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