If you’re near Ridgecrest, California, this coming weekend, you might come across a number of folks having a great time at the High Desert Trails rally. Organized by Kris and Christine Marciniak, HDT promises to be a well-run event. Take a minute before the rally to get to know your organizers and do consider adding this event to your schedule each year.
Where are you located? What do you do for a living?
Long Beach, California – I am a Network Engineer and my wife Christine is just finishing her PhD in Molecular Biology.
What got you interested in organizing rally events?
It seemed to be a natural progression for us. We went from spectating events, to volunteering, then competing in regional events. Next we were competing in national events and the USRC. Christine joined the Board of Governors for the California Rally Series as Membership Liaison and soon after I was elected Competitor Liaison for the CRS. We were helping out rallies at a high enough level that I felt we could take on organizing our own.
What event(s) do you organize? How long have you been running it/them?
High Desert Trails – April 17th 2010. This will be our second year running the event.
Why do people go rally?
The camaraderie and the challenge. When you’re on a stage, it’s you against you. It’s your machine and how fast you’re willing to push. Sure, we want to beat others at the game, but just getting to the end is really rewarding. Unlike pretty much all other motorsport, the course is viewed as the challenger and the other people playing the game are your friends. On top of that, driving fast through the woods gives you an unmatched adrenalin rush. I’ve tried everything from track days to flying small aircraft, and everything I’ve found has the volume turned down compared to pinning the throttle over a blind crest. I’m sure base jumping could do it – but I’m not throwing myself off a perfectly good building.
What’s the best thing about being a rally organizer? The worst?
Doing stuff the way you want to do it and taking the best stuff you’ve seen over the years. I think being current competitors gives us a great advantage over other rallies in the US. I constantly ask myself questions like – ‘Would I want to compete in the High Desert Trails? Would I sign up? What would I change?’ If this rally would peak my interest then I’m hopeful that others will really enjoy it. The hard stuff is everything that goes on in the background. I knew rally involved a lot of workers and paperwork, but it wasn’t completely evident to me until my kitchen table was covered with four giant stacks of competitor packets, my email in-box was full, and I had three voice mail messages. As Michael Taylor (USRC President) likes to describe it – “You can see the duck silently gliding across the calm water, but underneath he’s paddling like crazy.”
How many entries did your event have last year? Is that trending up or down? Why?
Last year we had 13 cars and 2 bikes. As of right now we have 17 cars and 6 bikes for 2010. Rally is a hobby and a lot of hobbies got put on hold in 2009. I expect a nice continued growth for the next 5 years.
How much money should an organizer make?
Although I would like to make a living out of doing what I love, I don’t see that happening. I do however feel that organizers should never lose money on an event. This is why we budget everything into HDT. From the gas to get there and the grading needed to make a new hairpin, it all goes into our plan. We will cancel the event if we can’t break even on it. No one remembers events because organizers lost their shirt just to run it.
Should rallies be run as for-profit corporations?
Sure. If you are providing a great product at a price that can’t be beat – go for it! It has worked in the past and it will work again.
How important are [vehicle] classes?
As a competitor, the reason we all want a lot of classes is because it’s comfortable. We want to feel comfortable that the turbocharged 300HP RWD car is not in our class. That the 1200cc monster bike is not calling dibs on the podium. If you are in motorsports long enough you realize that it’s 80% driver and 20% car. With bikes it’s more like 95% rider 5% machine. Take a look at the results. Guys on 450cc dirt bikes destroying the times of 1200cc riders? Group 2 cars in 2nd overall. I used to passionately argue for changes in rules and classes, now I get down to work and finish up 7-8th overall in a ‘slow’ production car. I still want a faster car, and I’ll still build it to the absolute limit of the class, even though I know it comes down to how fast I’m willing to push it.
As an organizer, the reason we only need a few classes is because it costs a lot of money to build cars to class limits and we’re having a hard enough time getting 5+ vehicles per class at events these days.
How does (or might) recce affect your event?
Not much right now. It’s a familiarization lap that doesn’t eat into time and schedules. Ask me again when we have a 150 stage mile 2 day event. :)
If you could create your own pacenotes, would you? Why?
We offer organizer supplied stage notes written by Mike and Paula Gibeault. We won’t compete in an event without them. We won’t run an event without them. Stage notes are here to stay.
Spectators: Dream come true or worst nightmare? Why?
I don’t think spectators will ever be a dream. I think they have to be planned and scheduled, just like the competitors or volunteers. They need to be told what is expected of them, where they need to be, where they can go, etc. I once was at an event that almost canceled stages because of spectators. The event had no information available for them. They changed the schedule last minute and only told the competitors and volunteers, and fifty cars showed up at the wrong time and blocked a road. Their reaction was not “We should have communicated with the spectators and did a better job of coordinating them.” it was simply “We don’t allow spectators any more.” Spectators today are next years competitors, volunteers, and crews. This attitude absolutely has to change.
Social media: What are the measurable effects? What are the downsides?
It’s great. I try to imagine a time when a rally master would have to send out hundreds of postcards announcing the next event. I just click invite all my friends, send out a press release, and post on the forums. The CRS is now putting out tweets and we’ve got those and updates from RallyMoto on our website. Any changes to supps, schedule or otherwise and I can let everyone know in seconds. The only issue I have is that people usually can only accept so much info at any one time. If you try to tell them everything at once it gets lost, so I have to think about my audience a lot. I tell competitors this. I tell volunteers that, instead of doing this mass email that confuses everyone.
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’m going to go with Anders and say retention. Where are these people going? Where are these rally cars? I can list 10 cars that I saw two years ago and haven’t seen since. I’m actually working with Eddie Fiorelli from Stage Notes Radio on a project to record and keep track of rally cars. At first we just want to know the ‘standing not operating’ cars, and then maybe we can start to gather data on why they stopped rallying, etc.
How do you mitigate environmental concerns about land use for rallies at your events?
I keep a remote controlled Desert Tortoise for just such an occasion. ;) Seriously though. People need to be reminded that the impact of a rally on a road one day out of the year is minimal. If anything we’re leaving the road in better shape then we got it, plus smoothing out all that washboard for the locals. We work with local representatives who understand this. We have shovels and spill kits, etc. Here’s our reality right now: the private land we run the event on is surrounded by a group planning to build a solar facility. When the locals go to vote on free energy from the sun or our dusty rally, we won’t win. Thus we’re always on the lookout for new roads. I don’t think they’ll pave them all in the next 100 years.
How do you help out at other rallies during the year?
We love to help out as part of the scoring team. Scoring is one of those jobs where you have to go all over the place and chase the rally. You utilize your ham radio skills to the max and you need to know all about time cards, road points, etc. Helping events run when you can’t run is what it’s all about.
Which WRC event is most like your rally?
Rally Mexico of course. :)
Your favorite Group B car?
Lancia Delta S4. Turbo? Supercharger? Do both.
We’ve all got a rally hero. Who’s yours?
Do you have a local rally club? Tell us about it! (If not, why not?)
How often do you get together with other rallyistas to talk shop? The LBRC? Hehe – We have a bunch of us that all live close to the neighborhood. We talk all the time about rally and what’s going on.
Tell us about some people who have made your rally dream a reality.
Absolutely my wife Christine. When we first started seeing each other I was just hoping for a cheerleader, someone on the side of the stage shouting “Go Kris!” When she wanted to try TSD, and then go to co-driving school, I was still skeptical of her total involvement. When she ordered rally tires for us and said we could stash them in the back of the living room in our small apartment, then I knew she was just as committed to the sport as I am.
Thank a volunteer (or group of them) here.
Everyone who signed up to work the High Desert Trails Rally, everyone involved with the California Rally Series, and the South Orange Amateur Radio Association! Without volunteers we don’t have rallies – period.
Who are your sponsors and how have they helped rally in your region?
Checkpoint Racing has helped us out for two years now. They have helped other events in the past and give us that little bit extra that lets the rally stay within budget. Rally-Tire.com is a new sponsor this year and went out of their way to get us lanyards in time for the event.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned from your time in the rally community?
Press on regardless.
As of press time, HDT is less than 4 days away. Kris and Christine are busy paddling away in Long Beach getting the final arrangements made for this rally. If you can’t make it, the comments below would be a great place to share excuses. ;) Otherwise, come on back after the event this weekend and share your thoughts on it. Thanks for reading!