2003 was the 30th Anniversary Rocky Mountain Rally

Previous organizers, volunteers and competitors are invited to come on out and see this years. We are planning on some festivities for the old-timers and newbies as well. Of particular interest is that Peter Hill will be entered in a 1973 Toyota Corolla - the same type that Walter Boyce / Doug Woods won with in 1973.


Rocky Mountain Rally's Story

by Suzanne Barry (Stewart) (from 1973 to 1991)



Complete list of Rocky Mountain Rally Champions and class winners.

In 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.

The 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.

The 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 to Banff.

Some 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.

Notably, 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.

Burmah-Castrol 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 in 1975.

The 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.

The 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.

This 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.

In '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.

The 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.

With 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.

Molson's 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.

After 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.

North 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.

Yet 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!

1983 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.

By 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.

1985 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.

The 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.

1986 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.

1987 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.

By 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.

For 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.

With 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.

Nixon 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.

Rocky 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 Rally.

Walter Boyce / Doug Woods
1973 Rocky Mountain Rally
1973 Walter Boyce /
Doug Woods
Toyota Corolla
1974 Taisto Heinonen /
John Bellefleur
Toyota Corolla
1975 Taisto Heinonen /
Bruce Pickwell
Volvo 142
1976 Taisto Heinonen /
Tom Burgess
Renault R17
1977 John Buffum /
"Vicki"
Triumph TR7
1978 Taisto Heinonen /
Tom Burgess
Toyota Celica
1979 Rod Millen /
John Bellefleur
Datsun 510
1980 Taisto Heinonen /
Tom Burgess
Toyota Corolla
1981 Taisto Heinonen /
Tom Burgess
Toyota Corolla
1982 John Nixon /
Lynn Nixon
Toyota Corolla
1983 John Buffum /
Doug Shepherd
Audi Quattro
1984 Event Withdrawn
1985 Tim Bendle /
Steve Farrell
Datsun 510
1986 Bo Skowronnek /
Terry Epp
Volvo 242 T
1987 Bo Skowronnek /
Brian Peet
Volvo 242 T
1988 Paul Choiniere /
Scott Weinheimer
Audi Quattro
1989 Jeff Zwart /
Cal Coatsworth
Mazda 323 GTX
1990 Wojtek Grabowski /
Jerzy Dabrowski
Toyota Celica All Trac
1991 Frank Sprongl /
Dan Sprongl
Audi Quattro
1992 Frank Sprongl /
Dan Sprongl
Audi Quattro
1993 Tim Bendle /
Oliver Toszer
Datsun 510
1994 Tom McGeer /
Trish Sparrow
Subaru Legacy
1995 Yves Barbe /
B. Gilles Lacroix
Eagle Talon
1996 Tim Bendle /
Art MacKenzie
Pegasus III
1997 Carl Merrill /
Lance Smith
Ford Escort Cosworth
1998 Frank Sprongl /
Dan Sprongl
Audi Quattro
1999 Frank Sprongl /
Dan Sprongl
Audi Quattro
2000 John Buffum /
Mark Williams
Subaru WRX
2001 Tom McGeer /
Mark Williams
Subaru WRX
2002 Sylvain Erickson /
Philippe Erickson
Mitsubishi Evo
2003 Tom McGeer /
Howard Davies
Subaru WRX
2004 Patrick Richard /
Nathalie Richard
Subaru WRX
2005 Peter Thomson /
Rod Hendricksen
Subaru WRX
2006 Antoine Lestage /
Mark Williams
Hyundai Tiburon
2007 Antoine Lestage /
Nathalie Richard
Hyundai Tiburon
2008 Patrick Richard /
Alan Ockwell
Subaru STI
2009 Patrick Richard /
Alan Ockwell
Subaru STI
2010 Antoine Lestage /
Nathalie Richard
Mitsubishi Evo X
2011 Antoine Lestage /
Nathalie Richard
Mitsubishi Evo X
2012 Antoine Lestage /
Nathalie Richard
Mitsubishi Evo X
2013 Antoine Lestage /
Craig Parry
Mitsubishi Evo X
2014 Antoine Lestage /
Alan Ockwell
Mitsubishi Evo X
2015 Antoine Lestage /
Alan Ockwell
Subaru STI
2016 Antoine Lestage /
Darren Garrod
Subaru STI