100 Acre Woods

I made a mistake last weekend.

That mistake was finding a new hobby that will inevitably cause me to buy more car parts that I probably don’t need.

That mistake was rally.

Rally (noun) : a form of motorsport that takes place on public or private roads with modified production or specially built road-legal cars. It is distinguished by running not on a circuit, but instead in a point-to-point format in which participants and their co-drivers drive between set control points (special stages), leaving at regular intervals from one or more start points.

In the small, quiet, and often cell-service-less towns of Salem, Potosi, and Steelville, Missouri there comes a time during every spring when the air is filled with gravel, rev limiters, and exuberant cheering along many backroads. A closer look will show fearless drivers throwing their cars throw corners at insane speeds and seemingly sprouting wings over crests, all surrounded by exuberant (and often times relatively drunk) fans standing on the side of the road amongst the towering trees of the Mark Twain National Forest. This was 100 Acre Woods Rally. And it was exhilarating.

A handful of us had the privilege to tour the Subaru Rally Team’s staging area with a private tour the day before the entire rally, giving us an up close look at their cars and a chance to speak with their techs to learn more about the half-million dollar (PER) machines in front of us.

Day 2 had us at the Parc Expose as each team arrived, offering fans the opportunity to spend some time with both the teams and cars. Among the familiar faces at the event were drivers and teams like Ken Block with Hoonigan; David Higgins, Craig Drew, Oliver Solberg, and Aaron Johnston with Subaru Rally Team; and a surprising appearance from Mike Lovejoy who I had a chance to meet at the 2017 Subaru National Business Conference in Denver. At the end of the Parc Expose was the Special Stage that highlighted the
general spirit of what rally is and gave the teams a chance to show off their vehicles for all the fans, from which they departed off to the stages for the day.

Heading out from the Parc Expose – our group decided on Stage 3, which consisted of a long straight followed by a sweeping upwards right hand turn into a tunnel of trees. As this was my first rally to shoot, I experimented between capturing frozen motion along with some tracking and panning shots. Throughout the weekend, I wanted to experiment with the panning, both during the day and night stages. This resulted in some more artistic shots than I usually shoot, but am relatively excited about the results.

The last portion of the day had us at an amazing night stage. We arrived a few hours early and after a few drinks and a chance to finally get some food in our systems, we patiently waited for the sun to drop below the horizon and the safety cars make their way through the stage. As soon as the safety cars made their way through the stage and it was hot, the sounds of “CARRRRR!” from the fans radiated through the stage as each car lit up the long approach into a tight lefthand hairpin turn. This was a challenging stage to shoot at night, so I took some liberties with shooting a little less traditionally.

After a long, exhausting day, we all hit the sack relatively early as soon as we got back to our cabin (albeit, “early” being midnight or just slightly past). Our earliest, and last, morning offered one of the most exciting stages that has made a name for itself as a result of both amazing footage AND potential crashes. Thankfully, all we had this time was the former. The Cattle Guard Jump. The name is pretty self explanatory.

And now, after only a little after 48 hours of experience… I want a rally car.

Should I do it? Road to Rally on Youtube? 😉

© dustin kessler