When it comes to automotive events, Wisconsin Car Enthusiast Club is no stranger to the planning. Nearly 7 events per year come out of our doors, and we've become quite experienced in bringing enthusiasts together. We take pride in that, which is why we also believe in pushing the envelope. That's why we created this event: the River Valley Road Rally.
First things first, River Valley Road Rally is sponsored and in partial, hosted by the staff of WCEC, but it is not a Wisconsin Car Enthusiast Club event. Why? Because the amount of work that goes into this specific event took over 15 months to create. The team that came together to organize this event spent dozens, if not hundreds of hours, planning this one. River Valley Road Rally will be under our wing until it's able to fly all on its own.
River Valley Road Rally was an idea that came to us from Gretchen Gausmann, a Lacrosse based administrator for WCEC back in October of 2015. Her thoughts "what if we could get cars to travel Wisconsin without knowing where they were going?" At first, it sounded like a crazy idea. How would you even begin to plan something like that? But we're pioneers. If you don't take risks, how do you grow? So we started the planning.
Months went by. Hundreds of miles of searching in a Dodge Dart of Jeep Cherokee throughout Wisconsin to find the best roads we had to offer. In time, we finally finished the route. It was beautiful. 267 miles of twisty, straight, and unknown roads for participants to drive.
We began accepting applications in January of 2016, and closed the registration process on May 15, 2016 with 38 teams. From there, everything was a mystery for them. Participants did not know where they were going, how the points would be calculated, or how the co-pilot would effect their personal results. It was great. River Valley Road Rally took cue's from Rally's past before the reliance on internet, GPS, and cell phones. The rally pinned driver vs. driver, with the only difference being who could decipher the instructions best. Don't get us wrong, it's a ton of fun to have just a start point and end point, but how do you appreciate the roads if you don't get a chance to stop and enjoy them?
The River Valley Road Rally team hosted a vinyl installation party prior to the rally and installed the livery kits on every vehicle. Hosted at Endless Autosports in West Allis, rally participants were able to meet each other, ask questions, and receive clues as to how the winner would be determined. It didn't take long for the parking lot to fill up with modified cars representing the RVRR logo.
The Road Rally began the following morning in Madison, Wisconsin. The weather was confused. rain, wind, and sun had all made appearances within the hour preparation time prior to the start. The emotions of the participants matched the weather: excitement, anxiety, nervousness, and anticipation seemed to flow in and out of each conversation we heard. From this point, the driver's received some of their first pieces of information regarding how to effectively drive the rally.
The rules? Follow the map instructions, use our tips & tricks, and get to the checkpoint within a certain time frame. Show up too early or too late? You lose points. Throughout the rally course were hidden opportunities to earn additional points, but would derail the participant from the route. It was the co-pilot's responsibility to determine if the added points were worth it.
Gotta say, it was great watching the information pour in as participants began completing each checkpoint. Bonus points were earned through snagging photos at specific locations. Albeit cell phone quality, the stop points were gorgeous. Rally participants also earned points for stopping at various local businesses to make purchases or snag selfies. The entire day was filled with laughter, excitement, and the smell of gasoline.
After the last car had made it through the final checkpoint, volunteers and teams began to converge on their final checkpoint; Eau Claire. Vehicles were met by the same people that had started them that very morning; Alex Martinez & Rebekah Donnelly. Final times were marked and participants were encouraged to park on the same floor as others. Soon, the parking ramp looked like something out of a car show.
The night had concluded with drinks, food, and a final announcement of 3rd, 2nd, and 1st place winners of the first annual River Valley Road Rally. 3rd place was taken by Nathan S. in his supercharged Ford Mustang. 2nd place was secured by Sean M. in his supercharged Audi A6. Last but not least, 1st place was secured by Tim O. and Jacob S. with their nearly perfect score in a Saab 9/3.
As we see the reviews come back and the compliments continue to come in, we are still in awe. As with all events, we had a plan A, B., C., and Z in case of emergencies, but we didn't use them. Everything went exactly as anticipated. Participants had an incredible time, and many inquired about how soon they could sign up for next year.
We are extremely stoked to create another type of automotive event that caters to a different type of enthusiast. The one that prefers to drive, instead of show. The one that prefers to dive into the unknown, than sit at home. River Valley Road Rally is not for everyone, but for those that are up for the challenge, this event is definitely for you. We'll see you in 2018.
Special Thanks to the following sponsors for participating in the River Valley Road Rally: Fitment Inc., Wisconsin Car Enthusiast Club, AM Productions, Viga Design, Goethem Productions, Dynamic Display, and DH Vinylworkx.
Written by A. Martinez