WCRA website promoting Stage and TSD Rally Sport in British Columbia
The History of the Thunderbird Rally
UBC Sports Car Club and West Coast Rally Associaton
Thunderbird (no relation to Ford, but rather one of the mascots of the University of British Columbia) has been the premier winter driver's rally in B.C. since its inception in 1957. From the mid 60's to the early 70's, it was part of the Canadian Rally Championship, until the format of that series changed from TSD (Time Speed Distance) to stage (performance) events. It was resurrected by the UBC Sports Car Club in its original format in 1987, by a couple of guys who had never entered the event, and had only just lost their novice status that year. Since then, both organizers and competitors have been leaving car-shaped indentations in snowbanks from Tulameen to Okanagan Falls to Christian Valley to Robbins Range to Tranquille to Green Lake to Beaver Valley... you get the picture. Yes, some of us stay on the road, even for an entire event at a time, but then some make use of the sweep truck more than once in a single section.
Tales of TBirds Past
Canadian Rally Championship Events
Winning Year First Place Overall Team Vehicle
1957 No Records  
1958 No Records  
1959 M Proctor / D Halliday ?
1961 B Collins / B Mansfield VW
1962 D Titmus / J Neilson VW
1963 Tom Burgess / William Fane MGA
1964 B Dunwoodie / J O'Dwyer VW
1965 B Dunwoodie / J O'Dwyer VW
1966 B Dunwoodie / J O'Dwyer VW
1967 B Wilson / A Robitaille Citroen
1968 tie: S Somerville / R Cook
tie: Jim Bowie / Tom Burgess
1969 Rudi von Hertzberg / Wolf Bergelt VW
1970 B Owen / M Hunter VW
1971 Tom Burgess / Jim Bowie Datsun
1972 tie: Taisto Heinonen / Seppo Arvonen
tie: C Hall / Larry Richardson
Ford Anglia
1973 Lauri Paivarinta / Seppo Arvonen Renault Gordini
Missing years 1974 to 1986
BC Regional TSD Championship Events
Winning Year First Place Overall Team Vehicle
1987 Gary Reid / John Reinertson VW Rabbit GTi
1989 Jay Kingsley / Shirley Tracey Plymouth Arrow
1990 Derik Steel / Blake McGuffie Skoda GLS 120
1991 Gary Reid / John Nispel / Steve Richards VW Rabbit GTi
1992 Derik Steel / Blake McGuffie Subaru GL
1993 Peter Hill / Walt Peterson Mazda 323 GTX
1994 tie: Satch Carlson / Russ Kraushaar
tie: John Fouse / Dennis Wende
BMW 325ix
Subaru Legacy Turbo
1995 John Fouse / Dennis Wende Subaru Legacy Turbo
1996 Gary Webb / Satch Carlson BMW 325ix
1997 Peter Linde / Satch Carlson Audi Coupe Quattro
1998 Peter Hill / Shawn Bishop Eagle Talon TSi
1999 Peter Hill / Shawn Bishop Eagle Talon TSi
2000 John Nispel / Mark Nolte Toyota Celica AllTrac
2001 Gary Webb / John Kisela Subaru Legacy
2002 Roy Lima / Andrew Dobric Subaru Legacy Turbo
2003 Lee Sorenson / Rod Sorenson Subaru Impreza
2004 Glenn Wallace / Greg Hightower Subaru Impreza STi
2005 Glenn Wallace / Miller Dumaoal Subaru Impreza STi
2006 Peter Hill / Geoff Hill Subaru Impreza WRX
2007 Satch Carlson / Russ Kraushaar Saab Sonett II V4
2008 Jason Webster / Brandon Harer Subaru Impreza STi
2009 Satch Carlson / Russ Kraushaar Saab Sonett II V4
2010 Jeff McMillen / Marvin Crippen Subaru WRX
2011 tie: Larry LeFebvre / Brandon Harer
tie: G Wallace / R D Kraushaar
BMW 325 IX
Subaru Forester XT
2012 Satch Carlson / Russ Kraushaar Saab Sonett II V4
2013 Marinus Damm / Renee Damm BMW 325iX
2014 Jason Webster / Brandon Harer Subaru WRX STi
2015 Jim Bowie / Tom Burgess Subaru 555 Sti
2016 Alex Kouzmin / Yulia Smolyansky Toyota Celica Alltrac
2017 Paul Eklund / Yulia Smolyansky Subaru Forester
2018 Marinus Damm / Renee Damm BMW 325iX
2019 Garth Ankeny / Russ Kraushaar Ford Cortina
2020 Paul Eklund / Yulia Smolyansky Subaru Forester
2023 Bill Walsh / Marvin Crippen Mazda Protege
Route layout was by Bob McQuarrie and Fraser Arkley with the overnight stop at the Adventure Bay Resort at Vernon. Most cars did not arrive until around 10pm and one car that got lost on Douglas Lake Road did not arrive until the next morning. On the second day the route went home via Westside Rd. Carmi-Beaverdell and Richter pass. Tom Burgess and Bill Fane won in an MGA.
Laid out by Jim Lightfoot, Gary Cramm and Bill Aylsworth, with the overnight stop at the Whistler Motor Hotel in Kamloops.
Jim Lightfoot and Pierce Isaacs handled layout and for the first time the rally had Regional Championship status. The overnight stop was at the Stockmen's Hotel, Kamloops (You can still see the footprints on the ceiling.) The route included Fountain Valley, Lillooet, Hat Creek, Douglas Lake, Mammette Lake and Highland Valley. One of the best TBirds on record - the tradition of high averages and easy navigation excellently maintained.
Layout again by Jim Lightfoot and Pierce Isaacs, overnight stop again at Stockmen's Hotel, Kamloops. National and Regional status. The route included Tulameen, Mammette Lake, Lac Le Jeune, Paul Lake, Pillar Lake. A heavy snow forced cancellation of the Osprey Lake leg but a good time was had by all.
Layout was the brainchild of Mike Hunter and Don Munro. Thirty-two cars set out Friday night from Vancouver after being flagged off by the minister of highways, "Flying" Phil Gaglardi. The Osprey Lake leg gave everyone a few points but things got a little easier as the route included Apex Road, Carmi-Beaverdell, East Kelowna Road, Trinity Valley, Grandview Bench, Turtle Valley, Pillar Lake, Duck Range, Tod Mountain, Louis Creek, Bridge Lake (plowed and sanded even) and Highland Valley. The overnight stop was at Stockmen's Hotel in Kamloops and the weather conditions were excellent. Wilson and Robitaille battled Dunwoodie and O'Dwyer most of the way and finally succeeded in winning with seven points. Sports Car Graphic (April 1967) testified to the sucess of one of the best yet Thunderbirds on record. Twenty-seven cars managed to finish.
Don Munro, Bob Owen and Mike Hunter laid out the toughest, fastest, coldest Thunderbird yet. Temperatures dropped to nearly 30 below zero as 35 cars headed up the Tulameen Road and across the Douglas Lake plateau during the first night. The roads were glare ice and the retirements began early. The second day's run through the snowless Okanagan was considerably easier, and the Somerville/Cook V.W. and the Bowie/Burgess Cortina both zeroed all but four of the 51 time controls, finishing in a tie with 5 points apiece.
Under the watchful eyes of rallymaster Mike Hunter, 32 crews started simultaneously on the Friday night from UBC, Salmon Arm and Trail. Scarred snow-banks and burning flares traced the route through Hedley, Twin Lakes, Creighton Valley, to the Saturday night stop at Stockmen's Hotel, Kamloops. Sunday it was the trip back to the finish at the Pinewoods Lodge in Manning Park via the drifts of the North Thompson, Douglas Lake Road and Tulameen. 28 cars finished led by the ever-consistent Rudi von Hertzberg/Wolf Bergelt team in their VW. In second place came Tom Burgess and Jim Bowie, who had tied for first place the year before. In sixth place was Craig Sanderson, who organized Thunderbird 70 and won the historic class in 93 with Wolf Bergelt, and in eighth place was Walt Peterson, who won overall with Peter Hill in 1993.
Route changes, blocked roads and many delays were the highlighs of this, the last of the 'old' Thunderbirds. 46 cars started, flagged off by Vancouver's deputy mayor, Dr. Bill Gibson. Osprey Lakes claimed two victims including Sven Halle who drove his 240Z straight on at tree. The first part of the event had no snow at all, but as the cars headed into Paxton Valley, it began to snow heavily, four to six inches falling on the that section, as the cars headed through Robbin's Range and Barnhartvale to the finish of leg one in Kamloops. During the layover, it continued to snow, forcing the organizers to increase ET's and cancel some sections. In the end, this national championship event was won by Lauri Paivarinta and Seppo Arvonen in their Gulf/Castrol Renault 4 Gordini, followed closely by Taisto Heinonen and Roger Woloshyn in another Renault Gordini. Some other notables: Randy Black and Tom Burgess finished tenth, in their Datsun 510. Rod Johnson and Jim Langstead, of Bellevue Washington DNF'ed due to max lateness in their Subaru GL coupe, the same car which Rod brought back for the 1987 event. Jerry Hines also DNF'ed, as did Bob Chandler. Of 46 starters, 33 made it to the finish, but only 22 were classified as finishers.
This was the first of the 'modern' Thunderbirds. The route used some traditional Thunderbird roads including Osprey Lakes, Okanagan Falls to McCulloch on the first day. The overnight stop was Kelowna, from where it went over the construction access roads for what is now highway 97C, then down Otter Valley to Princeton, finishing up with a tour of Chilliwack bench. The speeds were more relaxed than Thunderbirds before or since, but still challenging enough to get a few crews stuck. The main drama of the weekend came when a mileage error in the instructions sent the GTi of Gary Reid and John Reinertson and the Corolla of Bob Trinder and John Moody down a skidder track on Chilliwack Bench. Much time and frustration later, everyone was safely back up to the road, and the locals had a good laugh at why anyone would take a couple of family hatchbacks down a skidder track. Luckily for Gary, this was after the final control, and he nevertheless won the rally.
The weather conspired to make this the most challenging yet of the modern Thunderbirds. Even highway 1 through the Fraser valley was moderately challenging! By half way through Otter Valley, every car was at least a few minutes late, and by the end of that section, Jay Kingsley and Shirley Tracey were 30 minutes late, a full 30 minutes ahead of the next car. The remainder of day 1 was effectively scrapped, and the field regrouped in Kamloops. Day 2 was kinder, but not by much. Tranquille, up to Red Lake was very icy in places, particularly at the exposures, and nearly claimed the course opening car. Kingsley and Tracey had a minor difference of opinion with a tree on Deadman Cache Creek road, losing three minutes and a few Hella Rally 2000's, but not enough to stop them finishing first overall with 1260 points over 10 controls. Yes, that is over 2 minutes per control!
The introduction of historic class helped bring in the widest yet field of entries of the modern Thunderbirds, including past organizer Craig Sanderson, and 1969 victor Wolf Bergelt, in their 1965 Beetle, who won the historic class. The route covered Tulameen, Tillery Road-Kane Valley, Goose Lake, Robbins Range and Pinantan Lake, to the overnight stop at the Dome in Kamloops. Day 2 took us north to Heffley-Louis Creek Road, then down Westsyde road, over Criss Creek and Deadman-Cache Creek road to the finish in Cache Creek (or Crash Creek, as some now call it.) Peter Hill and Walt Peterson drove very consistently, picking up only 35 points over 26 controls, to finish just 2 points ahead of Satch Carlson and Dennis Gunn.
Another brilliantly clear, cold, dry season saw ice and packed snow over much of the route, with very little deep stuff, giving gloomey credence to muttered rumors of Global Warming. To "road test" Seattle BMW owner Steve Norman's BMW 325iX, Satch Carlson and Russ Kraushaar BORROWED the car (!) and brought it north. Their eventual winning score was actually the same as that of John Fouse and Dennis Wende in their Subaru---37 points after two days---but on the third or fourth round of tie-breaking analysis, the nod went to Carlson/Kraushaar. The pair also set a new record for bar tabs at the Kamloops Igloo---over $300 US---which may have had something to do with Carlson's going on the wagon later that season.
Warm weather made this the muddiest TBird in years. 24 crews started the first day from Merritt, into the mud on Kane Valley and Tillery Road. Nearly half of the crews had difficulty in this first section, most coming to rest un-damaged in the snow-banks and ditches. A slide near the end of Otter Valley forced the rally to be re-routed and the second leg (Princeton to Penticton) cancelled. The rally regrouped in Penticton and continued into the icy darkness atop the Okanagan Highland, past Idabel Lake and McCulloch before reaching Kelowna for the overnight stop. 21 of the crews started day 2, back up through McCulloch before an endurance test: a 106 km section heading up Trapping Creek, over the pass to Christian Valley and up to the Monashee Pass. The roads here were icy and rutted, sending many crews into snowbanks. Our stalwart sweep crew, John and Linda Mawhinney, helped several crews get back onto the road, some more than once in this section alone. On the descent into Christian Valley, the Amazing Technicolor Dream-Rabbit of Jonathan Blunt and Jason Coakley, which had made a rapid recovery from having been rolled the previous weekend, stuffed it backwards in the ice. By the last control before Monashee Pass, the cars were arriving in every which order, none of them less than a minute late. From there, the rally continued north through Creighton Valley and Trinity Valley. By the time the rally reached Robbins Range, a traditional TBird road, we were back into the mud, and the slippery conditions gave most of the crews difficulty. Not Fouse and Wende, however: they came through without penalty to retain their lead and win the rally. Nispel and Storer drowned their electricals in Robbins Range, losing 2 minutes and dropping to third overall, but still retained their calculator class win. Roy and Grace Lima stayed reasonably clean, to take second overall and win the novice class. The Welland and Passmore Alfa lost over a minute, to drop to fifth overall, but retained their historic class win.

We headed north in search of colder weather and more snow. 21 crews started from Cache Creek, around Battle Creek, then up to Dog Creek. It may have been bitterly cold one week before, but by rally day, the Chilcotin had gained about 20 degrees and was above freezing, producing mud and ice all along the first two regularities. Dog creek was especially icy, leading one crew to ask if the course opening vehicle had been a Zamboni. In some places, long sheets of ice extended all the way from one corner to the next. Derek Steel and Blake McGuffie, who won the event in 1990, had a flat tire which upset their odometer. After fixing the tire, they were making up time and missed the "Caution! Exp L!" instruction and chose that place to leave the road, touching down some 30 feet down the bank, providing the only serious "off" of the event, and proving again the dichotomy of rallyists into those who have rolled and those who will. Others made use of ditches and banks to slow down, including Phil Wild and Brad Bodnaruk, who got marooned on the bank of an icy corner within sight of a control (and video...) The rest of the field slipped and slid their way through to the dinner break in Williams Lake.

After dinner, the rally went on into the night north of Williams Lake, around Spokin Lake, past Horsefly to Big Lake Ranch, then to McLeese Lake and down Soda Creek road back to Williams Lake. Now, at least, it was far enough north and high enough to get some snow and snowbanks! Steve Richards, had broken his glasses in Dog Creek, and had been relying on prescription sunglasses. These became useless in the dark, leaving him largely blind through the rest of the day.

 The next morning, the rally headed back to Spokin Lake and around Rail Lake to Lac La Hache. Several crews came through the entire section without penalty, leaving Fouse and Wende in the lead, with Webb and Carlson just edging ahead of Hill and Schaffer. Richards and Reid held on to their 4th position ahead of Nispel and Storer, and Wilson and Rapson held their historic class lead. This leg was notable for both a control crew and car 13 getting well stuffed into snow banks.

 The final leg went around Green Lake and Bridge Lake, before heading to a marathon section connecting Chasm to Deadman Vidette road and back around to Cache Creek. The snowbanks in the loops around Bridge Lake drew several cars into their cold clutches, including the Leppanens, who had the good sense to stuff it exactly where the pre-run crew had (only deeper!) Everyone got out, but lost a lot of time. The last regularity proved quite a challenge, including a long section of deep snow which had not been ploughed since the pre-run. Mark Ward and David Lough were lucky enough to stuff into a snowbank just past the last scored control, in the middle of the deep section, and most of the other cars caught loads of late penalties through here. Gary Webb and Satch Carlson, however, managed to take only 8 points there to move up to first place and win the rally. This last section also re-arranged the calculator class, with Nispel and Storer moving up to third overall and winning their class, ahead of Richards and Reid. The deep snow slowed Wilson and Rapson's Porsche (ground clearance, anyone?), dropping them behind the Saab of Tennis and Millman. Eddy Lai and Cory Tse, in car 20, drove consistently all weekend to finish 10th overall and win the novice class.

It was a cold but relatively dry TBird this year, with no new snow on the route during the two weeks before the event. This left some of the sections bare gravel, instead of snow, and many others more icy than snowy.

 After a short, but heavily checkpointed (7 CPs in 20 km) loop around Battle Creek, the rally headed up to Green Lake, where we did have good snow cover, and a few car-shaped indentations in snowbanks! Dean Kokko and Rod Kraushaar, of Portland Oregon, managed to get their Mazda 323 GTX backwards and on top of the outside snowbank in one icy left-hander, losing over 10 minutes and one driving light in the process, moving them from 6th place to 24th. From there, we headed up to Canim Lake, and to the dinner stop in 100 Mile House.

 After dinner, we went through Spokin Lake, also well snow-covered and with high snowbanks. The middle part of this section was narrow and twisty enough to be likened to a luge track, and trapping a few teams.

 On the second day, Dog Creek had some very icy sections, with several cars spinning but not getting badly stuck. In the second half, the ignition points in Teresa Davenport's Saab Sonett broke, leaving her stranded until the sweep crew arrived. The lower half of this section was snowy enough to trap the Nispel/Storer Celica in a snowbank for a good while.

 Overall, it was a tight contest, with the Toyota Celica All-Trac of John Nispel and Ed Storer, the Audi Coupe Quattro of Peter Linde and Satch Carlson, and the Subaru Legacy of John Fouse and Dennis Wende running very close, never more than 5 points between them, until Sunday noon, when the Celica planted itself in a snowbank near Jesmond, losing over 10 minutes and dropping from third place to 20th. That left the Audi and the Subaru entering the last leg tied with 26 points. Peter "Sgt. Sideways" Linde managed to lose one second less than John Fouse on the twisty bits of Deadman-Cache Creek road, and squeeze out the win.

Not far behind the two "zero hero" unlimited crews, the amazing Toyota Starlet of Gary Reid and Steve Richards beat out Roy and Grace Lima for third overall and top calculator class team.

Six novice teams braved the journey this year, including several first-timers, including Grant Lindsay and Daryl Leiski, of Prince George BC, who won the novice class in their diesel VW Jetta, and managed a very creditable 10th overall.

 First of the five historic entries, and 5th overall, were Martin Wilson and John Rapson, in their Porsche 911S, who came second historic in 1996. Mike Welland and Gord Passmore, in their Volvo 122S, held a slight lead over the Porsche up to the day 1 dinner stop, but lost points in a section nicknamed "the luge run", and the Porsche led from there on. At one point, both of the Cortinas (Viskov/Malcom Muir, and Wilkinson/Matthews) missed a Bear Right instruction and turned down the wrong road within sight of eachother. Each realized their mistake about the same time and desperately tried to turn around and get back on route ahead of the other. This was the first event for the Cortina of Viskov and Muir, and it broke its alternator bracket three times on the way to the start. It's always something of a miracle that so many historics actually make it through.

 The reasons for the DNFs were as follows: Car 1, Gary Webb and John Kiesela, abandoned us after the first day, to the call of the North. Car 26, Pavel Vergera and Eva Villasenor, retired due to navigator distress, though Eva spent the second day navigating a checkpoint crew. Car 12, Teresa Davenport and Rusty Link, retired after the ignition points on the Saab broke. The Sonett was fixed and back on the road by about 7pm.
full results, photos, winners

 An early winter snow pack melted into mud and slush at the lower elevations, and re-froze into glare ice further up. From the start, down through Kentucky Lake, there was a mix of wet snow, slush and ice, sufficient to put a number of teams into the snow banks. The Thomlinsons, in their full-size Dodge pickup, car 35, slid off into the bank, only to be followed by their friends in the next vehicle, who managed not to land on top of them, but in the process, t-boned the bank and landed on the driver's door. (I thought that was the purpose of the navigator's door...) Much digging and winching later, they were both back on course, and both completed the event. On into Otter Valley, the mud and slush continued. One heartbreak retirement was Gary Reid and Steve Richards, in the MGB. They had spent the morning battling tire tube problems: it seems that the tubes were too big for the tires, folded over and rubbed to cause pinhole leaks. They managed to get a smaller tube installed just in time for the start, and made it through almost to the end of the Otter Valley when that same tire went flat. Having no confidence in their tires, not knowing when the others would fail the same way, and running on the non-studded spare, they decided it best to retire and drive home. Only the next day did he notice the nail sticking out of the tire - it wasn't a repeat of the tube problem after all. That MGB, incidentally, is one of only two cars that I am aware of that has competed in both pre-74 and post-86 Thunderbirds (Rod Johnson's Subaru being the other), and Gary is now the only person to have competed in every T-Bird since 87. Sorry to see him retire so early in the event. Another car to come to grief in Otter Valley was the Honda Accord of Neil Soros & Rick Leigh with alternator problems. Repairs were made in Coalmont (still within the regularity) by a local at the modest cost of one beer. (Only in Canada!!)

On into the second leg, the Peachland connector, things got a lot more icy, with several hills delaying competitors, and very little passing room between the snow banks to the delight of two local spectators. Mike Zaytsoff & Scott Allman's Tercel made it deep into the BC scenery on this regularity, giving the sweep crew much justification. The next section (Carr's Landing) was not scored due to control crews distributing corrections to the instructions.

 Aberdeen Lake found the rally encountering that most Canadian of artificial chicanes, the beloved Ski-Doo. One of the US entries, Jon Tabor & Brent Sainzak (Dodge Neon) almost made it around ... ho humm. A new door skin was installed later that month. No word on the health of the Ski-Doo. This regularity saw the BMW Bavaria of Bill Westhead & Alan Barnes managing yet again to evade the wrecking yard. It seems Bill went off in yon' snow bank (in front of a control!) but managed to dig himself out. Said hole was subsequently filled by the Plymouth Laser of Paul Epp & Will Granleese, missing the BMW by only a few moments. Timing is everything. Both of these stuffs were after the last control of the day & had no effect on scoring. Also beyond the last control the Celica All-Trac of Marc Wingert & Luke Wright lost oil pressure & was forced to retire.

 The day ended with food & lies at PJ Burger's with John Fouse & Dennis Wende in the lead, just one point ahead of Peter Hill & Shawn Bishop. Jim & Christy Breazeale were three points further back in 3rd position, one point ahead of Gary Webb & John Kisela. In 5th place at the end of the day, leading calculator class were Roy & Grace Lima. R. Dale Kraushaar & Larry Richardson were 6th, followed by historic class leaders Ted Wilkinson & Neil Prescott. Novice class was headed by Daryl Leiski & Grant Lindsay in 8th overall.

 Day two began, crisp and clear, back up through Aberdeen Lake - not that familiarity helps much in the opposite direction. The unlimited class zero heroes kept fairly clean through here, John Fouse & Dennis Wende stretching their lead to two points; Gary Webb & John Kisela moving up into 3rd place ahead of the Breazeales. Les Tuck and Mike Kennedy, car 27, had discovered that their odometer's sensor had melted the night before, and so were driving on the stock odometer. This led them to make a wrong turn in Aberdeen Lake, which they realized pretty quickly, however the road was too narrow to turn around in, so they were forced to go some distance before they could get back on route. Once back, they were trying to make up time, and had just caught up to and passed car 28, when they found themselves too hot in a tightening corner, tried to power through, but settled in the ditch. Instead of being only one minute down, they had to dig and push, finally getting the car free just as sweep arrived, to rejoin the event over 10 minutes down.

 When course opening came to the Falkland-China regularity, the Blank Creek fork was ditch to ditch glare ice, with a sheen of water trickling down. Just a trifle slippery, but a couple of hours of sun and 37 cars later, it was mud and slush like the rest of the route. One of the Tabor team cars got rather sideways at one control, while making up time (having stopped in search of a pharmacy - navigator's distress), barely missing the parked control car, and tagging the snow bank a few metres later. Loakin-Bear saw a few teams going off-course, but all recovered by the gas stop in Pritchard. By now, cars 5 and 6 were tied with 11 points each, with car 2 just three points back. Roy & Grace Lima were still leading calculator class, in 5th place overall, followed closely by the top novice team, Darryl Leiski & Grant Lindsay. The battle for historic class still saw Ted Wilkinson's Cortina in 9th overall, 12 points ahead of Martin Wilson & John Rapson in the Porsche 911T.

Duck Range, with the control at the hairpin, saw some spectacular driving from Howie Wong in the Porsche 356B, taking a rather outside line, up the bank and around, but making it nevertheless. John Fouse & Dennis Wende dropped 2 seconds, to put Peter Hill & Shawn Bishop into the lead. The final regularity, Douglas Lake, saw more deep mud and a spectacular water trap. None of this affected the order of the top 3 cars. Car 2 had a flat tire, dropping them from 4th overall to 20th, letting the top calculator class team of Roy & Grace Lima to move up to 4th. Car 7, R Dale Kraushaar & Larry Richardson, only took one point in Douglas Lake, leaving them in 5th overall, just one point ahead of the top novice team of Leiski and Lindsay, who were tied for 6th overall with Dean Kokko and Rod Kraushaar. Top historic class entry and 8th overall was the Cortina of Wilkinson & Prescott, 11 points ahead of the Porsche of Wilson & Rapson, who took 9th overall. 10th overall and second calculator class were Adrian Friesen and Paul Lesack, in their Honda Civic. Top paper class team (or is that Tabor class?) and 22nd overall were car 16, John Tabor and Brent Sainzak.


 It was obvious even before the start that this was going to be one of the toughest Thunderbirds in recent history. Near blizzard conditions on the Coquihalla highway, with the encroaching snowbanks having reduced it to one lane over the passes, meant that it was a bit of a challenge just to make it to the Merritt start. Many of the competitors were delayed several hours by an accident, because it took highways that long to plough a new path around the wreck! 39 crews made the start, making it the best attended TBird since 1973, with crews coming from various parts of BC, Alberta, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Maine.

 The first regularity is generally supposed to be a gentle introduction, a small gift to the drivers to let the navigators figure out which was is up. Fresh powder on the road ensured that it would not be so this year! Despite lower speeds than in the past, Kane Valley proved the undoing of many crews, with at least six planting their cars in the snowbanks. Most were extracted and got back on their way, but the Alfa of Bill Westhead and Alan Barnes retired due to what Tony Latham called "a typical Italian electrical problem: they hit a tree and knocked the top off the distributor." Aside from some bodywork, the car is OK, and they drove it home, vowing to return with more modern snow tires. The wierdest DNF in Kane Valley was the Porsche 911T of Martin Wilson and John Rapson. They buried it well enough in the snow that neither door would open, and had to climb out the windows. To do that, John handed his instruction-laden clipboard out the window and it got placed in the back of the checkpoint vehicle that had stopped to help them. Once they were extracted, off went the checkpointers, instructions and all. All that remained was for Martin and John to drive to Kelowna and start the festivities early. A few other crews also bypassed large sections of day 1, to get a head start on warming their bar stools.

On into Kentucky and Sunset, the deep snow continued to slow the cars down, up the junction where course opening found it got just too deep to continue. The crews were corralled, and sent back along a bypass route, losing one regularity in order to get back on schedule by Penticton. Into the dark, past Idabel lake, around the access road to Big White, back towards Kelowna on McCulloch road, and then a final loop up Aberdeen Lake and down to Winfield, we left all sorts and shapes of indentations in the snowbanks, and not all of them right side up. The novice crew of Taun Chapman and Kelly Watkinson (in Taun's wife's Audi Wagon) were gradually improving their scores, getting closer to ideal time until they misjudged a corner in Aberdeen, went through the snowbank and down the embankment, ending up not quite upside down, but definitely not right side up either. The crew got out and climbed up the 15 foot bank to the road to put out their triangle and wave at the remaining competitors. The next morning, the BCAA tow truck, along with a huge log bundler machine managed to get the car back to the road without further damage, and after cleaning the ice out of the distributor, they managed to fire it up and drive home, all of the glass still intact.

By the end of the first day, last year's winners, Peter Hill and Shawn Bishop, in their Eagle Talon were leading with 39 points, over a tie for second between Satch Carlson and Russ Kraushaar in the BMW 325ix, and John Fouse and Dennis Wende in the Subaru Legacy, with 53 points each. The traditional battle for historic between Ted Wilkinson's Cortina and Martin Wilson's Porsche was clearly off, but by the end of the first day, they clearly had new rivals: Byron Meston and Mark Ward, in the Datsun 510 (with those amazing skinny tires with the big studs) finished the day leading the class with 195 points, over Mark Viskov and Malcom Muir, in another Cortina, with 381. Ted Wilkinson and Neil Prescot were third in class with 410, just ahead of Mike Welland and Gord Passmore, in the BMW 2002 with 415, and Marcel Chichak and Rod Johnson in the Mini Cooper with 426. Calculator class saw Steve Brown and David Glassman, in the BMW 325ix, finish the day with a strong lead over Steve Richards and Gary Reid, in the Toyota Starlet, 194 points to 339, Scott Henderson and Mike Beyer bringing their RX7 in with 490 points. Paper class (or do I mean Tabor class?) was lead by Matt Tabor and Chirs Hale, in the brand new, hasn't even made the second payment on, Subaru Impreza 2.5RS, with 544 points. In Novice class, David and Matt Rennie, driving the Ford Explorer, finished the day well clear of their field, with 237 points, over Andrew Ralph and Matthew Powell, in the Mk I Cortina, who finished the day with 574.

 With all of the extraction work, sweep didn't make it to the hotel until after midnight, and suddenly an 8:30 start for day 2 looked very early. (Not to mention for the officials who were up until 4am fixing the scoring software and planning where to put the day 2 checkpoints.) By morning, we had a few retirements announced: The Saab Sonett of Teresa Davenport and Cheri Huntoon was having ignition problems and decided to head back, rather than risk the second day. The 53 Ford Zephyr of Howie Wong and Ken Nickel had lost a belt, and the Sunbeam Imp of Aart Van der Star and David Cohen retired with gearbox trouble. John Nispel and Ed Storer, in the Celica AllTrac, had a major stuff on Aberdeen - no damage, but with all of the earlier off's, they had to wait a long time for sweep, and decided not to run day 2.

Back up to Winfield, through Beaver Lake, we were again into loose powder snow, as the checkpoint scores show. Day 2 speeds seem to have been a little more acheivable, though, even leaving enough time for car 1 to turn around and take some photos of the ostrich farm at the end of Trinity Valley. If the regularities were more reasonable, the simple transit down highway 5A wasn't, as most crews found themselves in the midst of a blizzard, with enough wind to throw the Suzuki Swift of Dave Page and Wayne A'Court off the highway and down the hill. The car stayed upright and undamaged, but was too far off for sweep to recover, so a tow truck was called, and they made it home under their own power.

Just in case anyone thought that day 2 would be a breeze, the final regularity fixed that. 36 km/h proved rather difficult to maintain on such a narrow road, with the depth of snow and very little in the way of protective snow banks beween the road and the exposures. It was bad enough to require some crews to put on chains, and in an act of poetic justice, even drew the rallymaster (yours truly) into the ditch. It took a lot of pushing to get the first few 4 wheel drive cars up the last hill, and about half of the crews had to turn around and go back to the start of the regularity. Of course, on their way back, they were stopped by the extraction of Patrick Richard and Ian McCurdy's Subaru Impreza 2.5RS, which had made the 90 right some 50 metres before the road did, just in front of the only checkpoint in that section. In the end, with so many problems, the last regularity wasn't scored.

Finally winding into Merritt exhausted, Peter Hill and Shawn Bishop had maintained their lead, to finish with 56 points, over Satch Carlson and Russ Kraushaar with 61, and John Fouse and Dennis Wende with 74. Historic class was convincingly won by Byron Meston and Mark Ward, in their Datsun 510 with the super-narrow studded tires, with 257 points, good enough for 6th overall. Ted Wilkinson and Neil Prescott managed to regain second in historic class, bringing their Cortina in with 444 points, for 9th overall. In Novice class, David and Matt Rennie, driving the Ford Explorer, maintained their class lead, finishing 7th overall with 307 points, over Andrew Ralph and Matthew Powell, in the Mk I Cortina with 812. Steve Richards and Gary Reid won calculator class, in their Toyota Starlet, finishing a strong 8th overall with 399 points. A wrong turn in Duck Range dropped Steve Brown and David Glassman out of the lead for calculator class, still finishing second in class, though, ahead of Scott Henderson and Mike Beyer. In paper class, Matt Tabor and Chris Hale made the same wrong turn in Duck Range, but still managed to stay in front of the rest of the Tabor family to win the class, finishing 18th overall with 976 points.


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