I received an email sort of last minute about a unique opportunity to attend and document some rally cars out on the unpaved track that is Club Motorsports in Tamworth, New Hampshire. The vehicles were supplied by Team O’Neil Rally School and after a crash course at their 600+ acre facility in northern New Hampshire, Jason Cammisa with Motor Trend would be tearing up the dirt on the unpaved track mentioned earlier.
If you are like us, we have been following the progress of Club Motorsports with great interest. Within the past year they have made significant headway with the construction to the point that it will be ready to pave in late spring/early summer of 2016. That being said, they just ran out of time to pave this fall. With fluctuating New England temperatures and lining up such a huge paving job at the end of the season, it didn’t make sense for them to rush it. So here in lies the opportunity for something fun. Rally cars on a unpaved road course.
I showed up early. It had been a few months since the last time I was here and they had completed removing all the crushed rock out of turn 10 and 11. A monumental task in itself. Over 100,000 cubic yards of material in just those two turns. Lines had been painted on the gravel base to help give a finished feel to the course. I can’t wait to get in a rally car and take it at speed!
Shortly there after, the folks from Team O’Neil Rally School showed up. Wyatt Knox, Special Projects Director for Team O’Neil and recognized National Rally Champion, unloaded one of two E30 BMWs to be used in todays events. Not much later, his co-worker, Chris Rennie, Facility Manager and Instructor, showed up with the other E30. Both Wyatt and Chris were very enjoyable to be around, and just as excited as I was at the prospect of having rally cars on this road course.
Just after unloading the second car, the people from Motor Trend showed up and preparations for the day started. Jason Cammisa is the new face of Motor Trend’s hit Youtube channel. Producing some of the best automotive videos and series in the industry to date. Everyone on his team was very nice and more than happy to talk shop. After all, they’re car guys too.
Let the hot laps commence!
Now that the introductions and preparations are over, time to get to “work”. Wyatt piloted one E30 along with Jason and crew to get a layout of the course.
Here is a video from the day, Courtesy of Media Wing :
Chris piloted the other E30 to get the rest of us out on course to get an appreciation of the car at speed on the track. I had my Polaris Ranger to get around the track quickly to different positions for a variety of shots. At one point, I had a rally car sliding sideways around turn 3 giving me all the encouragement needed to step on the throttle and get out of the way. All in good fun.
Fast forward a little bit, and first impressions start coming in from the folks at Team O’neil and Jason from Motor Trend. The consensus is the same. They absolutely love this course! Specifically, Jason said it was “the best course in America”. High praise from someone who has had the privilege of driving on some of the most prominent tracks in the country. Their smiles confirmed their convictions.
Eager to get back out, the folks at Motor Trend fixed their cameras to the car and went back out on course. After only a few more laps they were back in the pits. The cars were wearing snow tires in lieu of dedicated rally tires to help keep from rutting up the track too much. The only problem with that is the snow tires are very soft and the gravel is very hard and sharp being that it is all 2″crushed granite. Not a very forgiving surface to race on.
Spares were brought but needed to be mounted. Jim Hoenscheid, President of Club Motorsports, offered to take the tires to be mounted at a local shop. Not long after leaving, a phone call comes in that the wrong size tires had been packed for spares. With this news, we had to make the most of what was left of the current tires. Not very promising, as it wasn’t even noon time yet.
Various camera operators were out on course getting some more shots when Jim came back with four brand new, freshly mounted snow tires. Luckily, the tire shop had the correct size in stock and Jim paid for them, so we could continue on with the day’s fun. This was a life saver, as there weren’t too many laps left in the rear tires on either vehicle. We could have swapped them to the front, but then steering would become an issue.
Old tires were swapped out for the new ones, and vehicles were prepared to go back out. Lunch had arrived, so we took a break to eat and mingle before finishing out the day. Around this time, Lloyd Daimen from Club Motorsports showed up in his E-Type Jaguar. A pleasant surprise, even more so when he took it out on course for some laps. Again, it was great to just hang out with all these different people, coming together for a common passion. During the break, I was fielding questions to Jason about his recent time with the current Camaro Z28 and the new Shelby Mustang GT350R. High praise for both of them, but what really impressed him most was the new Camaro SS. I look forward to a future video about this car. Anyways, I digress.
The day pressed on and both cars were out on course at various ends for photos and video clips. The elevation change at Club Motorsports is substantial to say the least. Between turn 1 and turn 10, the lowest point and highest point on track, there is a 250 ft elevation difference. But the most remarkable aspect is, in one lap, there is a total of over 700 ft of elevation change up and down. The cars were being pushed hard to deal with some of these elevation changes, but they never quit. It should prove to be a very fast and nicely flowing course once it is paved, although it may be a very brake intensive course due to the elevation change. Especially with a heavier vehicle.
As the sun began to set over the adjacent mountains, the clouds were alight with hues or red, purples and blues. We brought in some other vehicles to help light up the red BMW E30 that was Jason’s main car of the day for finishing credits. It was a perfect end to a wonderful day. I can’t thank Club Motorsports enough for inviting me along to be a part of this unique adventure. To all the people at Team O’Neil and Motor Trend, you were a pleasure to work with and I look forward to future endeavors.
Here is the finished video from Motor Trend:
You can rest assured we will be back once paving is complete, to see the finished product. I’m sure Jason will be too.
More photos from the rest of the day can be found below: