Mountain Rally's Story
Suzanne Barry (Stewart) (from 1973 to 1991)
1991, Rocky Mountain Rally celebrates her 18th anniversary as a
Canadian National Rally Championship event and her 12th year as
a qualifying event in the North American Rally Cup. Truly a rally
of firsts: the Rocky, the people who have nurtured her and rallysport
through good times and bad, and the competitors who have challenged
Rocky are all part of the Canadian rally story. The initial Rocky
was cooperatively organized by the Edmonton Light Car Club, the
Northern Alberta Sports Car Club and the present sanctioning club,
the Calgary Sports Car Club. Under the direction of organizer-routemaster,
Ian McArthur of the Edmonton Light Car Club, the inaugeral 1973
Rocky Mountain Rally spanned 3 days and nearly 2000 kilometers.
Seventeen teams started the navigational-selective event at the
Jasper Park Lodge and twelve finished 7,820 feet up Mount Nelson
at a mine site, near Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia.
first awards presentation and dinner were held at the Banff Springs,
still one of the "Grande Dames" of the chateau hotels
of yesteryear. The first trophies were Rocky Mountain rocks with
trace gold veins mounted on wooden plaques, and the tradition of
mounted rocks, albeit without the gold, has continued uninterupted
to the present day. Those early rocks were found by Pat Stiles,
who numbered prospecting among his hobbies, and John Nixon who at
that time was Pat's navigator.
1974 Rocky Mountain Rally again followed the 3 day selective format,
starting in Jasper and ending at the Banff Springs. Again, the Alberta
clubs collaborated: with Campus Auto Rallyists, Edmonton Light Car
Club, Lethbridge Sports Car Club and the Northern Alberta Sports
Car Club working to organize the event. The route was shortened
to just over 1500 kilometers, with one stop-over in Calgary. A number
of competitors and crews "billeted" with their sleeping
bags on the floor of the Calgary Sports Car Club clubhouse, then
located at Belle North Road in the northwest, the present day site
of a Canadian Tire store near the Northland Village Mall. Lynn Nixon
organized club members to cook and serve a western eggs, sausage,
and pancake breakfast at the clubhouse. The rally then headed south
to the Porcupine Hills and Pincher Creek before returning north
of the early competitors are still associated with the Rocky Mountain
Rally. Taisto Heinonen, who won the 1974 Rocky in a Toyota Corolla,
drives Car 0 as an official in recent years. Brian Flewwelling,
who has served as a steward for the Rocky for many years, was a
navigator in the 1974 event finishing sixth overall. John Nixon,
now National Rally Director, navigated for Pat Stiles in both 1973
and 1974, finishing 8th in '73, but unable to finish in 1974. Stiles
only recently retired from the Rocky organization after 12 years
as rallymaster and a 41 year involvement in British, US, and Canadian
rallysport as an event organizer and competitor.
three navigators from 1974 are likely to compete in the 1991 Rocky
Mountain Rally. Tom Burgess plans to enter with Demitrios Andreou
in an Audi Quattro, while Janie Floyd (Rodgers) who finished 3rd
overall in 1974, will co-drive for Ren Carroll, a local novice,
in an open class Toyota Tercel. Don House who navigated to an 8th
place finish in '74 is hoping to co-drive.
Canada Ltd became involved with the national rally series in 1975
and remained for two more years, so Rocky was part of the "Castrol
Rally Championship of Canada" as well as the Pacific International
Rally Series (PIRS). Participation by Nissan, Fiat Motors of Canada,
British & Oversees Imports, B.F. Goodrich and Champion Spark
Plugs resulted in over $40,000 in prize and contingency money for
the 1975 national series. Castrol paid some $800 to Rocky competitors,
while the other sponsor contingency funds and awards were over $3000
1975 Rocky Mountain Rally responded to Canadian Automobile Sport
Clubs' (CASC) efforts to transform the national series from a navigational-selective
format to the present day stage format. Rocky 3 used a combination
of "selectives", where target times are set, and "stages"
where time taken on special road sections is the penalty. Shortened
to some 26 hours of continuous rallying, Rocky started in Edmonton
and finished in Red Deer with stops in the west central Alberta
villages of Nordegg and Robb. Organized by the Edmonton Light Car
Club and the Northern Alberta Sports Car Club under the direction
of Steve Vernon, coordinator, and Wes Clyne, route master, the route
covered over 1000 kilometers.
Calgary Sports Car Club inherited the Rocky Mountain Rally in 1976
and the event moved to then daemon terrain of the Kananaskis Country.
Of the 19 starters, only 6 teams were able to finish. Vancouver's
Derek Steele, with co-driver Blake McGuffie, in a Datsun 510 had
the worst of it with 3 flat tires, being rolled on their side while
getting towed out of a ditch, proceeding and hitting a rock bending
a wheel and finally going beyond maximum lateness while stuck in
a river crossing. Even marshals had headaches - now champion rally
driver, Shawn Bishop's `baptismal' introduction to stage rally was
complete when he rolled his shiny new Toyota onto it's roof and
into a slough on the way to work a control.
Rocky was a full "Special Stage" event, complete with
340 kms of stage roads covered by boulders and rather deep river
crossings. Coordinated by John Nixon, with Pat Stiles as Rallymaster,
she was also granted status as a qualifying event in the newly created
North American Rally Cup. The North American Rally Cup, which added
together points earned on both sides of the border to name a joint
US/Canadian Champion, was designed to stimulate cross border rallysport.
And ... the Calgary Amateur Radio Association (CARA) became involved
supplying full radio net communication for the event, another Canadian
first. CARA has been continuously involved with Rocky since 1976
and has also undertaken radio scoring since 1978.
'76, Calgary continued the Vernon-Clyne introduction of an in-city
spectator stage with the Blackfoot Motorcycle Park venue, a semi-foothill
located on the east side of the city. Facing west, downtown and
the Rocky Mountains form a backdrop, and the now nationally recognized
wildlife photographer, H. Barry Giles took the first of his real
photographs - Lauri Paivarinta's Fiat 131 several feet in the air
with the Rocky Mountains and the city of Calgary beneath the car.
Paivarinta, an immediate hit with the media, was on television along
with the Rocky. CTV aired a 15 minute show across western Canada
on Rocky '76.
concept of a press rally, the "Carma-Castrol Press Rally",
was added to the 1977 Rocky Mountain Rally with support from British
Leyland and their teams. Pat Stiles used a twisting 3 kilometer
stretch of dirt road north of the city and the Calgary media participated
- stations called for extra invitations and a chance to try this
"new" sport. The press rally finished at the newly completed
Four Seasons Convention Centre then, and now, one of Calgary's elite
hotels. Carma Developers supplied a new venue for the spectator
stage at what was to become the Deerfoot Mall and enough sponsorship
to the run one of the first of the Canadian Super Stages.
John Nixon embarking on what was to be six more years of national
driving competition, Lynn Nixon was appointed the 1977 Rocky Mountain
Rally Coordinator. Pat Stiles served the second of a twelve year
stint as rallymaster, planning a shorter route with 200 kms of special
stages, similar to the present day national formats. The 1977 Rocky
was on CTV network television and on western Canada CBC television
broadcasts, another first in Canadian rallysport. And, for the only
time in recorded rally stories, competitors were entertained by
a bona fide belly dancer at the Fortress Mountain Lodge dinner stop.
As Tom Burgess told it, Taisto Heinonen was so engaged he narrowly
avoided road penalties checking into the next stage start control.
entered the national rally arena for 1978 and 1979, and the series
was known as the "Molson Rally Championship of Canada".
With Nixon and Stiles at the helm, local sponsorship developed,
competition increased, and the Rocky Mountain Rally was firmly established
as a championship event. Also an event in the Pacific International
Rally Series since 1975, the Rocky was awarded PIRS "1978 Rally
of the Year" status.
one year in the Porcupine Hills, Rocky returned to the Kananaskis
Country for 1980 where it was to remain until 1983 when it moved
into the Bow Crow Forest, northwest of Calgary on the eastern slopes
of the Rocky Mountains. Lynn Nixon "retired" from rally
organizing for 1980, and Doreen Munsie became coordinator for both
the 1980 and 1981 events. With no national series sponsorship, a
Calgary business purchased the title in 1980, the ~Sports Tune Rocky
Mountain Rally~. Cal Booth, of the Calgary Amateur Radio Association,
wrote one of Canada's first computer rally scoring programs that
actually worked and began his role in scoring that continues to
the present day. Forty one teams challenged the 1980 event, a number
only equalled by the 1981 Rocky.
Side Toyota acquired title sponsorship for both 1981 and 1982 and
the event became "The Northside Toyota Rocky Mountain Rally"
in both years. Craig Pittman was coordinator for 1982, a year where
the Northside Toyota Rocky Mountain Rally offered the most lucrative
prize purse in Canada: $10,000.
another footnote was added to Canadian rally history in 1982: The
winners were two previous coordinators of the event! John and Lynn
Nixon, in the Northside Toyota Corolla, nullified the best efforts
of 1980 Canadian Rally Champions, Taisto Heinonen and Tom Burgess
with the formidable Team Toyota Celica 2000 GT, to win the rally
by 8 seconds. The final three stages of Rocky '82 may well have
been among the most furiously contested of the decade. Heinonen
and Nixon were driving like men possessed, out-distancing both Team
Datsun Canada drivers, Randy Black, the reigning rally champion,
and Niall Leslie, by one and two minutes a stage -- and one minute
is a long time on a 6 minute stage!
heralded Lynn Nixon returning as coordinator of the Rocky Mountain
Rally, a year that also marked her retirement from competition.
Increased tourism and provincial development of parks for the Kananaskis,
the Bow Crow Forest, and even the Porcupine Hills drastically reduced
road accessibility for the August date, a date that no one but the
organizing committee seemed to be willing to change. The national
economy was in a recession and the west was struggling with a wounded
oil industry. Rocky became a more modest event while retaining good
local support from sponsors and competitors.
1984, all roads were inaccessible around Calgary during the traditional
August dates. The Rocky Mountain Rally committee reluctantly decided
to remove the event from the national calendar when no other date
was offered for that year.
saw a rejuvenation of the national rally committee with Tom Burgess,
the National Rally Director, making a strong commitment to re-establishing
a national series across Canada. John Sim entered as the 1985 Rocky
Mountain Rally Coordinator, a position he was to hold for three
more years. The date was changed to May and the committee began
the arduous task of re-building the event.
presence of the Quebec teams in 1985, Bernard Franke/Richard Cyr,
Andre Normandin/Louis Belanger and Nicole Ouimet/Mary Crundwell
very likely saved Rocky's reputation as a national. Fourteen crews
started the '85 Rocky which headed from sunny Calgary into the Bow
Crow Forest only to be greeted by two feet of fresh, wet snowfall
on that fateful May 11th. More was on it's way. Rallymaster, Pat
Stiles, rearranged the whole route to avoid trapped tourists, only
requiring co-drivers to renumber their routebook pages and add two
instructions. Competitors, service crews, marshals, and officials
were thigh-deep in the white stuff by rally's end. It is a lasting
tribute to Stiles and all the marshals, given the conditions, that
the entire route was run and the event finished only one minute
behind the originally scheduled time.
gained an improved, but still thin entry list. In an effort to stimulate
interest and find the "different roads" requested by some
of the Calgary competitors, John Sim and Pat Stiles looked afield
and made the decision to situate Rocky in the Pincher Creek - Crowsnest
Pass area for 1987. In 1987, North American Rally Cup Status returned.
With strong local support and involvement of the Pincher Creek and
District Chamber of Commerce, the Municipal District of Pincher
Creek, General Tire, and Shell Canada, competitors were attracted
from the US Pacific Northwest as well as points east.
was the first year for an FIA "B List Driver" to enter
a Canadian West rally. Competitors Jorge Dascollas, Shawn Bishop,
Euan Hanchard and Demitrios Andreou pooled their sponsorship resources
and prevailed upon Pentti Airikkala to come to Calgary and Pincher
Creek to lead a select driving school, enter the rally and have
a holiday. Working with the organizing committee, several competitors
arranged helicopter transport for TV cameras and a regional half
hour show was produced by an ITV affiliate. This show continued
for both 1988 and 1989.
1988, General Tire Motorsports was sponsoring the national series,
known as the "General Tire Rally Championship of Canada"
during 1988, 1989 and 1990. And, the Rocky Mountain Rally became
a two day event for the first time since 1974. Saturday, the cars
left Pincher Creek to run mountain and spectator stages to the west,
returning late in the evening. Sunday, the rally ran north, and
back into the Porcupine Hills for the first time in eight years.
The awards presentation was held Sunday evening in Pincher Creek
and everyone scrambled to make airline flights out of Calgary.
1989, with the '88 Winter Olympics behind her, Lynn Nixon agreed
once again to coordinate Rocky, with Craig Pittman as Route Master.
Rocky '89 used a one day format, running successfully in the Porcupine
Hills with Taisto Heinonen driving Car O. The prize purse grew,
the Super Stages returned and every competitor received a cheque,
whether they finished or not. And, there was another first for the
history book - the same crew was First Overall, First Production
GT and First Novice. Jeff Zwart, with co-driver Cal Coatsworth,
both of California in a Millen Motorsports prepared Mazda 323 GTX,
in only their third event, won by more than two minutes. This was
good enough for a Road and Track article.
the turn of the decade, the 17th annual Rocky Mountain Rally was
relocated to Calgary and included spectator stages at Canada Olympic
Park before departing to the Bow Crow Forest stages. Nixon and Pittman
had retrieved North American Rally Cup status lost in 1988 and had
organized for national cable television broadcasts in Montreal,
Fredericton, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver
reaching 3.5 million subscribers. The technical excellence of the
event was affirmed when Rocky was named "1990 Rally of the
Year" by the Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs.
and Pittman are offering a two day event for the 1991 version, with
competitive night mountain stages on Friday, May 24th and daytime
spectator and forest stages on Saturday, May 25th. The mountain
stages are in the Kananaskis Country using roads which have not
seen the Rocky since 1982. National television coverage is again
secured and the 18th Rocky is attracting teams from eastern Canada
and US, as well as the Pacific Northwest.
is not the oldest of the Canadian Rally Championship events; longevity
honors belong to Highlands, Perce Neige and Tall Pines. Rocky can
not boast the highest entries; these honors belong to Voyageurs,
Tall Pines and Perce Neige. Rocky does not lure spectators numbering
in the thousands and tens of thousands to the forest stages; these
achievements belong to Rallye Baie des Chaleurs, Defi St Agathe,
and lately, Tall Pines. But Rocky is a hardy event with the ability
to survive and even flourish in adversity; an event providing, and
demanding, technical excellence; an event cultured by a caring club;
and an event that has truly won her crown as a National Championship