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: The “Bos” is back….

Without back-tracking to far my regular co-driver, Travis Bos, had to miss Gorman rally last month. I had never driven an entire rally with anyone else. Zach Dickinson filled his shoes very well in Gorman, but after 9 years of rallying together there’s a certain familiarity about being in the car together. Things go unsaid but understood, criticisms fly bidirectionally and we both try to do each others job from the wrong seat, it’s a blast.

Prescott 2012 marked a 9 year vendetta to finish this rally that struck us out in 2003. Definitely the most dangerous “local” rally, with high speeds and great exposures (Exposure is a fancy way of saying the side of the road drops off, extremely. In this case steep rocky exposures for hundreds of feet). The joke at Prescott is if you leave the road, you end up in another zip code. Then there is high speed, probably 70% of the turns are 5’s & 6’s. To us rally drivers that’s a call for the 2 fastest degrees a turn can have, with a 1 being an abrupt immediate turn you would have to almost stop at. I think we also had calls as long as 850 or more(distance). That’s a long straight section, in this case usually to a crest in the road blindly linking to another long straight. These are great fun unless you get squirrelly in the loose gravel, have a tire or shock blow out or something, then you go off at 100mph into brush, trees and rocks (or down a great exposure).

The rally started Friday afternoon. We started around 4pm on the roads with the greatest exposures. We agreed we would definitely take the first mile or so easy to feel out the road conditions and car setup. Stage 1 (SS1 First View) was extra slippy, our new set of dmack tires were a little over-inflated after a cold fill and long transit. Also, this time of day we are driving straight into a setting sun. Every other turn was blinding. A short transit into stage 2 and we adjusted the tire pressure to a better level. Now we could pick up some speed (& out of the steep exposures). Then the wind dropped and dust started to cloud, though it was only a slight hindrance at this point. A short service and we were starting Fridays last 2 stages in the dark. Time to mount the Hood pods and use the 55watt HID’s from DDM Tuning again. Now the dust was basically stagnant and hitting pockets of dust in dips and valleys was like hitting a wall, visibility was zero, at least for brief moments. We were forced to slow down and play around with and without extra HID lights, to just get some view of the road. By the last mile or 2 of the night the wind picked up and cleared the dust but the (time) damage was done. Our cautious approach had put our starting position a couple spots down for Saturday.

Saturday was much better. Dust was slight, sun & temperatures were favorable. Yet we couldn’t seem to shake our pace from Friday. The day added two 20 mile stages to the agenda and re-running Fridays stages twice over. 20 miles is one of the longer stages we have around here, and this was a fun one. Somewhere along the way we decided not to kill ourselves to gain a couple positions and instead finish the rally. Without taking any unnecessary risk we managed to secure 1st place in CRS GT class, 3rd in USRC Production AWD, & 9th overall. The rally had a decent attrition rate, only 12 of 20 finished. Playing it safe paid off with respectable finishes, but it was definitely far from our best performance. Still our goals were met, vendetta avenged, & car drove into the trailer at the end of the day.

I can’t forget the bigger story of the rally. Joseph Burke held a decent lead all day on an incredibly fast Keith Jackson. Only a short distance from the end, Joseph rolled, Jackson stopped and towed him across the finish. That’s the short of it. Joseph could still win the rally but handed his victory to Jackson by taking road points for checking in late to final time control. Joseph still took the championship for the year, but the race went to Jackson. The sportsmanship displayed by Jackson was applauded and awarded, it was amazing.

Service for this rally was provided by our regular team, Jason & Frank. These guys did an amazing job for us. Mechanically we dodged some oil consumption gremlins that had been haunting us. With their close monitoring we had some unusual consumption, but nothing detrimental. They took care of the car in service so we could regroup. In particular Jason should be commended for not only maintaining the car, but also counseling me. I had got fairly frustrated in the dust & poor visibility Friday, even more so when the re-seed had bumped us a couple spots. He later reminded me if I wasn’t having fun, why was I doing it? I guess I needed to hear that, it definitely sank in overnight. Saturday felt more like our first rally, exciting and adventurous. We did have a lot of fun with it, and though our times stayed fairly consistent, the fun factor was the days reward. Thanks for the reminder Jason.

We can’t go without thanking organizers and volunteers. For this event we had 20 cars starting and 130 volunteers to make it happen, this always impresses me. From radio operators, to time controls, road closings, stage sweeps and several operations I’m forgetting, it takes a lot for us to have fun for the day. Thanks again to everyone.

Well I’ll probably write a year end post later, but this wraps up our season for the DB Rally Team. We’d like to take a moment to thank:

Frank: For his continue support with the car both at rally and construction & prep.
Jason: Also for his help both at the rally & prep
Hanks Electrical Supply: Which provides us a place to store, work on, and has provided our trailer. (Also employes me)
Magnaflow Exhaust: For an awesome custom exhaust & installation as well as use of their EZ-UP during events
Garage Tuning: For finding some extra power & torque in a stock motor with a 32mm restrictor & 90k miles.
DirtyImpreza.com: Thanks to all the members and contributors of this site for a wealth of support both on the internet and at events! & particularly for this event loaning us a GoPro.

Photo Credit & Copyright to TDS Photography

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.


Gorman Ridge Rally 2012

Gorman Rige Rally was an event we have been trying to do since we started rallying in 2003. Our rally budget in the beginning went mostly to repairs and our favorite rally at the time, Rim of the World Rally. In 2011 I volunteered to work Gorman Rally, and finally got some first hand experience. I vowed to compete in 2012 and this is how it went down…

Mendocino Rally, a month prior, was something I really wanted to do. I couldn’t put it together financially and logistically. However we had been gearing up for it so the car was ready, just had to wait a little. In the mean time I had to scramble to find a co-driver as my regular co-driver would be away on vacation. Luckily I remembered a fellow dirtyimpreza.com member Zachary Dickinson had co-drove previous with other teams. I was lucky he was available. He had run Gorman the previous year, and still had his notes, this made recce a breeze and we could concentrate more on getting used to each others style.

The day of the event: I think there is always first stage jitters. Mine, from not being behind the wheel for a while, new co-driver, recent repairs and in the back of my mind in our rollover in North Nevada Rally. I informed Zach, we would be taking it easy and for the most part we did. Driving always separates me from my anxieties, once we’re rolling. More so at speed. With full concentration on the road, car and Zach’s note reading, an occasional straight section is the only time left to go through your mental checklists. I was pushing hard in certain areas, we had an “off” or brush excursion, and a spin out. Luckily nothing serious. The off nearly high-sided us but I was able to back out of it, not light the desert on fire, and get back on stage in a couple seconds. Still we pressed on through a hot & dusty day into the evening. As the sun starts to set, it shines right in your eyes in certain directions and visibility becomes about nil. Even with sunglasses I was able to see just a few feet further than nil. Luckily there weren’t any long straights into the sun, just a few tricky turns. Muscle memory from running them previous had to pay off here. Luckily that was short lived and the sun quickly fell into the night. I hadn’t done a night stage since Rim of the World, so this added to the jitters along with some new lights from DDM Tuning I hadn’t yet tested. Driving the stages at night, changes things a bit. It’s almost a bit more comfortable with less distraction, however it does come with it’s added risk. Luckily the new 55watt HID set up in the PIAA lamps and pods worked flawlessly. The last few stages under our belts I think we came into the finish time control somewhere are 10:30pm. From starting at 11am, that makes for a long day!

Each stage had it’s own challenges in Gorman. Tall brush w/ narrow roads driving what you saw would only slow you down, the notes had to be spot on. Lots of crest and short turns as well. Jumps galore if you had the juevos to hit them, you could have seen some detrimental hang time. Surface was really inconstant on certain stages, ranging from gravel like, to sand, silt, deep ruts, hard pack, short hard high banks from cyclists, etc.. really kept you on your toes. But this is what we live for, if it was all left turns on dry asphalt I would have already changed the channel.

Our goals were to run a good safe pace, have fun, and adjust to one another and see where we ended up. Secondary goal was to save the car for Prescott, only a month away. All goals accomplished, at the end of the day we stopped asking for our times (in relationship to others) at time controls, as I didn’t need that kind of motivation. Upon reaching the final time control, taking a deep breathe we realized we had accomplished some respectable times and finished 1st in Class CRS GT, 2nd in Class USRC Production AWD, and 5th Overall.

I can’t speak of the event without mentioning my crew, which for this Rally was my long time friend, collaborator on the build and maintenance of this car, Frank Ansbro. I new him and I together could pull it off, however Zach was also a wealth of help in service and a few members from dirtyimpreza.com were around to offer help. Our mid-day big service and lunch break was at the host hotel. I parked, spoke to Frank for a minute and jumped in the pool to get the dust out of my system. Frank got the car all checked out and just as we were about to put it back on the ground, Kyle Jackson from Jackson Rally happened to walk by. He, for some reason grabbed and shook only my RR wheel, he said out of force of habit, and it happened to have some play. We all thought it was a loose wheel bearing, but after closer inspection a lower coil-over (shock) bolt had come loose. Simple fix and check the rest, we were good to go for the rest of the day & evening. The car worked out flawlessly, which was good, because a DNF earlier this year at High Desert trails Rally from a failed Turbo “Y” pipe was one of the new repairs we hadn’t tested. That along with a new Heat Shield / Chimney I got from Marvin, and new motor / transmission mounts. This was also the first rally we really got to use the RS&SP suspension. This stuff is awesome. It took the bumps and jumps and made for a very comfortable drive. I was really impressed.

Lastly, hats off to Hoche, for Giving Bill a run for his money. VW up against a huge 500+hp Ford Raptor Truck, seemed an unlikely battle, but it was definitely the hot topic of the rally.

Always, much thanks to the event organizers and especially volunteers that make it possible for us to have this level of fun. They orchestrate what I am guessing to be 5+ volunteers for every car entered in this rally. Between the Radio people, Emergency Medical and the Parks and local law enforcement and fire persons, THANK YOU!!!
Here is a great video really showing the conditions described above of the rally, from the guy that took me in USRC Production AWD, Alvin Fong & Black Box Rally Team.

Please observe respective photo & video credits and post them along with the media if you are sharing.