As a motor sports photographer, there are very few occasions that I look forward to more than a Rally America race weekend. As a seasoned photographer I am fortunate to shoot many different types of racing, but nothing is as much fun as Rally. There are multiple reasons for this. For me, I just love being way out in the outdoors and photographing rally cars with a scenic backdrop as the fly by.
The other biggest aspect is the atmosphere. There is just something about rally fans that cannot be described unless you witness it first hand. They brave the elements and the distance need to reach spectator stages, and usually end up covered in mud and rocks from the passing cars. Although I must say that my favorite aspect of Rally Racing is the adventures that ensue between the photographers when trying to cover these events, and the 2011 Mt. Hood Rally was nothing short of an adventure.
The mission was clear, meet up with fellow My Life At Speeders; Eric Gearhart and Matt Tagles in Portland for the night and in the following morning, head out to Hood River, Oregon for the Mt. Hood Rally. Eric and Matt would be driving in from Seattle and I would be driving in from Eastern Washington. Usually when this much distance is covered some sort of shenanigans happen. The drive over for us was really uneventful and we met in downtown Portland at a restaurant called “Montage.” This establishment is a hidden gem. If you readers ever find yourself in Portland looking for some good food, you have to try this place. It is located near the Burnside Bridge and gives you some insight to what goes on in downtown Portland.
After dinner we were meeting up with an old friend from high at Blitz’s Sports Bar, which was roughly one mile from Montage. So we decided to walk. This is where the adventures start. We started walking towards the bar and in this one mile journey, we had a couple run-ins with bums, and bum camps; we stumbled across two people drag racing Honda Ruckus’s and after taking a bum-trail through some foliage, we found some train tracks which would later have a train on it… headed our way. When we first realized the train was coming around the corner towards us, as photogs the first thing we did was snap a couple photos and then proceed to head back to a real road. We also had to touch the train as it went past. Don’t judge. You know you’ve always wanted to do it.
As we sat in the bar, we began chatting about past races that we have shot together and some of the future endeavors that we would like to have. A fter we left the bar, we managed to get in some planking and then headed off to the hotel. A big factor in rally weekends is always sleep deprivation, and we started this rally off right. After 3 hours of sleep we started the trek to the service area. 70 miles later we pulled into service and this is where the adventure started. Right when the radiator in my Subaru blew up.
To make a long story short, we pulled the radiator realized it couldn’t be repaired and being nowhere near a parts store that carried one in stock. We were in a mess and needed help. Ironically being at a rally race dominated by Subarus, you would think that someone would have a spare, but no such luck. After finding that out we had to pull the favor card and fast, Mt Hood rally is a one day event and being in this situation, I was missing out on photographing the stages. That’s when I ran into Barrett Dash, The owner of All Wheels Driven, a performance shop located in Bend, Oregon.
Barrett usually fields a couple cars in rally races in the Pacific Northwest, so we have run into each other in the past. He did not have a radiator on site, but made a much needed phone call to a warehouse in Portland that did have one in stock. This came with a rather large negative consequence, make the commitment to fix my car or make the commitment to shoot the rally. Unfortunately with the following day being Sunday and no chance of finding another radiator I made the decision to go to Portland.
Matt Tagles and I made a mad dash to Portland in his autocross Toyota X-runner to pick up the radiator. On this trip we ran into no snags or hints of trouble, made it back to the rally stages in time for me to photograph the very final stage. At the end of the rally, I still needed to get the fans, and sensor off of the old radiator and on to the new one as well as getting it back into the Subaru. We returned to service to begin this task and most of the teams were already gone. So with Matt and Eric holding flashlights, I got the radiator in and the car back up and running. After making sure the car was road worthy again, I bailed on dinner; we parted ways and I made the drive for home. I made it about 80 miles before I pulled over and started to sleep in the car. After sleeping for a few hours, a couple guys who were on the E-crew at the rally decided to wake me up in a violent manner, just as friends do.
All in all it was a great weekend filled with friends, adventures and help from people you couldn’t have gotten the job done without. I was able to shoot the last stage, got a few photos and some insight and car maintenance. In the future I plan on writing more articles into our adventures as photographers. A big thanks goes out to Eric Gearhart, Matt Tagles, Jerome Young and Barrett Dash.