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Sandblast Rally, Cheraw, SC, Feb 4th (Today!)

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Sandblast Rally, Cheraw, SC, Feb 4th (Today!)

Post  Adam_J on Fri Feb 03, 2012 9:48 am

(This was posted, by me, last month on the blog)

I just wanted to let you all know about a fantastic event that I've been attending every year since 2006.   Tickets are only $8, but it's a full day of driving/riding from one vantage point to another in a remote state forest, trying to keep up with the action.  I usually put about 100 miles on my odometer during the rally, just trying to see it all happen.    A few years ago they added RallyMoto to the mix, which significantly increased the number of vehicles going down the course, and, of course, brought in a whole new crowd of spectators.



What kind of "Rally" are we talking about here?
If you aren't familiar with performance rally, it's street-legal cars and motorcycles racing against the clock over a series of stages.  Stages can be a mile or two long or they can be 30 miles long... usually there's a wide variety for any given rally.  The stages at Sandblast are all done on the sand/mud/dirt roads through the Sandhills State Forest of South Carolina and are between 7 and 14.5 miles long (see map below).  Some stages are run a 2nd time in reverse.  Between stages there are transitions which are handled more like a TSD Rally.  At the end of a stage the Drivers/Riders are given a time to arrive at the next stage.  They'll follow rally-style stage notes to get to the next stage over public roadways and are usually given a few extra minutes to account for traffic (and to prevent illegal speeds on public highways), so if you're spectating you'll be sharing the roads with the race vehicles throughout the day.  The vehicles need to enter the start area of the next stage within the minute provided to them at the end of the last stage... once entered into the start area their time is recorded by the officials and they are given a start time for the stage.  If they're late (or early) to the start area they receive a time penalty.   They pull forward to the starting line and wait for a timer to count-down... then they're off again, racing at full speed down a closed course stage.   There are several service stages where the drivers/riders/teams have a set time (usually 15 to 45 minutes) to refuel, and repair their vehicles.  Leaving a service early or late results in a time penalty the same as arriving after a transit stage, and there are still transit stages to and from the service park.  What does this mean?  From around 8am in the morning to, sometimes, 8pm in the evening, the rally participants are racing against the clock in one way or another.  It's exciting to be a part of, even as a spectator.

An all day motorsports event for $8?  How does that work?
There is a huge need for volunteers every year, as each stage needs officials for timing and marshalls that keep the course clear and free of other vehicles and spectators.  There's also a crew of Ham Radio operators that volunteer their time and equipment in order to coordinate an event that takes place over hundreds of square miles.  At any point during the day there may be 3 stages active with cars and motorcycles blasting down them.  My first year at Sandblast I volunteered as a stage marshall.  I ended up spending all day at one of the best corners on the whole rally.. and one that sees the largest group of spectators through-out the day.  It was a great way to get involved and as an added treat I got to drive my little Subaru down the rally stage in the early morning to get to my spot.   Every year since I've been too busy showing the rally to friends and family in order to volunteer, but I'd like to do it again.  The $8 spectator fee (which involves a rally program with info about the teams/riders and a wristband required for access to spectator areas) goes into a pot which they use to pay for the volunteers' fuel bills.



What does a day of rally spectating usually entail?
I usually leave work a little early on Friday afternoon, drive down to Cheraw and get into the place I'm staying.  The next morning I grab a quick bite to eat at McDonalds or Sonic and then head to the Parc Expose (the start area) to gawk at all of the machinery and grab some coffee.  Then I watch a few vehicles take off before jumping into my car (I haven't ridden the bike to a Sandblast yet) to drive to the first spectator area. Once there, I watch a number of cars and bikes fly by at breakneck speed (well, for someone going through woods in deep sand and mud, it's breakneck) before heading off to the next spectator area.  I usually grab lunch (a fish sandwich) at a gas station grill in McBee and head over to the Service Park to watch the teams perform mechanical surgery on half-wrecked race cars.. while there I pick up a few snacks at the bake sale from one of the the local social clubs.   The rally runs rain or shine.  Sometimes it's 60°F and sunny and sometimes it's 38°F and raining.. you never know.  You drive on some rugged sand & dirt roads to get to some of the spectator areas.  There are children, dogs, grandparents, locals, Irishmen & South Americans (some of the foreign crew members), press photographers, amateur radio junkies, motorcyclists and gearheads all over the towns and spectator areas that you run into all day long.  After watching rally cars and bikes shine their HID rally lights through the trees like something out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I have a nice steak dinner at a little local restaurant and go back to my room for a good night's rest after a long day.  Usually, I leave early on Sunday morning and grab some breakfast at a local diner (which is usually filled with the same people I saw the day before) and head for Kershaw, SC to see what's going on at Carolina Motorsports Park (unfortunately they don't have anything on their calendar yet at this time) before heading home.

What does this have to do with Blue Ridge RAT?
Well, I thought that if there was enough interest, our club could volunteer to marshall an entire stage in 2013.  Right now the majority of the bikes represented in Rally Moto are KTMs (990ADVs, 690E) and BMWs (G450X, some GSs).. there are usually a smattering of Huskies, Suzukis, Kawis, Yamis and Hondas as well.. but I've yet to see any Triumphs.   Triumph is one of the fastest growing brands in the ADV category and it's only a matter of time before someone shows up with a Tiger 800 XC or Triumph builds a hot bike for off-pavement competition.   If we can get enough people together to marshall a stage we may get some special mentions from the event organizers (in print and radio) and, if nothing else, it would be a fun club activity.  If we play our cards right we could get an article on Triumph's site  (like this article on BMW MOA's website)   There's also an annual rally near Nashville, TN (Rally Tennessee - note, link is to last year's page) every year that is one of only a few tarmac rallies (ie: most roads are paved) in the USA.  It's put on by the same organizers and involves many of the same racers. Actually, Rally Tennessee was cancelled for this year. Crying or Very sad  I'm not expecting any of this to happen, but I wanted to at least make the club aware of the event.  I have a great time every year.





(this one was shot by me.. the driver had no idea there was a ditch over the blind rise)

The Sandblast Rally, 2012 Thread on ADVrider.com

Well, what do you think, BRRAT?


Last edited by Adam_J on Sat Feb 04, 2012 2:03 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Tomorrow became today in a mere 24 hours!)

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Re: Sandblast Rally, Cheraw, SC, Feb 4th (Today!)

Post  Adam_J on Fri Feb 03, 2012 10:06 am

Thanks to Blair for helping me out so that I could re-post this. cheers

It looks like there's a decent chance of rain tomorrow. If any of you were still planning on coming to spectate at the event, I'll be there with my wife and dog... in this:
flower
(minus the orange dog crate on the roof.. and, no, fido doesn't ride up there)

We'll be camping in the state park and driving to as many of the stages as we can catch, so feel free to follow us if you don't know where to go... unless we're making one of our, oh-so-frequent roadside repairs. scratch

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Re: Sandblast Rally, Cheraw, SC, Feb 4th (Today!)

Post  Adam_J on Fri Feb 03, 2012 10:11 am

Oh, and here's the Google map stage routes seen in the OP:

http://g.co/maps/bj44h

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Re: Sandblast Rally, Cheraw, SC, Feb 4th (Today!)

Post  red_headed_lumberjack on Fri Feb 03, 2012 11:35 am

That looks really awesome, adam. I'm heading down to Columbia, SC tomorrow so I will not be able to get away, but I hope some other BRRAT members will be able to take advantage of this lunacy there in Cheraw! Smile

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Re: Sandblast Rally, Cheraw, SC, Feb 4th (Today!)

Post  Adam_J on Fri Feb 03, 2012 11:59 am

I even got my very own forum! cheers cyclops


(I'd originally posted this in "Wha'cha thinkin'?")

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Re: Sandblast Rally, Cheraw, SC, Feb 4th (Today!)

Post  J.Paul on Fri Feb 03, 2012 10:10 pm

Adam enjoy the rally I will be there next year no doubt

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Good luck and maybe I can attend next year...........

Post  mtsheron70 on Fri Feb 03, 2012 10:37 pm

I have a FCC (Families with Chinese Children) celebration on Feb. 4th to attend with my daughter. Hey, the dog on top of the vehicle worked for Romney! affraid

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Re: Sandblast Rally, Cheraw, SC, Feb 4th (Today!)

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