If you listen closely, you’ll hear the faint roar of engines echoing in the distance of the Sawtooth Mountains. This is no ski vacation that the rich and famous came out to see. This is speed with altitude with no speed limit to weigh down the fun. This is the Fourth Annual Sun Valley Road Rally.
It all began as just a simple thought. A way for some car aficionados to drive fast. When Dave Stone began Sun Valley Auto Club in 2005, he wanted a car showroom to showcase some remarkably detailed cars. But he also came up with another idea.
In the lobby of the Sun Valley Auto Club, Stone tells the story of the Sun Valley Road Rally. He cozies up on his comfortable leather chair, smiles and says, “Selfishly, it was a way for me to drive fast. All I was originally interested in was to do it once.”
Stone and friend Walt Femling (a former Blaine County sheriff, no less) came up with an idea about an open race where Stone, Femling and fellow drivers could drive as fast as they could to see what speed they could get up to. Originally, Stone and Femling wanted to try and use the runway at Friedman Airport in Hailey as a prime spot. The idea swam in their heads for weeks before Terry Basolo, Blaine County Community Drug Coalition executive director, came up with a solution, and Stone and Femling’s dream began to materialize.
What Basolo proposed shifted Stone and Femling’s scheme into gear: move the event north. On Highway 75, north of Ketchum, there is a 3.2-mile stretch of highway with a soft, banked, 90-degree gentle slope-climbing corner, followed by a straight section of downhill. A perfect spot for a car to pick up the right amount of speed for the right amount of duration, almost like Highway 75 was built for the Road Rally.
What started out to be an idea among car buddies turned into one of the premier events, not just in the Wood River Valley, but the entire West. It has grown substantially since its first year in 2009 when there were only 12 cars entered. Now, there are 25 cars entered for this year’s Road Rally, and the likes of legendary racecar driver Johnny Unser will be honored as a VIP. Last year Unser drove a Porsche Panamera Turbo at 173 mph.
While anyone can enter any car, over the course of the four-year running of the Road Rally there have not been any injuries or accidents thanks to the Road Rally’s strict inspection, which is performed by Brent Bellon himself and takes place on Friday, July 27th at the Sun Valley Auto Club in Hailey.
Stone gets giddy when talking about this event. He crosses his legs and explains how the Road Rally has turned into something more than just driving fast. Stone admits that if it weren’t for Basolo’s efforts, the Road Rally wouldn’t have been able to stand on its own. Basolo took the Road Rally from a one- faceted event to a three-faceted event. What was originally just a rally for cars turned into a three-day event that now includes a cruise parade in downtown Ketchum, a gala dinner/auction and a Porsche Cayenne raffle.
The fastest allotted mile-per-hour speed happened last year when a black Porsche GT2 RS, driven by Bob Shillington, was clocked in at 192 mph. Sun Valley Auto Club owner Dave Stone’s personal best was when he drove a Ford GT 187 mph.
“This is going to get huge,” Stone says boisterously. “It’s going to get a lot bigger. There’s nothing like this anywhere else, especially for a good cause.”
Basolo also played a huge role in getting significant sponsors for the development of the Road Rally, which is an area that continues to grow beyond the initial support from the Sun Valley Auto Club to other key sponsors like DL Evans Bank, Sun Valley Company, Southwest Airlines and Porsche North America, to name a few.
But the real beneficiary is the Drug Coalition—and the event, which has grown from a one-component event to a three-component event in less than four years is now the main annual fundraiser for the Drug Coalition and its programs promoting drug- and alcohol-free youth in an effort to support the health and safety of youth in the Wood River Valley.
“The rally provides a critical component to the Drug Coalition’s sustainability plan,” say Basolo, “and we feel the focus on youth substance abuse reduction is a needed and critical one.”
Similar to the actual mission of the Drug Coalition, which has partnered with organizations such as St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center, the Environmental Resource Center and the Blaine County Sheriff’s office on various programs, the Road Rally requires tremendous cooperation and coordination between local, state and federal agencies to organize the now three-day event. Partnerships with the Blaine County Sheriff’s office, Ketchum Fire Department, the Idaho Transportation Department and a team at the Sawtooth National Recreation Area are essential to its success. A full community is needed to put on this event.
“There’s a lot that goes into this event,” says Blaine County Community Drug Coalition development coordinator Andrea Walton, “but there is nothing else like it here.”
Walton thinks this uniqueness has contributed to the success of the Road Rally. Because it has been focused on youth as its beneficiaries, it has always been family oriented, and this year the family component has been expanded to include a bouncy house, rock climbing wall and face painting in the spectator staging area—and the family ticket price is a reasonable $25, with no limit on number of family members. Food vendors (from non-profits) will also be present, so you can stay all afternoon to watch the 60 runs vying for top speed (5 heats of 12 drivers).
Don’t miss this unique event…but you better strap in and hold on tight because, with no speed limit, the Sun Valley Road Rally will leave you in the dust.