Road Rally

by William Eric McFadden

Quick Jump: 1984-1990 | 2021-present

1984-1990

I was introduced to the world of road rally about 19841, while I was a student at the Ohio State University and a member of (and later Vice-President of, and finally President of) the OSU Sports Car Club (OSUSCC), through that club's winter rally series. This rally series featured monthly Time-Speed-Distance (TSD) "tulip" rallies on paved public roads at safe and legal speeds. My navigator for these events and for most subsequent events during this period was my good friend John Engle. During my association with the OSUSCC, John and I rallied first in my 1976 Volkswagen Rabbit and, later, in my 1979 Subaru BRAT. John and I later participated in the Chillicothe series of tulip rallies and the Ohio Valley Region Sports Car Club of America (OVR-SCCA) and Central Ohio Rally Club (CORC) summer series of Saturday-night, non-tulip, rallies.

John and I liked rally enough that we started competing in the now-long-gone Ohio Rally Championship (ORC)2 series of European-style brisk TSD events in the 1984 AMC/Renault Encore (Renault 11) which had replaced both the Rabbit and the BRAT3. ORC events were 100 to 200 miles in length, were typically run at night and on gravel roads, and called for brisk-yet-legal speeds. We had the most success while competing in Class B, in which rally odometers were allowed but not integrating computers, but we also competed in Class A, in which integrating computers were allowed. Some of the ORC events we competed were Night Moves (Newark), Harvest Moon (Dayton), and Thunder Road4 (Chillicothe). Eventually, John and I were rallymasters of our own ORC event, Land of Legend (Newark/Coshocton), under the auspices of the OSUSCC, for several years.

A water-crossing in an ORC event in 1986
A water-crossing in an ORC event in 1986

In 1984, the OSUSCC provided stage crews for Tulip 200 Forest Rally. (Or, it might have been the Sunriser 400 Forest Rally.) John and I found ourselves serving as amateur radio equipped corner-marshals and were introduced to as-fast-as-you-can-drive-at-night-on-closed-gravel-roads stage rally, and I liked what I saw. I went on to serve as stage-captain for the Sunriser 400 Forest Rallies in 1986 and 1987, with OSUSCC club members manning all the positions in those stages. (Both the Tulip 200 Forest Rally and the Sunriser 400 Forest Rally were organized by Richard Paddock, whom we lost in 2015. Dick had been a pillar in the Ohio rally community and is sorely missed.)

(John went so far as to actually compete in SCCA Pro Rally as a co-driver, with Roland Hahn in a Dodge Colt in the 1985 Sunriser 400 Forest Rally, and with Dave Rupp in a Datsun 510 in the 1986 Tulip 200 Forest Rally and the 1986 Sunriser 400 Forest Rally. I was part of the Hahn/Engle service-crew during the 1985 Sunriser Forest Rally.)

My graduation in 1987 from Ohio State University—and the subsequent start of gainful employment— enabled me to start improving the 64hp Renault Encore (Renault 11) for competition in ORC rallying. In its final form, the rally car featured the following:

Suspension and drivertrain:

  • Renault Cup front sway bar
  • Renault Cup rear sway bar
  • heavy duty front coil springs
  • Renault Cup rear torsion bars
  • Renault GTA front disk brake calipers and ventilated rotors; high-performance brake fluid
  • Renault Cup Momo alloy 13" wheels (two sets) and stock 13" steel wheels (lots of sets)
  • Kleber V15 snow tires for gravel; General XP2000H and Eagle GT tires for pavement
  • K&N free-flow air-filter
  • free flow exhaust with a SuperTrapp muffler and no catalytic converter
  • 75-amp alternator

Cockpit:

  • Renault Cup 6-point roll cage, with custom designed rear shock tower brace
  • Flo-Fit driver's seat
  • Recaro co-driver's seat (John had more money to spend than I did)
  • five-point racing harnesses for driver and co-driver
  • Renault Cup Momo steering wheel
  • Renault Alliance GS instrument cluster with tachometer
  • Osram Co-Pilot navigator lamp
  • Zeron 800 TSD dual-odometer/clock or Alfa rally computer; rear-wheel magnetic pickup
  • modified spare-tire well to accommodate and secure two spare wheels/tires.
  • fire extinguisher, highway triangles and flares, tow strap
  • ICOM IC-27A Amateur Radio 2-meter transceiver

Lighting:

  • Hella conversion headlights with 80 watt low beams (x2) and 100 watt high beams (x4)
  • Two Hella Rally 2000 driving lamps with 100-watt bulbs
  • Hella 7" round 100-watt back-up lamp

All the Renault Cup components were purchased second-hand from former Renault Cup racers Gary Scheeff and Carl Holbrook.

With the addition of the roll cage and other safety equipment, the Encore rally car and my amateur radio license together opened the door to my participation in the Sunriser 400 Forest Rally as the fast-sweep Course Closing Vehicle (Car 99) in 1988, 1989, and 1990, and as Course Fast Open Vehicle (Car 0) in 19915. Car 99 and Car 0 both required that the course be driven at or near competition speed, so I was able to have the stage rally experience without having to pay the very large entry fee or to hold an SCCA competition license. Sometime during this period, John and I were also able to take advantage of an opportunity to work at a start-control and as marshals at a water-crossing in the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Sunriser 400 Forest Rally 1990 Yochtangee Park Stage 'Yump'
Sunriser 400 Forest Rally 1990
Yochtangee Park Yump
6

A muddy, sweeping turn at Sunriser 400 Forest Rally 1990
A muddy, sweeping turn at
Sunriser 400 Forest Rally 19906

The modifications I made to the Encore to turn it into a real rally car inevitably forced me to buy a second car to use as a daily driver, and this car turned out to be a sporty 2.0-litre 1987 AMC/Renault GTA coupe7. John and I competed in some of the OVR SCCA and CORC Saturday night events in Class B in the GTA using the Zeron 800 TSD odometer without an odometer wheel-sensor, as a 100th-reading clock. The GTA remained essentially stock except I installed an ICOM IC-27A 2-meter transceiver, swapped the factory Marchal fog lamps for Hella 180 driving lights fitted with 100-watt bulbs, and swapped the two small rectangular sealed-beam headlamps for Hella conversion headlamps fitted with 60/100-watt H4 bulbs.

However, all things end. In 1990, I left central Ohio for a job at the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine in southeastern Ohio and then found myself suddenly deployed with the Ohio Air National Guard's 160th Air Refueling Group to Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, although I was able to participate in the Sunriser 400 Forest Rally in 19915. After the war, I married in 1992, a son arrived in 1994, and a daughter arrived in 1995. With no rally community in southeastern Ohio, I found myself no longer a part of the world of road rally.




2021-Present

The decade of the 2020s finds me returning to the world of rally.

Beginning in 2021, my now-adult son Miles and I have been regularly participating in the CORC summer series of non-tulip Saturday-night TSD rallies in central Ohio, usually with me as driver in my mostly-stock 2018 Honda Fit8, but occasionally with Miles as driver in his more heavily modified 2016 Subaru Impreza.

Date CORC Rally Position in Class Driver Co-Driver Car
2023-09-16 No Frills Rally
(Jim DePaul / Nancy Russell)
2nd in Stock Eric Miles Honda Fit
2023-08-26 Roundabout the Corn Rally
(Eagan Foster / Craig Wright)
1st in Stock /
1st Overall
Eric Miles Honda Fit






2022-10-08 The Ts are the Key
(Dave Bruce)
1st in Equipped /
2nd Overall
Eric Miles Honda Fit
2022-08-27 Here We Go Again Only A Bit Different
(Craig Wright / Pat Hoffmanbeck)
1st in Stock /
2nd Overall
Eric Miles Honda Fit
2022-07-23 Rally to the Seven Hills
(Barb Crockett / Dave Bruce)
3rd in Stock Eric Miles Honda Fit
2022-06-18 The Longest Day
(Janis Ford / Dave Sellers)
1st in Stock /
1st Overall
Eric Miles Honda Fit






2021-10-23 Fall Coloratura
(Janis Ford / Dave Sellers)
2nd in Stock Miles Eric Subaru Impreza
2021-09-25 Head for the Hills
(Dave Bruce / Barb Crockett)
2nd in Stock Eric Miles Honda Fit
2021-08-28 Been There... Done That... Different Way...
(Craig Wright / Eagan Foster)
2nd in Stock Eric Miles Honda Fit
2021-07-31 CORC Richta Test Rally 3rd in Stock Eric Miles Honda Fit

At one of six covered bridges during the CORC 'The Longest Day' rally
Miles and me in the Honda Fit at one of six covered
bridges encountered during CORC's The Longest
Day
on June 18, 2022; photo by Dave Sellers

Technology has not stood still, and I've found that TSD rally has changed dramatically since the 1980s. The biggest change I've discovered through my participation in the CORC events is that manned checkpoints have been (mostly) replaced with a smartphone app called Richta Competitor, and where Saturday night TSD rallies in the 1980s might have had six or seven checkpoints over sixty or seventy miles, with the Richta app, rallies of a similar length can now have fifteen, twenty, or even more checkpoints, with less work on the rallymaster's part and no volunteers needed to man checkpoints.

Miles and I have participated most often in the CORC events in the "Stock" class, in which auxiliary odometers are forbidden, but we have dabbled in the "Equipped" class using the Richta Simple Rally Computer smartphone app that uses the phone's GPS to track distance driven. (It is nice to be able to try out competing as "Equipped" without having to spend a thousand dollars or more for a dedicated TSD rally computer and installing a wheel sensor in the car.)

During the CORC 'The No Frills Rally'
Miles and me in the Honda Fit arriving at the
mid-rally break during The No Frills Rally on
September 16, 2023; photo by Jim DePaul

I have gotten involved again in stage rally, too, and have introduced Miles to stage rally, through participation as Amateur Radio communicators at Southern Ohio Forest Rally (SOFR) in Ohio and Boone Forest Rally (BFR) in Kentucky.

Date Event Position
2023-09-23 BFR 2023 radio, start control, The Anderson 2 (Daniel Boone National Forest)
2023-09-23 BFR 2023 radio, start control, The Anderson 1 (Daniel Boone National Forest)
2023-09-22 BFR 2023 radio, finish control, Shakedown practice stage (Daniel Boone National Forest)



2023-06-10 SOFR 2023 radio, marshal point, Bolster Hollow 2 (Zaleski State Forest)
2023-06-10 SOFR 2023 radio, marshal point, Bolster Hollow 1 (Zaleski State Forest)
2023-06-09 SOFR 2023 radio, marshal point, Saddle Up 2 (Shawnee State Forest)
2023-06-09 SOFR 2023 radio, marshal point, Saddle Up 1 (Shawnee State Forest)



2022-06-11 SOFR 2022 radio, marshal point, Bolster Hollow 2 (Zaleski State Forest)
2022-06-11 SOFR 2022 radio, marshal point, Bolster Hollow 1 (Zaleski State Forest)




Footnotes:

[1] In reality, my earliest introduction to road rally was an episode of McMillan and Wife in which the titular characters participate in a road rally featuring classic sports cars. IMDB tells me this episode was entitled "Downshift to Danger" and that it aired in September of 1974, which means that I was 11 years old when I saw it. I remember that I didn't get to watch the whole episode because a hot air balloon passed by our house—an unusual occurrence, to say the least, and quite exciting for an 11-year-old—and we all left the TV to chase the balloon to its landing about a mile north of our house. I also remember being disappointed that I didn't get to see the entire episode with the cool, classic sports cars and the road rally.

[2] A bit of history: Randy Graves has made available an archive of the ORC 1980 Regulations and a 1982 article by T.S. Drake about ORC; scroll to the bottom of the gallery for the latter.

[3] Actually, John and I competed in what I remember as being an ORC event near Mansfield in the Subaru BRAT. I cannot be sure of the name of the event—research indicates it might have been "Mohawk"—but I can remember that we did not finish the event because I laid the BRAT on its co-driver side on a tight left-hand turn. This was probably our first ORC event, and it would have been while I still was an OSU student and prior to my acquisition of the Encore and its subsequent refitting as a dedicated rally car.

[4] It's quite possible I might have the name "Thunder Road" wrong.

[5] Online research indicates that Sunriser 400 Forest Rally wasn't held in 1991. It's very likely it was Thunder Ridge Divisional Pro Rally in which I drove as Course Fast Open Vehicle (Car 0) in 1991. I have photographic proof, in the published Sunriser 400 Forest Rally 1990 results document (scan), that I drove as fast-sweep Course Closing Vehicle (Car 99) in that year, and I know I drove as Course Fast Open Vehicle (Car 0) in 1991 somewhere.

[6] I think these photos were actually taken by Jim DePaul. If this is, in fact, the case, the photos should be marked "Copyright 1990 Jim DePaul".

[7] Read about the Renault GTA: Hot Rod magazine review | Renault GTA brochure at Hemmings.

[8] The most significant changes I've made to the Fit in terms of performance are the replacement of the Toyo Extensa HP II 185/55R16 83V tires on the factory 6"-wide alloy wheels with Kumho Ecsta PA51 205/50R16 87V tires on MSW by OZ 7"-wide alloy wheels and the replacement of the factory paper air filter with a K&N replacement air filter.