Rallying the Cog

Weekend race brings premier rally car drivers

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— Jim Gill, chairman of the Colorado Cog Rally, has one question for prospective spectators at this weekend's performance rally events on the county roads surrounding Hayden: Do you find sliding your vehicle thrilling?

"Most people in this part of Colorado have driven on gravel roads," Gill said. "If you've ever gone fast on a gravel road and gotten sideways and thought 'That's kind of fun,' you'll love this, with drivers going as fast as they can, right at the edge without going over."

Rally car events are competitive motorsports races in modified, but street-legal production vehicles, in which a driver and co-driver team vie for the lowest elapsed times on challenging stage sections of courses they have not seen before the race.

The event, part of the country's premier rally car racing series, is three races, highlighted by the two-day Colorado Cog National Championship Rally, the seventh of nine races that determine the 2006 Rally America National Championship. This 106-mile course, divided into 17 stage sections, will have teams tearing up and around the dirt roads near the "Cog" hill north of Hayden on Routt County Road 76. Saturday and Sunday feature the Middle Cog-1 and Middle Cog-2 Regional Rally events, respectively, which are shorter races that include fewer stages.

"The variety in the different racing stages is pretty significant," Gill said about the event he estimates will turn out 50 teams in six classes of vehicles. "We have everything from high speed to tight and technical that makes these courses so memorable."

In its second year, one of the most memorable events from last year's Colorado Cog Rally was the dramatic crash of 22-year-old Subaru Rally Team USA driver Travis Pastrana, who flipped his vehicle eight times on C.R. 51. Pastrana, who made recent headlines by landing the first double backflip in freestyle motocross competition, is returning to Steamboat to affirm his commanding lead in the Rally America point standings.

Because of crashes such as Pastrana's, organizers place spectator safety at a premium and limit fans to four spectator areas. The event is free, and Gill encouraged people to use the Spectator Guide that has mileage, directions and specific arrival times for the areas. It is available at the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, 1255 S. Lincoln Ave.; Super 8 Motel, 3195, U.S. Highway 40; Mountain Resorts, 2150 Resort Drive; or Howelsen Hill Lodge, 845 Howelsen Parkway, between 2 and 5 p.m. today or between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Friday. Guides also will be available from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Friday's Park Expose on Sixth Street between Lincoln Avenue and Oak Street.

The single service area and main spectator area for both days of event competition will be at the Routt County Fairground complex in Hayden. Visit www.coloradocogrally.com for more details, road closure information and links to the Spectator Guide.

- To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253 or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com

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