Ever since I moved down to Kansas City in 2010 and was quite excited that I was much closer to an actual Stage Rally venue that took place each year. The 100 Acre Wood Stage Rally takes place each year in March in Salem, MO. I had been trying to get to this event to watch it every year and take some notes for participating in the event in the future. Fast forward to 2016 where everything finally lined up for me to make the trek and see the event.
Jessica and I made plans to go and we were quite excited to see the event. We packed up everything on Thursday into the teardrop camper and planned to leave really early Friday morning to make it to the campground and unpack before the event started in the afternoon. The drive down went smooth, and we checked into the campground with plenty of time to get everything unloaded and over to Steelville, MO where the Parc Expose was taking place for the first day of the Rally.
The Parc Expose was great to see. The park venue had a circular drive which made it really easy to get a good look at all the cars and even talk to many of the drivers who were with their cars. Travis Pastrana, David Higgins and Nick Roberts cars were all gathering huge attention, and the best part was each driver was there to talk with the fans and sign some autographs. Cars included everything from an old Ford Cortina to brand new factory 2016 Subaru STI Rally cars. Each car had its own interesting livery and each driver was willing to tell you exactly why they chose the graphics for their car. After we checked out the cars at the Parc Expose for a while, we made the journey out to Stage 1 of the Rally.
And what a journey it was. We drove for about 20 miles on minimum maintenance back counrty roads. That would put fear in some, but to Rally fans it only pumped you up for the action you would see on the stage. Once we got to the spectator area of the first stage, we parked and walked about a mile up to to the viewing area. When we got there, I was a bit disapointed with the area that they allowed you to watch. The area was small and relatively far from the actual racing stage. The stage had the cars coming over a small crest into a right hand turn that was slightly less than 180 degrees. As with most stages on the Rally, there were many trees and viewing areas would have already been slim, however the main viewing area put you on the outside area of where the 2 roads would have intersected. Due to the fact that they had to leave run off area on the road inerstections, we were about 80-100 feet from the road and you could only see the cars for about 2-3 seconds as they passed through the hairpin turn. If allowed in different areas the viewing area would have been much bigger. I will say that listening to the cars accelerate off of the hairpin turn into what must have been a longer straight was glorious. The sounds of hard accelerations and anti-lag turbo systems were awesome on the Open Class cars. At this point it looked to us like Higgins was running strong, Pastrana seemed a little off pace and Roberts’ pace looked strong based on the gap between him and Pastrana. However, based off the results Higgins was leading Pastrana by about 2 seconds and Roberts was about 24 seconds behind Pastrana with Fetala seperating Pastrana and Roberts.
With our viewing of Stage 1 complete, we made our way back toward town to view the Super Special. We skipped the Stage 2 viewing area because we would have not made it to that stage in time to see all the cars. The most interesting part of the drive on the country roads that we were on was the bridges across the rivers that crisscrossed the area. The “bridges” were mearly much thicker slabs of concrete placed across the riverbed. They easily are under water in any sort of significant rain or even light flooding – making the drive to the houses on the back roads interesting I’m sure!
When we arrived at the Super Special, we had some time to wait before the Stage started. Not a problem to begin with as you could watch the cars come in from the previous Stage and watch as a few of the drivers and co-drivers take a walk around their car to see if it was still intact. However, things started to run behind from there with no indication as to why they were running behind. I had signed up for text alert notifications from the event so I thought there would be fairly good communication if things were running behind. No such luck as we were about 25 minutes into the 40 minute delay before there was any notification. The viewing area for this Stage was much better. With it being in a much smaller area inside the Potosi Lions Park there really wasnt a bad spot to watch the cars. They had a section of the park in the midde roped off for people to view and because we got there earlier than most, we were able to get a pretty good spot inside to watch the cars. Good pictures and video were easy to get which will be posted as we got them uploaded over the next few days. I really liked the Stage setup that they used inside the park, and it made for some great driving from the competitors. The competition was tight throughout the first few Stages and Higgins and Pastrana had swapped the lead at each stage. Coming into the 4th Stage at the Super Special, the gap between Higgins and Pastrana was just a couple seconds. Pastrana was quicker in the Super Special and finished the Stage with the overall lead by less than a second. The battle for third was also heated as only about 5 seconds separated O’Sullivan, Fetela and Roberts for third overall.
After the Super Special, we had plenty of time to get some food before we went out to the next stage due to the service that was happening back in Salem, MO. We decided not to drive the 40 minutes over to see the service just to turn around and drive 40 minutes back to the next spectator spot. We found one of the local establishments, ate some food and talked about the day so far.
After eating, we went out to the last spectator stage that we would see for the day. The roads were much of the same and so was the viewing area. This time, however, it was quite cold at the viewing area and the cars were running way behind. When we were driving out to the stage we got a text notification saying that the rally was running just a few minutes behind and would start at 6:39pm. However, by 7:30pm, the only thing that had started doing anything was the weather. It was starting to drizzle at the viewing area. Couple that with the dropping temperatures and the fact that the event was way behind, the number of people at the viewing area started to dwindle fast. At about 8pm the sweep car finally came through and about 15 minutes or so later the cars were on stage at last. By the time they arrived temperatures were in the 30s with light rain, but when they were flying by you didn’t even realize it. The dark made taking pictures and video of any quality very difficult. However watching the cars was awesome. Coming over a small crest the cars had to take a right turn that was soft enough to take flat out if you had the cajones for it. Of the fast open class cars, I would say that Higgins was the hero of the corner. He was flat out and the car seemed to float through the corner as he cut it and slid to toward the trees on the outside of the corner. Once the tires bit again, he shot off without even the hint of lift! It was an eventful drive out of the woods with a huge row of cars winding around the narrow road through the trees.
After a night of rest in the teardrop camper with the heating blanket, we were back up and headed over to Parc Expose. This time instead of just walking around and viewing the cars, I took advantage of grabbing a couple autographs and pictures with the drivers. I think this is one of the best parts of event. All the drivers are by their cars and so willing to chat and share information with you about their cars. We weren’t going to be able to stay the whole day on Saturday because we had to get back at a decent time because of work, so we decided that we would probably have to call it a day after the first couple stages.
The drive out to the spectator area that morning felt very short compared to the roughly 20 minute walk from where we had to park on the road to where the viewing area was. We thought we were making pretty good time to the stage, but little did we know that many other people were way ahead of us. When we got to the stage, we missed the first few fast guys, but were able to see a couple cars go through before the stage was closed down due to a competitor crashing up the road. With the crash most likely causing a delay on the stage times we had to make the tough decision to walk the long way back to the car and back over to the campground to pack up and head home.
Overall the event was a fun and a must to view if you like Rally. However, the organizers need to communicate with the spectators more. I thought the text alerts were going to be a very good way to get information, but the alerts were few and far between and many came long after I felt they should have. My final thoughts about the event were that I can’t wait to be able to build and drive a rally car of my own. Someday soon I hope!