RALLY IN THE MOUNTAIN MIST
Dirt flies through the sky on a hairpin turn as the sound of the engine's hum fills the heavy winter air. What follows is a perfect moment - the tail end gives way to momentum as the wheels contrast, creating that beautiful synergy symphony of physics dubbed "drifting". Dirt flies skyward as the WRX slides before catching traction to propel the driver and co-pilot forward again. Rallycross is a thing of beauty.
While getting the gear and seeing the newfound capability of a new endeavor is always exciting, it will always be more fun when we realize that potential through action. So on the eve of an impending blizzard and fog-filled Sunday morning in the depths of another legendary Montana winter, the SWAE team did just that - out before dawn to cross the mountains and enter our first rallycross event.
Arrival at this mecca of motorsports on the western side of Montana struck the team as having some unusual features. Unloading the car, the SWAE team noticed some raised jumps on the edge of the property. After some conversations, we discovered Travis Pastrana and Hoonigan had prepared here for their 2020 Gymkhana video in Annapolis, Maryland. The stunt involved a river channel jump that, if Travis didn’t execute precisely, would have put his WRX directly into the dining room of an elegant bistro on the other side. What better place to ensure this execution was done perfectly than an empty field in Nowhere, Montana?
This video is one the team had seen over and over, and at 56 million views, so have many others. So it was no surprise that many of our fellow racers that day were high profile personalities (some of which we are under strict instructions not to disclose). Prominent men and women in the state who love to drive beat-up Subarus to distant corners of Montana for a day of gasoline-fueled speed, adrenaline, and fun.
Kick in to High Gear
After viewing the track from afar, the excitement began to peak. After a few mods to tune the vehicle and many attempts at proper registration, we were finally ready to take the course. The team got the go-ahead and drove up to the start line. With the engine flaring, the flag dropped, and the amalgamation of speed and racing prowess flew off the line for its designed purpose. Banking corners and dropping into high gear on straightaways, the realization of this dream was an exhilaration even we may have underestimated.
Rallycross is a unique form of motorsport. With the clock being the only thing you race against on the track, it's just you, your co-pilot, the car, and a lot of dirt. While competition is still fierce, the camaraderie is potent, as opposed to when racers line their cars directly against one another. While SWAE may be new to the racing scene, many of our members have attended events as spectators for years. Getting onto the track is undoubtedly a dream come true.
The day's results had us tracking in the top 5, but we had to hit the road back home before the proverbial podium ceremony. The blizzard between the Flathead Valley and us was building to a dangerous size, and the goal was to get back before it got dark. The race had many adrenaline moments, but the drive back was the most life-threatening thing that happened all day. Despite all this, the SWAE team walked away with one fundamental question - when and where is the next race?