If you’ve been out to a California Rally Series (CRS) event in the last few years, chances are you’re familiar with Bill Holmes. Bill was 1982 SCORE Class 22 Champion (Open Motorcycle) and came in 1st in the 1987 Baja 1000 (Class 8). He drives a Ford, which isn’t strange to the rally scene, but where others campaign Focii or Xrattys, Bill has opted for something far more sinister – fully prepared, Baja-storming Ford trucks. Get to know the man behind the monster.
What’s your name? Where are you located? What do you do for a living?
My name is Bill Holmes. I live in Malibu, California. I have lived at the same location since I was 6 years old and I’m 47 now. It is a horse ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area. I really enjoy the ranch life here in the mountains. Located on the ranch are 2 large barns with 28 stalls, 3 houses, race shop, 12 pastures, 3 horse arenas, 1 full motocross track, 1 short course RZR/Trophy Kart track, and 5 motorcycle trials courses. I raise horses, cows, pigs and chickens.
For a living, I own a company that does testing of drinking water systems, from 50 million gallon reservoirs to water transmission pipeline, across California, Arizona and Nevada. I have been doing this type of work for 31 years and owned Southwest Chlorination, Inc. for 24 years.
I’m married to my wife Jennifer and I have 4 boys from 2 – 9 years old.
What got you interested in rally?
I became interested in rally when I was reading a story in Dusty Times newspaper about a rally event. I was racing the SCORE events in Baja and Arizona and thought rally would be really good experience for the starts and stops for the different stages that are common in rally. Also, I had a chase guy that crewed for us, Jim Rogers, in Baja. He owned the old 1980 Baja 1000 2nd place winning stock truck and he told me he couldn’t drive it very well, but, if I wanted to, I could use his truck for RallyX and Rally Sprint. We did that for 2 years, then I persuaded him to be my co-driver for the next few years in stage rally. I almost forgot, we won our first rally overall, rookie driver and rookie co-driver, winning overall at the “East of Indio “ rally back in 1986.
Tell us about your rally car/truck. How long have you had it?
Did you buy your rally car or build it?
What challenges did this cause? What benefits did you realize as a result?
My present rally racing truck is a 2008 Ford F-150. The cage work was done by Spirit Racing in El Cajon, California. The fab guys were Steve and Jeremy Spirkoff. All of the super-custom little stuff throughout the vehicle was fabricated by W. Jeff Heitman, with help from Jarred Sullada and myself. I have owned 4 F-150 rally trucks, though not really owning some of them, I was just driving prepping for the owners. We are currently slowly building a Ford Ranger for rally, but the economy has slowed that project.
My present co-driver is Sean Gallagher. We have been racing together since August of 2008. We work well as a team, and the more events we do, the more refined we are. He knows what I expect and the way I like to hear it, and he is confident with my driving, as not to be nervous or scared.
Tell us about a time when you stuffed the rally car (or maybe had a nasty off).
The one event that has been a car crasher was the Press On Regardless Rally in Michigan. I have raced the event 3 times and did not finish 3 times. I crashed 2 times and blew the motor on a transit. I think one of the more funny offs was in Washington. I slid off the road in the mud. There must have been 100 spectators there and, after the last car came through, they all gathered around the truck to push, but the truck was too heavy, so I put out my tow strap and we were able to get enough spectators pulling on the tow strap to get out of the ditch. I was able to continue with the rally and did not get time barred. I placed 2nd in the event, and by placing second in the event, I was able to win the 1989 SCCA Pro Rally Open Class Championship. I like spectators, as they are my fans, friends, and sometimes my tow company.
What do you think about recce vs pacenotes vs blind rally?
I’m from the old school of rally when there was no recce and no pace notes. You just drive by reading the road. I think recce is not safer, as you push it harder because you think you know the road, and pace notes is the trust that the co-driver is not lost in the notes. Recce also adds more cost to run the event. If I was paid to do rally I think recce would be good.
Your favorite Group B car?
My favorite Group B rally car is the Ford RS 200.
We’ve all got a rally hero. Who’s yours?
I don’t have a favorite rally driver, American or European, etc.. I guess I just have favorite cars, though I do have a lot of respect for Rod Millen, as he was a big help in the late 1980’s.
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?
I feel one of the big problems with rally is the lack of spectator access to the stages. More spectators at an event means more future entries and a better chance for sponsors of rally to get noticed. Many times I have spectators asking where or how they can watch the event, and some events, there is no spectator area, making it hard to explain to the spectator. I feel the organizers need to address this more and provide safe areas to watch the events and provide a simple map with info for the spectators to get there.
Thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us, Bill!
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