Merritt/Kelowna/Merritt, British Columbia . February 6 & 7, 2010. The West Coast Rally Association presented the 39th running of their premier winter rally, Thunderbird 2010 . Rally Master Paul Westwick assembled a crew of nine cars to lead, time, and sweep the course. 32 teams would test their driving and navigation skills.
The Odo Check left Nicola Inn and took to the Coquihalla south and west to Brookmere, then doubled back a short distance to Kane Valley Road . Kane Valley Regularity ran 29 km, with varying conditions ranging from gravel to slushy snow-covered at 60km/h (37mph), to the "ice hole" at 7.47km, where there were surely some good photo-ops -- medium right into medium left (apex flooded and frozen, mostly) but no checkpoint. Becoming snow packed, at 52km/h, briefly slowing to 30km/h through the ranch and up to 57km/h (35mph) for the main portion of the section. Skirting several small lakes and avoidng the shortcut out to Hwy 5A (previous years routes) and being mindful of the possible cross-country ski traffic (which was mostly non-existant this year). The last km is down to 47km/h and twists to a Stop at the Highway. As a checkpoint crew, but still avid TSD rally guys, we ran the computer through the section and were only 3 early at the end -- not to claim we were on time all the time throughout the 5 checkpoints -- just warming up.
Aspen Grove transit followed 97C to Loon Lake area, then south on Siwash FSR into Dillard Regularity . Dillard would sort out the good, the bad, and the ugly (roads that is). 70km/h on snow is "interesting" but managable. The first 9kms are wide main-line forestry roads. Buck Lake has two checkpoint opportunites, they used only one, at 7.12km -- long smooth straight, over small crest to easy left with road coming in from the right -- unremarkable pickup truck parked there -- checkpoint! (one of the Sweep team). Continue on, keeping to the main road, but slower now at 65km/h. It was not pointed out in the book, but at about 11km into the section the route passed by Vinson Lake, where your author spent 4 hours on a rock in 2001 Totem (no, I wasn't checkpointing). Active logging, congestion, opening again, speed 60km/h, then at 15.19, Acute Right onto Dillard Creek Forest Service Road . Checkpoint, photo-op, very deep snow -- no speed change! "60? Really? You gotta be kidding! Are you sure this is the right road?!!!" After the initial pucker factor, traction was obtained (marginally) and a short distance later the speed fell to 50km/h (31.1mph) -- still deepening snow. We proceded up through the hairpins, then downhill the speed increased to 55. At 24.55, hairpin/checkpoint, followed soon by reduced speed, double left over bridge, climbing out through a long hairpin right and the photo-op overlooking Missezula Lake . Narrow crest then snowplow -- fortunately when we met him it was well before the first car was due. Speeds up to 60 again, then 63 and the first of our checkpoints at Ketchan Lake FSR. First nine cars arrived on time, for 4 controls! This would be a very tight rally.
Checkpoint duties completed for now, we embarked on the first "shortcut" to leapfrog the rally and set up our next control. The rest of the rally explored scenic roads in the 55km Otter Valley Regularity and a transit through Tulameen and Coalmont districts to Princeton . Reports from the pack recounted long sweeping curves, tight "over-crests" dropping into narrow canyons. Snow pack and traction varied passing 4 checkpoints. On the transit out, teams were under the watchful "eyes" of local geological formations called "hoodoos", clinging to the steep hillsides above the Tulameen River .
With our shortcut successful, we set up shop in the 38km Osprey Lakes Regularity . The route follows Princeton-Summerland Road . The regularity begins near Bankeir on pavement, with a bit of snow, changing to off-camber snow-covered gravel corners. Parallelling the old Kettle Valley Railway, the grades are fairly tame, until hairpin/checkpoint at 25km, double left over bridge, begin climbing, caution hairpin right! Clinging to the sidehill above Trout Creek, where the old railroad, turned Trans Canada Trail, now follows the narrow canyon. On top of a plateau now, speeds increase to 68 (checkpoint) then ease down into Summerland for the transit through Penticton .
The "Carmi Avenue Hillclimb" takes the rally up to the "view lots" overlooking Penticton and Okanagan Lake . Beaver Dell Road (spelling trap?) finishes the transit at gravel. The 51km OK Falls Regularity rises gradually at 65 to 70 km/h to an Acute Right onto Okanagan Falls FSR. The wide mainline between OK Falls and Big White is graded for trucks -- trucks that talk to each other coming into the blind corners on the backside of Mt Christie, headed to and from the mill. We mostly don't have that insider information. Once the downhill hairpins are under you, with sheer ice under the snow, you may be on your own... your mileage may vary! Exposure!! This year's OK Falls downhill was reported as "pretty extreme!" but only had one light "off" (unfortunately right before a checkpoint). By this time the rally was down to 28 cars.
A quick pass through Penticton again for gas and grub, then up Carmi Avenue to the same cattleguard Start. Idabel Regularity repeats the first 14.54km, then left onto Okanagan Falls FSR. Speed 72km/h on ankle deep snow. It's dark now, and snowing lightly. Fog is just at the treetops. Narrow bridge, speed down to 68, checkpoint! We take up residence in a wide spot and wait for the first cars. Hmmm... ? Rallymaster should be here. First Car! On time. Four more, very much on time. Then a gap... Then Car 8 and Car 9 mostly right on. And... Nothing... Big gap. Eventually the Rallymaster is on the radio asking for a relay to the front of the pack who are now waiting to leave the next Regularity. We will have a delay. The choice of the first few cars going into the McCullough section without knowing it was open, was outweighed by waiting for a while. There had been a "civilian" wreck on course. No rally cars were involved but rally teams were the first responders. All those things you pack away in your car for BC winter rallies were thought about right then! Apparently the occupants were self medicated to the point they had no injuries. The RCMP would sort it out later -- the Rally Must Go On!!! Time allowances were granted for the remaining 23 cars and generally scores were fairly good.
The McCullough regroup was resolved and McCullough Regularity proceded as planned, 24km down through the trees, dropping through easy snowy esses, then tighter, hairpins, exposure, overlooking Kelowna , and into town for the Finish. Two checkpoints near the middle of the section kept crews engaged, although the first ten cars were still very tight.
Day one provisional scores saw a 13, a 14, a 17, and a 20. Day One covered 9hrs 40min and 507km (315mi) with 25 checkpoints.
Day Two left Kelowna under overcast skies and just above freezing temperatures. Twenty-nine cars took the restart. One made it just out of town when a wheel bearing ended their rally. Beaver Lake Regularity climbs lazily out of the valley, a gradual serpentine route, that with powder snow over ice has been a handful in past years. Traditionally at about 13.5km a turn into deeper snow brings on more challenges. At about 16km into the section a sharp right should have the rallymaster's name on it from 2005 (Paul's Creek?). In the past, the early checkpoint cars preceded the snowplow. At 39km "Caution! Hard R, uphill" at 60km/h -- if you were lucky, or very good. Then the downhill, a couple of tight corners (home of at least one VW Bug from year's past), a bit of exposure and done, out into the pastureland. One car would retire in the transit with a clutch failure.
The transit leads east to Lumby, then north into the 36km Trinity Valley Regularity . Speed 72km/h on snow-spected gravel, then slow to 65, uphill into acute left for photos at Robbie Burns Road , then back to 72 for 7km. Down to 65, then 60 for the big ranch and more houses overlooking Shuswap River valley. Pavement/checkpoint, then over Trinity Creek to end the section at Ashton Creek. Three checkpoints here, while the rest leap-frogged ahead through Salmon Arm to Tappen and off toward Skimikin Lake ahead of the rally.
Turtle Valley Regularity covered five controls in 63km. The first checkpoint at 8.12 marks a turn-off for alternate roads to Falkland . Teams were wary, looking for the checkpoints for another 36km. At 15.41 bear left toward Chase Creek . 2km later this became Turtle Valley Road at 70km/h. Slow only briefly to 52 then 70 again to Chase-Falkland. 72 now on the main road, slowing to 65 for the twisty bits, China Creek option re-enters on the left. Then turning off at the Chase Creek bridge just before Pillar Lake (named for the basalt pillars just east of here -- which none of us have ever seen due to being on a rally, not sight-seeing). Slow speed checkpoint here, then back onto Paxton Valley , deny the Martin Valley/Duck Range options from past years and head for Falkland following Bolean Creek -- 7km at 50km/h which was a handful! Quiet for the ranch then up gradually to 55km/h. 3km to end of section -- whew! -- only 6km into Falkland and the break.
Checkpoint crews from Trinity were ahead of the rally here, with ample time to spare. Some crews from Turtle Valley were able to get ahead by bypassing the break. The Transit followed 97North to the pioneer community of Westwold and into the woods along the Salmon River . Douglas Lake Regularity was the last chance to get points. 7km of paved, then wet gravel, turning to patched snow and ice, turning to snow over ice -- especially at the bridges. Speeds 72, 60, and 55km/h. At 20km, uphill casual muddy twists out of the canyon in sunlight, then Acute Right off the main road, checkpoint, more uphill, less traction, more snow -- three turns in just over 2km (with checkpoint) then up to 55km/h. 2km later, rejoining the Douglas Lake road, up to 65km/h. Sunglare, wet, thin muddy layers in the copper-colored gravel. Opening up now out of the trees into the pasture land. Cattleguard/checkpoint, speed now 72km/h. As the checkpoints convoyed out I noted that the cars trailing had headlights on, but that the glow diminished with each kilometer traveled. Dirt covered everything, where in past years this section would be waist-deep snowbanks and head-high drifts. Past the Guest Ranch at Salmon Lake , pavement, slow through the cattle pens, under the watchful eyes of the cowboys on horseback -- after watchful eyes of five checkpoints in 53km. End of section at the ranch airstrip, with photo-op for many.
The closing transit was down the hill into the main Douglas Ranch, through the villiage with more horsemen, deny the Minnie Lakes/Pennask option, down off the plateau to Highway 5A and along Nicola Lake into Merritt.
Day Two covered 7hrs 40 min and 367km (228mi) with 18 checkpoints. Total for Thunderbird 2010 was 874.25km (542.91miles). 26 finishers in 17hrs 20min of rallying.
Jeff McMillen and Marvin Crippen ( Seattle area) for 1st Unlimited/Overall with 16 .
Second to Marinus and Renee Damm ( Portland area) with 17 . Team AFRICA !
Third to Jason Webster and Brandon Harer (also Portland ) with 19 . Team AFRICA !
Fourth to Glenn Wallace (WA) and R.Dale Kraushaar (AZ) with 23 .
(the same four teams from Day One with a slightly different order)
First Calculator to BC's own Kevin Aartsen and Patrick Rinke with 120.
Second Calculator to Albertans Lyall Champ and Ian Basford with 159.
First Historic to BC's Ryan Oliver and Jack Bensley 1970 Volvo with 152. Team AFRICA !
First Paper (Seat of Pants) to Steve Perret (WA) and Kathryn Hansen (WA) with 166.
First Novice to BC's Alex Kouzmin and Stan Kouzmine with a very respectable 318 contributing to a team win for Team A.F.R.I.C.A.! with a factored 1.06 over the Arctic Challengers with 1.85; Team Rainier Global Extreme with 4.79; Scuderia Hysteria with 18.97 (one DNF); and Team Rainier Group Deluxe with 31.95 (again including a DNF).
Complete Thunderbird results, photos, history, and more at www.rallybc.com
For more rally news see www.tsdroadrally.com and www.rainierautosports.com