Cog Rally puts drivers to the test | SteamboatToday.com

Cog Rally puts drivers to the test

The idea of driving along a winding, dirt-covered county road makes Mark Cox’s heart skip a beat.

Of course he prefers to drive on those unpaved roads at breakneck speeds behind the wheel of his Mitsubishi Evolution VI, which boasts 300 horsepower.

“Northwestern Colorado is a natural for this type of racing,” Cox said.

The veteran driver brought the Subaru Colorado Cog Rally to Routt County three years ago. This Saturday he expects 30 teams to compete in the event, which will be run on several minimally maintained and seldom-used roads around Steamboat, Hayden and Craig.

Cox said he expects about twice as many cars as last year and many of the teams driving them will be nationally ranked.

In rally racing, each car has a driver and a co-driver. The driver’s job is to keep the car on course, while the co-driver barks out directions to the driver. Teams are given notes that describe the course, but are not allowed to drive on any of the roads 90 days prior to the event.

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The Colorado Cog Rally is part of the Western States Rally Championship. Cox hopes the event can step up to a national level next year. It is scheduled to begin at 9:31 a.m. Saturday in front of the Routt County Courthouse, in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Cox, who organizes the race, will not be allowed to compete in Steamboat.

The teams will complete nine different stages and are not allowed to work on their cars outside of designated areas. They must also drive on public roads — including the first stage from Steamboat to Hayden — where the speed limits and other laws of the road are enforced.

Cox said the event would pay for extra officers to patrol these sections to make sure drivers obey all the designated traffic rules.

However, once the cars reach a special stage, where the course is closed to the public traffic, drivers can put the pedal to the metal in order to complete the stage in the fastest possible time.

The car with the lowest elapsed time for the nine stages wins the event.

Cox said three special areas would be set up for spectators to view the event. The first, Maneotis Meadows, is six miles from Hayden. Cars will arrive there at 11:10 a.m. The second, Breeze Basin, is about 30 miles from Hayden. The cars will be at that stage at 2:15 p.m. The final spectator area, Bull Gulch, is about 19 miles from Hayden. The cars will reach that point at 4:45 p.m. More detailed directions to the viewing points can be found at http://www.coloradocog.com. Click on the box marked spectators at the side.

Last year the team of Ron Nelson and Rick Burtis finished the course in a time of 1 hour, 5 minutes and 38 seconds to win the overall title.

Brian Moody and Erica Lucero followed that team in second at 1:07:30 and Jason Waples and Todd Moberly were third at 1:08:34.

Cars are placed in several divisions based on whether the car is front-wheel or all-wheel drive and its horsepower.

Cox said Steamboat co-driver David Epperson is teaming with Aspen driver Jeff Zwart for the race.

“It’s my first time ever to do a rally race,” Epperson said. I’ve known Jeff (Zwart) since high school, so when I found out they were having a rally here I asked him to come up.”

Epperson said he really isn’t sure what to expect from Saturday’s race, but he is set on giving rally racing a chance.

“I guess I will see how it goes,” Epperson said. “I’m excited, but I’m also pretty nervous at the same time.”

Epperson said it’s a great way to experience racing without having to get behind the wheel. He said he’s sure it will not be his next career, but if things go well he may make racing in the Colorado Cog Rally an annual tradition.

— To reach john F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com