to cross if we wanted to; anyone who didn't would be stuck for maybe two more hours. We decided to cross.

It turns out that the hold-up was caused by an accident that they were clearing farther up the road. I'll probably have to wait for the Speed Channel report to get any information (if even they have it.) Since many people decided to bail at this point (we had already had all the top cars pass through, and were into the local club cars by this point), there were a lot of fairly primo spots on the other side of the road. The viewing angle was pretty nifty, too. We could see the car coming for quite a ways before it tried to head through the turn. It made taking pictures a good deal less hit-or-miss. I don't have the cable to download off the camera, so I don't know how everything turned out. But I should have an awesome picture of the Mini coming through. (Ooh, a rally Mini. It's so cuuuuute!)

By this point it was getting towards five-thirty. We were getting tired and hungry, so we decided to head back. Tomorrow, the goal is to spectate one stage, then spend the afternoon hanging out, since the party will be shy one member, due to back problems. For now, I go to have sweet dreams of flying cars.

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