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Rallying around Routt

Drivers take to the rural roads of the county, racing against the clock in annual Cog Rally

Autumn Phillips

— The air smelled of dust and oil, and the excitement lasted no more than five minutes.

Cars pulled into the Hayden Speedway minutes away from the end of the Cog Rally race that started seven hours earlier.

The speedway is a dirt track surrounded by tires and weeds, hayfields and grazing land. It’s designed to take the abuse of the rowdy stock-car racers that use it all summer.

By the time the rally racers arrived, it was almost 5 p.m. It was quiet except for the sound of a truck stereo and a few chatting flaggers.

Rally racing is comparatively tame to other auto races.

Cars race the clock and instead of each other.

“It’s a lot more fun to be a part of than to watch,” former rally racer Trent Gilliard said. “There are a lot of one-car accidents, but the driver rarely gets hurt. It’s harder on the cars.”

Rally racing sounds like every country boy’s dream to drive down rural roads as fast as possible, dirt and rocks flying, and no one to stop you. But the same racers who speed for miles over backroads face heavy penalties if they break any traffic rules on main roads.

The race is broken into segments that are timed and added together at the end.

If the racer gets a speeding ticket between race intervals, he or she is immediately disqualified.

The cars in Saturday’s race were common economy cars a Dodge Colt, a Plymouth Neon, Mazdas and Subarus.

Each took five laps around the track. The exit to the Hayden Speedway is a steep downhill and the perfect opportunity, fans felt, to catch some big air.

As each car finished, the crowd chanted “big air!”

If the drivers didn’t launch themselves at least a foot off the ground, the audience booed.

Beyond the race, for many audience members Saturday was a special occasion. Rally races are far more popular on the East Coast and in Europe than they are in Colorado, so they don’t happen very often in this area.

It can be a long time between races and for the gatherings of the fans that have become friends.

“The thing that is great about this is that a lot old-timers came out for this race,” Gilliard said. “It’s been five years since a lot of us saw each other.”


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