2018 Tour de Forest Rally

Posted on October 8, 2018


Lift, Brake, Steer

This is a big blog with lots of images. Go have a beer while it’s loading.

For more and better pictures visit Bernard’s blog. 

I’ve always been fascinated by rally racing. Maybe it hearkens back to when I used to ride in the dirt, or when my dad used to stock car race. The cars are cool and there is something about driving sideways that is, well, just fun. My friend Bernard and his wife are relatively huge rally fans. There used to be a World Rally Championship race on the Olympic Peninsula, and I remembered television footage of them starting in the bottom of a parking garage, drifting all the way up to the ramp, and hitting the daylight completely airborne. Apparently the last time they ran that was 1988. In fact, I read someplace that this was the last time they ran Tour de Forest was 33 years ago.

I also soothe my  insomnia with endless History Channel car shows and one of the engineers from one of the shows, Aaron Kaufman, got his own show. On the episode I saw they were building a car for a rally in WA state, so I looked it up and off we went. (Unfortunately, Aaron’s team went to the Oly rally in May.)

On the way to the race we were discussing why rally is not big in the US, and I believe Bernard that it’s largely logistics. You get up before dawn,  drive for hours to get to the one spectator section for that leg,  walk through clear cut slash, watch the four or six hot cars blast by on the one corner you can see, cheer on the 30 or so privateers, get in your car, drive to the next section, watch the cars take another corner, go back to the first section and rinse/repeat two more times. You don’t even know who is winning unless you drive to yet another section and look at the printed out leader board in the pits.  Then on top of that, while the WRC is not in America, there are two other competing organizations, making it hella expensive for drivers as you have to buy two licenses, etc, etc.

There is no beer, food or facilities. But, hell yeah, it was fun.

The really cool thing about the Kaufmann show is they went to racing school and showed you how the cars are driven, and it’s nothing like anything you ever did, unless you lived on Ben Howard and used to race your Legacy on Cedar Ponds in your mispent middle age. Basically you floor it, and use the back brake to steer the ass end around. As you bang from one corner to the next your suspension unloads (lift), you brake to initiate the slide, and you steer around the turn. What could be simpler?




The web site and spectator considerations were, um, minimal at best, but eventually we arrived att to Montesano WA, which is about 20 mi from the course for the check in and car preview. Why they separate it all out, I have no idea.

I love the complete customization of the cars and all of the cool little technical tricks people put together on them, so it was a treat to get up close. There was a mother-daughter team, a team from Ireland, a Scandinavian team, and a Subaru team, among others. The Subarus go 0-60 in 1.9 seconds and produce 600 HP. There was also a Yamaha “side-by-side,” what I might once have naively called a “dune buggy.”




Red Hill: Section 1, Leg 1

As the guy on the TV show said, “In a regular race the driver sees one corner 1000 times; in a rally, he sees 1000 corners once.” And he, or she, is going to so fast they have no idea what is coming at them. So the rally produces a book, and the car has a passenger, a co-driver, who reads out instructions to the driver “Right 5 over crest, Left 3 don’t cut, 100 Right 1 tidy into Left 2, 300 double caution jump, left 2 over kick into right 3 tightens.”

 (I got that here.) Bernard was explaining that to lower the center of gravity, the co-driver almost cannot see out of the car and just reads constantly.  It’s like two doctors in an operating room, one with his hands under the sheet wielding the scalpel, and the other sitting there reading surgery instructions out of a book. Apparently they are talking about automating the co-driver, but to me that complex relationship is part of the charm of the event. We stood  next to a co-driver on the first leg.  He was out of the race because they rolled their car last race (that happens a lot in rally, I’ve seen footage of cars rolling like 20 times). Anyway, he gave me the short course on rally which was cool.




Black Creek: Section 2, Leg 1

At the second section, a guy asked to share my stump. He turned out to be one of the Subaru team guys. He told me that each of the Subarus cost $500k. He was also a wealth of info and a really nice guy. The Subarus were the top of the heap at this race, but Bernard informed me that these cars would makes the bottom rung of WRC.

Watching how the 4WD, FWD, and RWD cars used the corner was fascinating to me. If you look at the various images and figure out what kind of drive the car is, you can actually see how and why they took different lines. You can also see the amount of drift, and in a few shots you can see the back wheels are locked while the front are turning. At one point Bernard, who recently went to a driving/racing school,  and I had a discussion about drifting, rounding, late-apexing and other cornering theories. The vehicle whose cornering  I found most fascinating was the Yamaha. I think this guy actually was over-driving because he was used to something heavier that would slide, but in actuality he was nearly able to “square off,” yet another cornering technique used in motocross.  Later when we went to the pits, we found out that after the first two stages, this guy was in third behind team Subaru! Which makes sense as all of the other vehicles were adapted for dirt from the street, but the Yammy was purpose-built.

Not everybody was a fan

On this leg Bernard and I took slightly different positions, because I wanted to catch two corners and he wanted the straight-on shot.. The first Subaru tossed a golf-ball sized rock at me that hit my forearm with considerable pain. Six inches to the left and it would’ve cost me a lens. The second car hit me in exactly the same spot. And I mean exact, there was only one dirt mark on my jacket from the two hits. By the third car, I was a little gun shy, but after that the power dropped and the rocks became less of an issue.




On the way out we stopped and talked to a guy who is building a car to race and drove it to the event. I’m a mechanical engineer by training, but looking at his engine left me a bit lost, as it had all day long. He had all kinds of cool custom fab work for intake plenums and stuff I would like to ahve understood better. Bernard remarked on how cool it is that you can see the same cars in the parking lot as on the track, and in fact we passed quite a few cars on the way down that were being driven to the race. It might even be part of the rules that they have to be street legal, since many rally stages are run on the streets. In fact, I overheard that the Yamaha side-by-side classes have rules where they add time in if the cars have to be trailered over sections they are not legal to driver.

Because of the lighting, I spent more time post-processing these images than I ever have, and as a result,  I  really got to study the varying cornering styles. It really made me wish I could’ve seen more of the race. In the end, very few of them worked in B&W. Go figure.