Every form of racing requires a unique blend of driver skill and vehicle prep for its entrants to be competitive. But only one requires vehicles to excel across every imaginable driving surface, in wet or dry, hot or cold climates, and demands their drivers to possess the nerve to drive them at full-tilt in all those conditions. And now, from the top of the professional ladder all the way down to lowly local events, it seems rally may finally be starting to enjoy the recognition and participation it deserves.
But let's back up for a second. The Gorman Ridge Rally might not be Global RallyCross (GRC) or the World Rally Championship (WRC), but it's certainly not "lowly." For 26 years, it's stood as one of the most popular (and one of the only) rallies in car-mecca Southern California, serving as a championship competition round of both the California Rally Series (CRS) and NASA Pacific Rally Cup, and in past years as a regional requisite for X Games competition. This time around, it saw its biggest-ever field of entrants.
Like rounds of the WRC and Rally America, the Gorman Ridge Rally is a "stage rally," since racing commences on several outdoor "stages" that span several miles and can include dirt, gravel, pavement, water/ice/snow (not in Calif., sadly), some mean jumps, and lots of elevation changes—sometimes all in the same stage. Alternatively, rallycross is confined to one course, usually dirt and tarmac, and in a much smaller area, like the event at Glen Helen we recently brought you, or the upcoming GRC round here in LA you'll be seeing from us soon.
One big difference between the California Rally Series and the pro ranks is that virtually no one at Gorman Ridge is a professional driver. Some are retired pros, some may yet earn that title, but most are from an eclectic group of people who just love the sport—"neurosurgeons and pipefitters," as the CA Rally Series will point out about the diversity of its roster. But make no mistake, the competition and the stakes are every bit as fierce. The open-class team of John Trucks (driver) and Chris Fine (co-driver), and their team Rally Kings #51 open-class Subaru Impreza WRX STI, took top honors at Gorman last year, and they very well may have done it again this time. If they hadn't become high-centered on a turn at the start of the first stage, inadvertently lit some underlying brush on fire with the car's hot downpipe, exhausted two fire extinguishers and a jug of water trying to douse flames that popped up all around the car, and ultimately watched their fully built race machine burn to the ground.
Elsewhere in the rally, two TEN alums (Josh Jacquot and Dave Coleman, formerly of Sport Compact Car magazine) posted some solidly quick times before narrowly avoiding catastrophe by nosing over a steep drop on the rally's notoriously gnarly Powerline-Wheatfield stage (becoming stuck and thus unable to continue in the process), and Tingwu Song and Mustafa Samli posted some of the fastest times of the day before rolling their bright yellow/blue Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution prior to the very last stage of the day. Even still, they managed to drive it back to the official hotel for the post-race reception, which to us constitutes a win in its own right.
By the time each finishing team had cleared the seven desert stages of the 2015 Gorman Ridge Rally, the team of George Plsek and Sean Gallagher, in their no. 30 '06 EVO set the quickest combined time of the event (in both CRS and NASA competition), followed very closely by the no. 51 Subaru WRX of Kris Psara and Andres Bautista, and the no. 356 WRX STI of Race Technik's Doug Chernis and Piers O'Hanlon.