The dirt roads around Invermere will get a whipping this weekend as up to three dozen rally cars tear through the tight corners, lunge over the gravel, and rip up the racecourse in the name of speed.
The Rocky Mountain Rally, running May 25th to 27th, is heading into its sixth year in Invermere, and 45th annual overall.
Keith Morison, coordinator, says they are excited to once again be bringing the race back to Invermere, where they have found excellent rally roads and a great atmosphere for the annual event.
Car enthusiasts can come downtown to 7th Ave. Saturday, May 26th, starting at 9:10 a.m., when the rally cars will be on display. Get up close and personal with the speed machines and meet the teams before they head out on the first stage of the rally.
The Rocky Mountain Rally started in 1973 and ran successfully in Alberta. But organizers needed to look for a new race venue when the cars started pushing the Alberta maximum 130 kilometre per hour speed limit. It was thanks to a stop for coffee that Rocky Mountain Rally organizers discovered Invermere.
“We were starting to push that limit so we were looking for new roads and as luck would have it I was co-driving for one of the competitors and we were driving back from the U.S. coming through town. We stopped for Tim Hortons in the middle of the night driving through here, and he said ‘there’s gotta be roads over there’. So the next day — because we were looking for new roads — I pulled out Google Maps and looked around and said ‘holy there are roads here’,” Mr. Morison told the Pioneer in a previous interview.
The rally travels along Westside, Forster, and Dog Leg roads Saturday, then Sunday along Hawke Road. For Saturday viewing, go to Forster Creek FSR 16 km west of Radium. Sunday, go on Hawke Road 16 km south of Invermere.
Mr. Morison says the great roads around Invermere are practically built for rally cars. The cars can get up to 200 km per hour on the “twisting, narrow single-lane gravel roads,” Mr. Morison describes. “But the average speed is just over 100 km per hour (on those stretches) … It’s pretty spectacular.”
Mr. Morison says he has always been interested in car rallies, and got involved after he covered it for his job as a newspaper photographer in Calgary. He says once you try it, you are likely to be hooked.
“We refer to it more as a disease than a sport. Once I tried it, that was it. I had to do it again and again,” he chuckles.
He adds that rally racers end up feeling more like family than foe, because racers are competing against a clock, not each other.
The Rocky Mountain Rally is the second of seven events across the country each year. Racers do not need to qualify to enter this race, though they need to demonstrate competence driving on such roads.
The event requires up to 100 volunteers to run. Mr. Morison encourages more locals to get involved, and assures on-the-job training will be available for any and all positions.
“The main ingredients for putting on an event are, first, we need the roads; we’ve got great roads in the Columbia Valley. Then you need the volunteers to run the event safely. Then you need the competitors.”
As of the Pioneer’s interview May 16th, there were 32 cars registered. Mr. Morison anticipates a few more to trickle in before the weekend.
If you are not keen to watch the race from the sidelines, there is an opportunity to watch the cars as they come in to Eddie Mountain Arena for repairs and fuelling. Teams are expected to arrive there around 2 p.m. Saturday, then again at 7:30 p.m. for overnight service, and Sunday at 11 a.m.
The Rocky Mountain Rally is still looking for local volunteers, particularly amateur radio operators, to help during rally weekend and ask anyone interested in volunteering to visit http://www.rockymountainrally.com/volunteers/.