High Desert Trails Rally 2016 – Zero Car Duty

HDT 2016 Weather Coming in between stages

HDT 2016 Weather Coming in between stages

Back at it again, at the High Desert Trails Rally 2016. Our closest to home rally. Also one we’re particularly fond of, having won our class in 2011. A fairly high speed event, often >100mph,  and some technical sections and exposures as well. We weren’t there as a competitor though, this year we got the call. As a volunteer as I was given the privilege as being the Zero Car. 

So you think it’s going to be fun, right? Get to drive the Stages, at speed, ahead of the pack and clear of any dust!! All sounds great, until you are hit with the information overload that is rally zero car and fighting the competitive mindset of the rally driver inside me. It was tough, but I loved it. And yes, I would hopefully get the opportunity again one day…..

There was a whirlwind of prep, not just in car prep, but to become a HAM operator to be able to do this position. Luckily, I was given a few weeks notice. As I got to studying I found I had to take the test within a week so they would have time to process and get my license and call sign. As most things rally, just a few days before the event I received my call sign KM6CJD. However it wasn’t until the day of the event I was even able to press a button on an actual radio. So it was trial by fire, and it was awesome…

Just another beautiful day in the desert, rally racing! HDT2016

Just another beautiful day in the desert, rally racing! HDT2016

Though I’ve been competing since 2003 and even volunteered a couple times in the past, until you really pay attention to it, you have no idea how much information is being passed on radio during a stage.

The HAM operators at a rally race provide a necessary communications backbone, and as that suggests, there are several roles at multiple locations along each stage. All of them carry every car through multiple points along a stage to make sure everyone gets from start to finish, and if not that they are attended to quickly.

New Radio Equipment

New Radio Equipment

As Zero car you get to listen to all this real time, listen to your co-driver navigate and read pace notes, try to drive at a slightly reduced competitive speed, confirm all road blocks, cautions and road markings are in place, look for new hazards that may have happened and be attentive to breaks in communications or direct communications with special instructions. It’s really quite intense and different kind of rush…

As a competitor there is a certain amount of stress you put on yourself to be as competitive as you can. Zero car reduces this (a little), and adds a new layer of responsibility to the mix. I took this very seriously, as something I had influence on could likely effect all that would follow. I think this is under-appreciated except by those that have attempted it, and also took it seriously. Not that I didn’t get appreciation, but as a driver without this experience, you have now idea what is involved in an attempt to make things go as smooth and as safe as possible. Not to mention a line of communication, EMT, and road blockages that are all triple checked (and then some) before a competitor is allowed on stage.

Well that was my experience, thanks to a few of you that pushed me into HAM, adding another hobby, I probably didn’t need, but I know I will enjoy…

“73”  –  KM6CJD

High Desert Trails Rally 2016

High Desert Trails Rally 2016

Photo May 06, 6 47 07 PM

Out with the old (terratrip) in with the New (Monit Rally Computer Q-10 + 12v power center.

Out with the old (terratrip) in with the New (Monit Rally Computer Q-10 + 12v power center.

A little "Off" occurred at HDT2016

A little “Off” occurred at HDT2016



Prescott Rally 2012 Pre-Event

As we head into the week prior to Prescott Rally 2012, I’m reflecting on our previous attempt in 2003. The DB Rally team was still in a bit of a whirlwind being one of our first events ever. We didn’t have much Internet coverage then & didn’t know what to expect. Starting at night was probably a good thing, specifically due to the exposures (drop offs) we couldn’t see. Taking those same stages in daylight the next day, definitely proved to be slower when we could see the danger.


Our rally fell short on Saturday in 2003, when we went off, tried to turn a hillside into a quarter pipe, and the re-entry through a drainage ditch didn’t agree with our control arm. We were stuck with the wheel pinned tightly in the fender well. We got into mid-day service regardless, and fell short of time to make repairs for which we didn’t have parts anyway. However, Frank shined as his rally spirit was in full press. Even with an official tapping him on the shoulder to quit, “times up”, Frank wasn’t easily suppressed. He wasn’t going to give up, but the rally had to go on without us.


At awards ceremony we were awarded fastest rookie team, even without a full finish, I believe it was based on our Friday night performance. We were happy with that but disappointed with our DNF. However, we found some strengths within the team we didn’t know we had. We also found probably some of he best Biscuits and Gravy we’ve ever had! We vowed to return, not expecting it to take most of a decade.


Fast forward to 2012, in our 2003 WRX, we hope to finish the event and hopefully not take another 9 years to return.

Rally prep was more of just a cleaning, oil & filter change. A once over all the way around, and a new set of tires. After finishing well and without incident in Gorman, there wasn’t much to do except put a good eye on everything. Coming near 100k on the odometer, we’ll see if anything else pops up in Prescott.