Ojibwe Forest Pro Rally will be here before you know it, end of August. There will likely be 50+ rally cars from all over North America there and an event of any size can't go on with out the help of many volunteers. There will be a number of spectator points through out the rally but, by far, the best seats in the woods will be had by volunteers. Ojibwe may be the biggest show in town but there are Regional Rallies that also need your help, as early May, so keep your eyes on the "Event Discussion" page for coming events. Bannering: Races are run on rented forest roads and every two track, foot path, side road and trail that intersects the rally roads needs to be closed "bannered" off with Caution tape to warn non-rally traffic and over eager spectators that the road will be closed soon and they should not venture out on to the road that may have cars going by at 100+ mph in the near future. You can volunteer to banner and still volunteer for other positions. At Ojibwe Forest Pro Rally last year, I helped banner some stage roads on Thursday and met Travis Pastrana, drivers door to drivers door, at the practice stage start line when I got done, very cool. Spectators won't get that close to the action watching from a spectator point. Bannering Ojibwe Forest Rally 2006 Marshal: Remember those roads we just bannered? Well, we better post volunteers at the major roads or non-rally traffic may just ignore the banner and decide to put themselves in a dangerous situation. Use your people skills to prevent access in a friendly way. You'll follow your stage captain out to your Marshal point in your own car and get your own, many times private, place to watch from. Break out the lawn chair, a non-alcoholic beverage, a snack and sit back for a good show. The only way to get closer to the action is to be inside a race car. Marshalls at spectator points still get a good spot to watch from but you gotta keep spectators in a safe spot while they watch, typically at a location with an exciting change in direction. Spectator point at Sno*Drift rally 2007 Time Controls: Want to see the action but keep a bit busier? Each stage needs volunteers to help with timing at the start and finish of each stage. Each special stage starts with an Start Time Control or ATC. See my avatar on the left, that's what it looks like. When cars arrive at their assigned minute they hand over their time card and you assign their ideal start time. They then pull ahead to the start line and get assigned their actual start time by another volunteer (see below pic). The start line at a national event is a lot like you would see on t.v. at World Rally Car event, with the start clock counting to 0, the light goes green and the race car sprays gravel as it leaves the line. One of these would look great on my living room wall but I know Bruce would hunt me down. ATC 1 at Sno*Drift 2007 Y -Finish Time Controls or FTC. Workers are positioned at the flying finish and at the timing car. At the flying finish you sit in a lawn chair or in your car near the actual finish line. As cars approach you use an FRS radio to notify the timing car and tell them the exact moment they cross the finish line. At National events they have fancy timing devices but they don't always work, for regional events the FRS may be it. A very good spot to watch the action. After the flying finish cars pull up to the timing car where they again present their time card to receive their official finish time. Night stages are very cool at the finish with the brake disks glowing red and, oh wait, was that a bear? Naw, they usually make a run for it with all the noise the cars are making. Say, "Hi" to Travis! Is this close enough to the action for ya? I HAM radio operators: Races need a lot of volunteer radio operators. Each start and finish control needs one, each spectator point needs one, certain marshall points need one, and each advance car needs to have someone on board that is one. Want to work your way to being an advance car, the cars that pre-run the course right before the race cars to check that everyone is in place? Get a HAM license, a radio and volunteer! Radio operators are many times in short supply and are vital to running a race. If an incident happens on course and the race needs to be stopped or medical is needed, the HAM radio network makes it happen. http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g181/amygolfs/ofpr3.jpg[/IM G] Co-driver, Kim, runs back to warn oncoming cars of a blocked road after blind finish curve. HAM radios reported back to Rally net control, who temporarily halted starts. [IMG]http://i56.photobucket.com/albums/g181/amygolfs/i43088F97-2442-4DA4-817A-20576BB12E.jpg Our view of stage 3 start as Med Sweep at 100 Acre Wood 2008. Medical: In case things go wrong, medical people are located at starts and at spectator points. Start Medical teams run each stage after the last race car to make sure they are safely through the stage. If an emergency happens, the race will be halted and Medical sent on course to deal with the emergency. Basic Life Support training and some medical gear is needed. Heavy Sweep: Typically big 4 wheel drive trucks with winches and they know how to use them. They are also stationed at starts and follow the last car. If a racer goes off course, like off in to the woods or perhaps a pond, sweep will help pull them out if they can and sometimes even tow them out . What else does volunteering get you? At most national races and some regional races volunteers may get a t-shirt and a meal or two. Many times there are hotel discounts for volunteers. At many national events the awards banquet is not usually open to the public, only for race teams, volunteers and organizers. Some events even have volunteer raffles (no you don't get to take home a volunteer but you may get cool swag like posters or a signed Subaru banner). Of course you could always be a spectator, park and walk up to a mile to the spectator point and try to see past 100 other spectators as cars fly by. Me? I'll stick to volunteering. It can be long hours and hard work but the more things you are willing to help with the more opportunities you have for fun. Teams really do appreciate our efforts (you can count on getting a "Thank you" and a handfull of candy from co-driver Jimmy Brandt at 2 a.m. or in the pouring rain, trust me) and its usually the best seat in the house. Check out www.rally-america.com for more info on National or Regional events or to sign up to volunteer. But wait, there's more... Think you have what it takes to race? First Volunteer to work at a race or four or more, you'll get the hang of how events run, time controls, route books, schedules, etc. Go race RallyCross then buy a used 2wd or turboless awd car rally car. RallyCross some more, then get your competition license, safety gear, a codriver and a crew of friends and go racing. Unless you have rally experience you gotta start 2wd, this is to help you gain experience and to keep you from investing in a more expensive awd car,wrapping it around a tree and possibly getting discouraged or, worse yet, hurt. Or be a co-driver! Can't afford to buy a rally car and still want to go racing? Almost every race has someone looking for a co-driver. Drivers only go where their co-driver tells them to and some of us excell at telling others where to go. Th co-drivers job is to keep the team on time, read the course instructions describing what the road does ahead to the driver, help fix car problems that pop up between services, and share expenses. Being able to think quick is a plus. At a recent regional race a well prepared co-driver I know ended up using his reading lamp to illuminate the road ahead of their car when the alternator failed, they actually finished the stage! You will also safety gear and a competition license. Also check out www.specialstage.com for more info on what it takes to put yourself in a rally car or see who is looking for help on their service crew. O.k. you want to be involved in a team but have no desire to go hurtling through the woods? Those trees lining the road look like very poor guard rails after all. Be part of a service crew. Top service crews can swap a tranny in 18 minutes. Yep, you heard right, 18 minutes! Stage roads are hard on cars. Brakes, suspension, electrical problems, etc. all need to be fixed in a short amount of time, typically 20 - 30 minutes for a service period. Extra hands are a big help and even if you don't know how to work on a car, someone needs to wash the windshield and it is appreciated. Only top teams get paid but you may get a t-shirt, a hot meal, and a hotel room floor to crash on. Service definitely puts the "HURRY" in Hurry up and wait! O.K. not everybody has a service as plush as Subaru of America, but you get the idea. Check out the forums on www.specialstage.com for teams looking for help or to have any other imagineable rally question answered. Special thanks to Andrew Pickle at www.digitalspeed.org for pics from Sno*Drift and Carrie Carlson for Ojibwe Forest Rally pics.