Saturday, September 10, 2005
At 125 mph, the view of the county roads near Hayden and Steamboat Springs become a blur of dust, vegetation and heart-pounding adrenaline.
It's an experience more than 30 teams will share this month when they come to Routt County to take part in the annual Colorado Cog Rally. The rally, which takes place Friday to Sept. 18, features competitors racing production-based cars on a variety of minimally maintained Routt County roads, which will be closed for the event.
"It's fast, but these cars are set up to handle it," said Mark Cox, who races rally cars when he isn't organizing the event. "Many of them look like regular sports cars, but they were designed for these types of roads."
Inside today's state-of-the-art rally cars, one will find the latest in safety equipment, including fire extinguishers, special seats equipped with high-performance seat belts, and roll cages, all designed to protect drivers and navigators. The driver has all the tools necessary to maneuver the car at high speeds, and the navigator relies on a race computer that allows him to dissect a course down to the 1/1000th of a mile so he can feed information to the driver.
"In rally racing, a driver has to be defensive and aggressive at the same time," Cox said. "You have to drive as fast as you can but be ready for the unexpected."
Teams consisting of a driver and a navigator (or co-driver) are issued notes describing the course the night before the race, but they have little other knowledge about the course on which they will race. Teams are prohibited from driving on the course 90 days prior to an event and must depend on a detailed set of course notes to guide them to the finish line.
The competitors are not allowed to work on their cars outside of specified areas and can be penalized for traveling too fast between stages. The team with the lowest elapsed time after all the stages wins the race.
Once again, the Colorado Cog rally will be a national event, drawing teams from across the country to Routt County. This year's field will include several locals along with top drivers such as Stig Blomquist and Travis Pastrada, an extreme motorcycle rider who has turned to rally car racing.
The Colorado Cog Rally is the seventh out of eight races in the Rally America National Championship Series and will include approximately 100 stage miles Saturday and Sunday.
The Middle Cog-1 Divisional Rally will be held Saturday and will include 65 to 70 stage miles. The Middle Cog-2 Divisional Rally will be held Sunday and will include 35 to 40 stage miles.
While large parts of the race will take part in remote areas of Routt County, organizers have set up several stages in prime viewing locations.
Rally organizers produce a spectator guide with the locations of where spectators can go to view cars as they make their way through the stages. The guide includes a schedule so that spectators know the perfect time to see a race.
The guides can be picked up at Howelsen Hill after 2 p.m. Thursday. On Saturday, the guides can be picked up at the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden. The fairgrounds also will be the site of the most accessible stage of the race. Spectators will be able to view the entire one-mile stage from the comfort of the bleachers. A jump and several tight turns made this stage one of the most popular during last year's race, rally organizer Jim Gill said.
Other stages, including Breeze Basin and Elkhead, are less accessible but provide high-speed viewing.
Spectators can view the races from a number of areas, including the Breeze Basin, Dry Creek Park, Hayden Service and Sage Creek viewing areas.
Spectators also can get up close and personal with the cars at a Parc Expose from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday at Fifth Street and Lincoln Avenue in Steamboat.
The rally will start at 8:01 a.m. Saturday in the Meadows Parking Lot and will end at 6:01 p.m. at the base of Steamboat Ski Area. A fan appreciation party will follow.
Sunday's racing will begin at 8:01 a.m. in the Meadows Parking Lot and is scheduled to end at 3:01 p.m. in the same location.
The rally needs about 250 volunteers. Any one interested in volunteering -- a great way to get a front-row seat for the action -- can call Chad James at 846-2451.
--To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209
or e-mail email@example.com