Go, speed racer, go

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Now in its fourth year, Routt County's local rally race already has gained national attention.

In one year, the Colorado Cog Rally went from a small local club event -- one of 75 club events in the country -- to one of nine rally races recognized nationally by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA).

"It's an early step up for us," said Cog Rally committee member Chad James. "And we hope it will continue to grow."

This year, the race will be televised. Fans of performance-rally racing can tune into the SPEED Channel to see cars navigating the gravel roads of the Cog outside of Hayden.

On winding roads where cars usually stay below the 30 mph speed limit, racers take the curves at speeds of 110 to 120 miles an hour.

According to regulations, SCCA Performance Rally cars are street-legal vehicles that have been modified with safety equipment including roll cages, safety harnesses and on-board fire suppression systems. Common rally vehicles are Volkswagens, Audis, Saabs, Toyotas, Hondas, Mazdas and Subarus.

Each rally team consists of a driver and co-driver. The co-drivers have precise course directions, which they communicate to the drivers through a headset inside their helmets. The instructions are measured in hundredths of a mile.

For an overview of the race schedule, Colorado Cog Rally organizers published a 2004 Spectator Guide. The guide is available at all rally sponsor locations including the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, Sheraton Steamboat Resort, Super 8 Motel, Steamboat Motors and The Bottleneck. The Spectator Guides also will be available from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday on Fifth Street between Lincoln Avenue and Oak Street when the street will be closed to traffic, and all rally cars will be on display.

Race fans will want to plan their approach before coming to the Cog Rally, committee member Jim Gill said.

Gill recommends three approaches to the race, which is divided into several stages and covers more than 100 miles.

The first option is to choose a spectator area somewhere along the Cog. Times and directions are given in the Spectator Guide.

Spectator areas are set off the road for maximum safety. Twenty-five volunteer ham-radio operators will be positioned along the course to coordinate the movement of the cars and let spectators know if any of the stages are running behind.

"It's very important that spectators know they can't pop out on the course," Gill said. "They might get hurt."

The second choice for spectators is to go to the Dry Creek Park Superspecial Spectator area. Saturday's Special Stage No. 4 and Sunday's Special Stage No. 13 will take place on a one-mile track in Dry Creek Park across from the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden.

"The Town of Hayden agreed to work with us on a temporary track," Gill said. "If the town likes it, we will have a stage (at Dry Creek) each year.

"For 363 days a year, the track will be used for running, biking or cross country skiing, and two days a year it will be used for the Superspecial."

The third option for spectators is to visit the service area at the fairgrounds, where tires will be changed and repairs made to cars as quickly as possible so drivers can re-enter the race.

"Some people like watching how quickly someone can replace a transmission or struts," Gill said. There is no charge to enter the pit, but spectators must sign a waiver and get a wristband to enter.

"I think people around here can really relate to (the Cog Rally)," Gill said. "Everyone has driven on gravel roads. Everyone has slid sideways on gravel. They understand the dynamics of this race."

-- To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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