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Rally Colorado: A Brief History

Photos via: Rally America/Morgan Segal, Rally Colorado


Rally Colorado is entering its fifth year of being hosted by Rangely, Colorado, but before its life as an ARA Super Regional round, the state of Colorado was host to some of the biggest names in US Rallying.


Back in 2002, Steamboat Springs, Colorado played host to a stage rally for the SCCA for the first time. Known as the Colorado Cog Rally, 14 competitors took to a small selection of stages, with Ron Nelson and co-driver James Rick Burtis coming out on top in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII.


Tanner Foust at Colorado Cog 2005
Photo via: Rally America/Morgan Segal

After a year off, 2004 brought the Colorado Cog into the SCCA Pro Rally schedule making it part of the national championship. This would bring the likes of Tanner Foust to compete in it's first year, with Travis Pastrana, Ken Block, and Andrew Comrie-Picard all competing (and winning) over the next five years.


One of the most (in)famous moments of the Colorado Cog era was in 2005 when Pastrana slid wide exiting a turn and caught a dirt mound, causing car #199 to bounce off violently and roll almost 8 times. Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom were both okay, and would make up for the DNF by winning the event in 2006.



2009 would see the last running of the Colorado Cog Rally, and an unfortunate rally drought in the area for the next 8 years.


Rally Colorado Chairwoman Samantha Chiarelli explains how Rally Colorado grew from the ashes of the once famed Colorado Cog Rally.

"After a long hiatus, a small welcoming, working town in Northwest Colorado was discovered by then organizers Alan and Tracey Gardiner with the help of the sanctioning body at the time," She said.


Ken Block at Colorado Cog Rally 2005
Photo via: Rally America/Morgan Segal

"This town is located in Rio Blanco County, with hundreds of miles of OHV trails, and one of the only designated natural rock crawling parks in Colorado along with world-class dirt and gravel roads."


"Rangely, CO was vetted and became the new home to Rally Colorado. From the first time the 'Irishman (Alan) with a funny accent' stepped foot in the town of Rangely, he was welcomed with open arms."


2017 saw the first running of Rally Colorado in its new hometown as a national round for Rally America, before running as a Super Regional round of the ARA for the first time in 2019.


The first ARA running of Rally Colorado was a two-day event that was won by David and Michael Brown in their Subaru Impreza RS. The duo would take second place in the 2020 running of the rally, finishing only behind up-and-comer Ryan Booth in his Fiesta R5.


2020 would be another transitional year as new event organizers Joseph and Samantha Chiarelli would take over, after taking interest in the position the night after the 2019 rally had finished.


Steve Olana at Rally Colorado 2020
Photo via: Rally Colorado/Jon Seaton

The Chiarelli's and everyone else involved are enthusiastic about the 2021 event, its fifth year running out of Rangely, CO.


The weekend begins on Friday, June 4th with a parade through the streets of Rangely, before continuing to the stages on Saturday and Sunday with spectators allowed back for the 2021 event.


Rally Colorado features the most stage miles of any event so far in the 2021 ARA season at over 140 across 14 stages winding through mountains, plains, canyons, and mesas.


"Rally Colorado is one of the most challenging events for drivers and crews in the US. More than a few of the stages seem to have no straight sections of road longer than a few car lengths. The road surfaces vary from groomed gravel roads, sandy, embedded bedrock, and washed round smooth river rocks in the lower washes. It has the most technical and tight roads I've ever encountered in a US Rally," according to Steve Bis, Overall winner in 2018 (Co-Driver, Scott McCarty from Rally.Build.)


"Some say it has 10 times the corners per mile than the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, and I believe it," he continued. "I have driven and navigated for this modern Rally Colorado and have enjoyed the challenges on both sides of the car."


Ryan Booth at Rally Colorado 2020
Photo via: Rally Colorado/Mack Colwell

"This rally requires absolute precision mixed with a touch of brute force and I can't wait to be back in 2021!"


This years event will be used to help prepare Rally Colorado for potentially becoming a National Round in 2022.


“We have a great route planned for the competitors along with some exciting opportunities to include the local community of Rangely, whom we love! Our goal is to use the 2021 event as an earnest test for our future National running," said Samantha.


"We hope to continue expanding the event and welcome more volunteers and teams for years to come."


One of the highlights of 2021 is an inaugural super special stage where the teams will marvel fans, volunteers, and locals as they race around Columbine Park in Rangely, Colorado.


Fans can find a digital spectator guide here: rallycolorado.org/spectating or pick up a print copy during park expose.

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