Even though our editor is a Mitsubishi fanboy, we have a LOT of respect for the Subaru clan, and our friends at DirtyImpreza.com. Meet Keith Jackson of Jackson Rally and the Dirty Impreza Rally Team.
What’s your name? Where are you located? What do you do for a living?
Keith Jackson, Vista, CA, Project manager for Skanska USA Civil.
What got you interested in rally?
Always been an off roader, but seeing a Subaru fly thru rally roads got me hooked.
Tell us about your rally car/truck. How long have you had it?
2005 Subaru STi Open AWD. Bought off the lot in 2004 and built in 2008.
Did you buy your rally car or build it?
What challenges did this cause? What benefits did you realize as a result?
The car was built by my brother and I at JacksonRally in the summer of 2008. Total build time was about 6 weeks from street car to open class. The biggest challenge was that this build was our first rally car, even though we’ve been building off road vehicles for over 10 years, building a rally car was new to us. We had a lot of help from Scotty of PlaCar. Building the car ourselves helped gain a vast amount of knowledge about the car and that has proved to be a huge benefit.
Tell us about a time when you stuffed the rally car (or maybe had a nasty off).
One off that stays in memory was at the Gorman Ridge Rally in 2009. We were seeded first on the road and had the job of sweeping the road against us and the first stage jitters. The stage was going very fast and about a mile from the finish we were coming downhill into a L4- way to fast, swung the passenger rear out wide, and tagged the bank. This nearly ripped off the rear bumper and bent the rear lateral link like a taco. After managing to finish the stage we replaced the link on transit and continued on, now 7 minutes late to the next ATC. This resulted in a little over 1min in road points. What makes this stuff so memorable is that we fought our way back and placed top honors at the event, 1st overall.
Tell us about a time when you narrowly avoided a DNF. How did you press on regardless?
In 2009, we ventured out of our typical schedule to compete with the big dogs in Rally America’s National Event Rally Colorado (COG). This was the teams first experience at the national level and we couldn’t have been more excited. The weekend continued on with no issue until the rain came in and saturated the mountain roads creating very slippy conditions.
As usual, we were running a very tight budget and only had 1 set of tires, which were not grooved for the rain. Despite the rain we pressed on regardless through the stages and at one point we over shot a L3 long by nearly 100 yards into the brush! We narrowly escaped a ditch on the right and continued back on the stage with no further issue, very fortunate to not hit anything else. We managed to place 6th OA (including TP!!) and 1st in class in both regionals.
What’s the most rewarding part of being involved in rally? The most challenging?
The biggest reward is the smile of our faces. Rally is the most exciting thing I have ever done. The most challenging is being a nearly 100% self funded team competing in OpenAWD class.
How many events did you enter last year? Is that trending up or down? Why?
2008 – 2 events, first year competing
2009 – 6 events, including International Rally New York (USRC championship event)
2010 – 4 events
The trend is up and down, as stated above rally is quite the expensive hobby and the time needed to commit puts a strain on work and personal life.
What kind of cash prize structure would entice you to enter more rallies or push the car harder?
I think, without going overboard, that a cash prize at least equal to the entry fee for the event would gather more entries and faster times.
How important are car classes? What class/region do you race in? How many competitors in your class at each event?
Car classes provide honest competition throughout most budgets and that is very important. Its not easy to compete against the top dogs but you shouldn’t have to sell any internal organs to enjoy the simplest of classes.
I currently run the OpenAWD class in the Southwest region (SoCal). The class participation for OpenAWD tends to be only at each extreme, either nearly all or nearly none.
What do you think about recce vs pacenotes vs blind rally?
I’m a fan of recce and have run recce with my own notes and organizer provided notes. I have yet to run solely based on routebook.
Spectators: Dream come true or worst nightmare? Why?
I like seeing spectators out there enjoying the action and I hope organizers continue thru the headaches to get them out there. Spectators are a very important asset to the sport; you must have people be able to see what it is or it will never grow. It’s embarrassing how many people have no clue what rally is.
How do you get local gearheads involved in rally?
Rallycross is the gateway to stage rally. That’s where I got my start. It’s cheap, local, minimal car prep/tech, minimal (if any) damage to your vehicle.
What do you see is the most critical issue needing addressed by the rally community today?
How would you address that issue if you were in charge?
Collaboration between sanctions/series. It’s hard enough to make the minimum entries on most events so why not have fewer high quality events. It would be nice to see a higher quality event get enough entries to bring the cost down to a small event price.
How do you help out at rallies when you aren’t racing?
I try to make it to any local rally that I am not racing. I have volunteered for timing and course closing thus far. Local rallycrosses usually are a good place to help out. Newcomers to the scene love to see a real rally car up close and it helps get them psyched about the sport.
If you could enter any WRC event, which rally would that be? Why?
WRC Finland. It’s my favorite rally and insanely fast with many jumps! In 2010, I spectated WRC Finland and it was amazing!
Your favorite Group B car?
We’ve all got a rally hero. Who’s yours?
Petter Solberg. His positive attitude and pure love for the sport inspires me… and he used to drive a Subaru!
Do you have a local rally club? Tell us about it! (If not, why not?)
DirtyImpreza is my local club, from rallycross to stage rally to meets to a day in the dirt, DI is all about rally enthusiasts.
How often do you get together with other rallyistas to talk shop?
Every chance I get, mostly with my brother, Kyle, at our shop JacksonRally in Temecula, CA.
Tell us about some people who have made your rally dream a reality.
First and foremost is my brother, Kyle. He is the mastermind behind the build of the rallycar.
Scott George of PlaCar and Chris Tusow (OP). Scott has built many rally car and helped provide vast amount of expertise as we tackled my car. OP is a good friend and master Subaru mechanic and keeps an eye on us to make sure we don’t screw anything up motor/drivetrain wise.
Aaron Ekinaka of Dirtyimpreza brings us all together for pure love of the sport and continues to do so thru DI.com
Thank a volunteer (or group of them) here.
Huge thanks to every and all volunteers for every stage rally, rallycross, TSD, or any other form of racing, without you we wouldn’t be racing.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from your time in the rally community?
To finish first, first you must finish.
Press on regardless, Keith! Thanks you for letting us share your story!
What about you?
- Do you have a Jackson Rally/DiRT story to share?
- Have you ever run an event on 1 set of tires? Would you do it again?
[Featured image: Juliet Ekinaka for Dirty Impreza]