Steamboat Springs Road racing may be coming back to Routt County, just two years after the vintage auto and motorcycle races were canceled and moved elsewhere.
But this is road racing like the Yampa Valley has never seen.
"This sport isn't about speed. We want rugged roads," said Jim Gill, a member of the Sports Car Club of America.
"It's about going fast on a road that's crappy. That's the challenge," Gill told the Routt County Commissioners on Tuesday.
Gill and his racing partner Mark Cox are trying to get approval to use county roads and resources for a "performance rally" race Sept. 15. He said the event could eventually grow into a national pro race that would be televised.
The commissioners seemed impressed with Gill's presentation.
"Outside of the U.S., it's the single-biggest spectator sport, bigger than even soccer," Gill said.
In the United States, the races are mostly run on dirt or gravel roads, and the worse the roads are the better the race is considered.
A driver and his partner are given a route book before the race that is full of symbols and diagrams that direct the car over unknown roads.
"The challenge is driving a road you've never been on driving on crappy roads," Gill said.
"Do we have one of those in Routt County?" Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak responded to laughter.
"We call them low-maintenance roads," she said.
Gill laid out the thick papers and books that govern road rallies sponsored by the Sports Car Club of America.
"It is a very controlled and sanctioned event," Gill assured the commissioners.
The cars used are all regular production cars that are seen on the road like Mitsubishi Eclipses, Honda Civics, Mazda 323 GTX even Volkswagens. Depending on the class, the vehicles' motors may or may not be modified, but all the cars have to have safety modifications like roll cages.
Gill gave the commissioners a copy of the sports club's typical insurance policy for road races, reassuring them that the county would have no liability.
However, the county would need to support the race in other ways, including the use of deputies and emergency medical sources.
The race would also take a lot of volunteers to man the race, including ham radio operators.
Roads have to be closed for up to several hours at a time, but no more, Gill said. He also said roads would be closed only in sections. The entire racecourse wouldn't be closed at the same time. Because most of the roads are very rural and few people live on the roads, this is not usually a big problem, Gill said.
The sports club's performance rallies actually have two categories of roads. The first category is "transit" roads. Transit roads are used to get from one "stage" to another.
The stage portions are the second category, which consists of the rugged gravel or dirt roads. These are timed events and cars start at one-minute intervals and race against the clock.
The transit roads are usually normal roads and all traffic laws have to be obeyed.
"If you get a traffic ticket, you're out of the competition," Gill explained.
He said the organizers even encourage local deputies and state patrols to keep an eye out for violators. The sports club also has its own "marshals" who check for road violations.
For the Routt County road rally, Gill is looking at starting the race at the Hayden Speedway and ending it there. The rally would wind through parts of west Routt and northwestern Routt County.
Gill told the commissioners there are currently no "club rallies" of these kind held in the Rocky Mountain region and the Sports Car Club of America said mid-September is a great time of the year for the Yampa Valley to establish a road rally that could eventually lead to a major national event.
With a promise of a nice economic impact to the region, the county commissioners gave a tentative approval based on several conditions.
First, the county manager has to check on what permits would be needed to get the road rally approved and whether it has to go through planning staff or the commissioners. Any homeowners on the roads being used must be notified for public comment. The Sheriff's Office has to be able to dedicate resources.
The commissioners also expressed concern that the race must not be held on the opening weekend of archery and muzzle-loading hunting season, but the requested date of Sept. 15 avoids that problem.
Gill hopes to have an official go-ahead by the end of May.