In less than two weeks, I’ll be attending NASA Rally Sport’s Black River Stages rally in upstate New York. I plan to write all about it, but not in the way you probably expect. I haven’t asked for media credentials, and I will not be posting results, shooting pictures of cars going sideways on dirt roads, and getting pelted in the shoulder with a rock again (David Higgins did apologize to me on Twitter, though it wasn’t necessary). I’m also not competing, though I would love to someday. I’m doing the next best thing – driving Car 0, the course opening car for the rally.
Is this some honorary position they give some celebrity or hotshot automotive journalist, the way NASCAR sometimes does? Absolutely not. The truth is that I’ve been volunteering at rallies for years, long before I started doing this writing gig. I’ve driven and co-driven course opening and sweep vehicles a number of times at Black River Stages, the Empire State Performance Rally, and the New England Forest Rally. Last year we drove the Combo Car (sweep for motorcycles, course opening for cars) at Black River Stages, and switched to Car 0 for this year. I’m often asked how one gets this job. That’s a story in itself for another time.
Though we won’t be competing, we will be driving exactly the same rally that the competitors do. That means not only the special stages, but also same transits, same service stops, same everything else that the competitors do. We’ll even get the same time cards and countdowns at the start of each stage to give the volunteers practice before competition. My other half, Elana, will be co-driving with me. We’ve done this together before, and miraculously we haven’t killed each other. We won’t have stage notes, so no “100, right 4, tightens 3 over crest,” but we will have the same road book as the competitors, which is how we’ll lead the way and know at least the major turns and hazards. We will not be driving at full competition speed, but we will be booking right along a bit faster than the usual speed limit. We will not be driving a competition rally car (not the Honda CRX in the photo, though I co-drove it a few years ago), but wait until you see what we will be driving!
Since my primary focus will be doing the job, I won’t be writing about it in real time, though you can follow me on Twitter for updates between stages. But I will be taking photos and video to share the experience with you as best I can. Watch for more over the next few weeks as Right Foot Down hits the gravel and goes rallying!