Idaho has some of the best country roads, trail systems and two-track in the United States, making it no wonder a respectable following has developed for a relatively new and exotic thrill-junkie fix--rallycross.
Yes, a version of the very same rallycross that guys like Travis Pastrana risk life and limb for on ESPN has made a home in the Gem State.
From April through October, Idahoans from every walk of life get together on the occasional Saturday to test their steady hands and reflexes at this distinctly European pastime. The winner takes home all the glory, while losers are left wanting for that "just right" performance modification or track surface to elevate them to speedster greatness.
For the uninitiated, here's the gist: cars, trucks, dune buggies, ATVs, UTVs, motorcycles and "experimental vehicles" race one at a time around a winding dirt track to see who can clock the best time. Racers run six to 10 laps, and the driver with the best overall performance wins his or her class.
Speed is no more crucial to a successful lap than control--requiring drivers to execute a precise balance of performance and skill. Some rigs are souped-up beyond belief, while others run stock.
However, don't mistake rallycross for one of its siblings like rally racing, autocross or desert racing, which can include head-to-head arrangements.
Though it's fairly new to the area--this year is only the third year of the series--the reach of rallycross in Idaho is considerable and goes beyond just local events. Administratively speaking, there are two distinct groups affiliated with rallycross in Idaho--the Snake River Region of the Sports Car Club of America and Idaho Rally Group.
The former is generally more focused on regional car racing on paved surfaces but has members across all walks of racing life. The latter hosts the local rallycross series throughout the fair-weather months just outside Boise, about 10 miles out of town on Pleasant Valley Road, south of Gowen Field. Entry costs $20 per racer, and the motto is "Run what you brung."
If that's not informal enough for you, consider the fact that many folks race stock Geo Metros and Dodge Neons on the course.
James Demaris, SCCA member and Dodge Neon racer, enjoys the excitement and thrill of rallycross. He decided to give it a try several years ago after an unintended revelation while cornering.
"I was driving on a back road, when my car went sideways, and I realized that this was what I was meant to do," said Demaris.
That kind of reasoning pretty well sums up the general feeling of most rallycross racers. Speed, adrenaline, controlled chaos--all tickle the primal nerve in just the right manner to keep folks coming back. Plus there's the sheer enjoyment of going fast around a technical drift.
"Competitiveness is done in fun, and we like to promote a family friendly environment, too," Demaris said.
First-time racer Chad Roskelley came out to a recent race with his 17-year-old son Carson, so the two could give rallycross a go.
"The adrenaline rush is incredible. It's like nothing else," said Roskelley. "I wish they were doing it every weekend."
Richard Rockrohr, Idaho Rally Group director, is thrilled to have this kind of local rallycross in Southwest Idaho, but he's focused on a much bigger annual event.
"We're excited to have this here, [but] our main impetus is to put on the Idaho Rally International event in June. We'll have cars coming from Bulgaria and Canada this year," said Rockrohr.
That race is for those looking to step things up a notch from the local series. Located near Placerville, the 2012 Idaho Rally International will offer drivers a more challenging race Saturday, June 9-Sunday, June 10, on a much bigger scale.
The event is part of the U.S. Rally Championship Series and will include several spectator perks like an ATV jamboree, barbecue, demo rides, and a street bike exhibition by the Fallen Angel Stunters. Pro and amateur racers from around the world will showcase their skills on Idaho's back roads for a shot at their piece of a $5,000 prize purse.