Rally in the 100 Acre Wood: The Last Decade Part 2
This is the second part in a three part series reliving some of my experiences from the last decade of adventures at Rally in the 100 Acre Wood. You can read part 1 here.
2013 Rally in the 100 Acre Wood
While 2012 was possibly one of my most exciting years at the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood for myself, the travel to get to the 2013 edition was an adventure all of its own. A snow storm was forecasted to move through much of the area that I travel through to get to Salem, MO, the home of the 100 Acre Wood, so in an attempt to avoid some of the storm, a group of friends and I decided to head out the night before and stay in Columbia, MO. We woke up the next morning greeted by 8+ inches of snow covering the ground and snow still falling at an alarming rate. Luckily for us we were prepared with snow tires and AWD Subarus, but it still took us nearly seven hours to complete what would normal be a three hour trip from Columbia to Salem.
By the time we arrived in Salem, the snow had stopped. A thick layer of fresh snow and, in some areas, ice covered the roads. It would stay that way for much of the rally, until late on the final day of the rally when the sun would finally melt most of it. The snow and ice left teams who had not packed snow tires, scrambling for some to use. Needless to say the snow and ice would add an extra challenge to the event, one that would for sure have an impact on the final outcome.
After taking a year’s hiatus the previous season, Ken Block had returned to the snow covered roads of Missouri to attempt to capture his seventh 100 Acre Wood win. Night began to set in, as I waited at the cattle guard for a reverse running of the stage huddled around a large bonfire in an attempt to keep warm. Just up the road, less than a mile or so, we could finally hear the roar of rally cars as the first car lined up to start the stage. By this point, the stage had been delayed long enough that full on darkness had set in as the first car entered the stage. Just as the first car was about to reach us, we heard a large crash, as Block left the road and slid down through a fence and down a ditch. This was followed by a few attempts to reverse back up on stage, before they were finally back on the road, but precious seconds had been lost and Higgins finished the day with a commanding lead.
Saturday morning began with a trip to the most southern stage of the rally. This area had been hit with an extra coat of ice on top of the snow. My Subaru STi’s exhaust scraped on the ice covered roads as we made our way to our spot. Luckily the sun was shining and the temperatures were quickly rising above freezing, as the ice and snow began to melt. By the time this stage was over and we made our way back to the cattle guard, much of the snow had melted leaving the roads very wet and muddy. Sometime during this time, Block had suffered a mechanical issue and had been forced to retire. Higgins had a commanding lead and was cruising as he flew over the cattle guard on his way to victory.
Did I mention the melting snow had made the roads muddy? Well as each car landed over the big jump mud splashed, and splashed all over the photographers who lined the road. I’m fairly certain one of the lenses I was using that day still has mud on it from that stage.
2014 Rally in the 100 Acre Wood
Snow once again greeted me as I headed towards Salem, MO in 2014. Luckily I quickly drove out of the snow, as I headed south and it would not return that weekend. It was setting up to be an exciting weekend with a stacked line up for the event including David Higgins, Travis Pastrana, Antoine L’Estage and Ken Block. The first time that all four top contenders would compete head to head at Rally in the 100 Acre Wood.
The roads were mostly dry and fast, the sun was shining. It was a completely different event from the previous year. Block got off to a fast start, jumping out to an early lead with stage wins on five of the first eight stages, giving him the advantage over Higgins and Drew who had captured the other stage wins going into the second day of competition.
I made the decision to head to a water crossing on the second stage of Saturday’s competition. I had never been to a water crossing and this one did not disappoint. Higgins suffered a mechanical issue on the first stage of the day and was forced to retire. Block had a comfortable lead over Pastrana and L’Estage and could afford to avoid any risks and gently made his way across the water crossing. Many of the other competitors weren’t so gentle and aggressively crashed into the water, sending waves of water high into the air.
As the stage ended, we scrambled to get out of the stage and back north to the cattle guard jump. It was going to be tight as we were locked in the stage, with no access roads near the water crossing. It turned out to be too tight, double zero had already entered the stage and we would not be able to make it into the stage. A missed opportunity to see Block and Pastrana fly over the jump, but Block would fly to his seventh win in the 100 Acre Woods.
2015 Rally in the 100 Acre Wood
As you may or may not have noticed up to this point, but snow has played a role in some way nearly every year, but 2015 would take that effect to a whole new level. There was already snow on the ground as I arrived in Salem and there was more snow in the forecast for Saturday. The roads had been somewhat cleared from traffic as Friday’s stages got started, but there were still patches of snow and snowbanks lined the sides of the roads. Shakedown on Friday morning was cold, and I mean COLD, with temperatures hovering just above zero Farenheit. Some of the drivers noticed where I was camped out on stage and decided to warm things up a bit, by putting on show for me.
Higgins and Subaru were debuting the new model widebody STi and would not be facing any of the top teams from past years. Block, Pastrana and L’Estage were all absent. Higgins built a large lead as the rally extended into the night. The forecast for Saturday was now calling for flurries throughout the day, not so bad I thought to myself as I finalized my plan for the next day. Boy were they wrong.
After a visit to a snow flurry filled Parc Expose in downtown Salem, I grabbed some quick breakfast and headed out to the cattle guard crossing. Snow began to fall heavier and faster as I camped out on my spot waiting for the first cars to make their way through the now snow covered stage. Hours passed, as an accident on one of the transit highway roads delayed the stage and the snow didn’t let up, not one bit. The snow grew deeper on the road, as the first car finally came flying over the jump. Before all the cars had made it to the start line, the stage was cancelled. The delay had cost me any opportunity to make it to another stage that day and as twilight started to set in, along with all the spectators and volunteers, I slowly started making my way back through the stage to the highway in my RWD BMW 128i.
I pulled out onto the road behind a large truck and in front of them an ambulance. I thought to myself, as long as we keep moving everything will be fine, just keep moving. There was a steep hill just up the road from where we had been spectating and as the ambulance made it to the top they slipped off the road into a ditch. The truck in front of me stopped halfway up the hill and I stopped at the bottom of the hill, while a person who lived nearby used their UTV to pull the ambulance out. My plan to just keep moving had failed, luckily I had good snow tires and even though the person in the UTV asked me if there was any sort of chance I would make it up the hill, I made it with no issues. I was one of the last vehicles to make it out of the stage for quite some time as a car just behind me failed to make it up the hill and stopped everyone else from getting out. I had stopped to wait for someone who was a few cars behind me at the end of the stage as darkness set in, an hour went by, before I decided to head back to Salem. Steadily I made my way through the empty, dark, curvy highway. By the time I made it back, I was too late to catch podium, but to little surprise, Higgins and Drew had captured the snowy victory.
Part 3 coming soon.