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It’s a rally: Raven Rock RallySprint cruises to success in Harlan, Letcher counties

Spectators got a little taste of the fast lane over the weekend at the Raven Rock RallySprint, which saw hundreds of visitors.

The cars raced along Little Shepherd Trail atop Pine Mountain in Kingdom Come State Park, where visitors and vendors enjoyed breathtaking views and revving engines.

Backroads of Appalachia founder Erik Hubbard said the first-ever rally sprint in Kentucky was a “huge stepping stone” for the nonprofit organization that strives to bring economic development to Eastern Kentucky.

“We had 15 cars total, four men per team, that took up every B&B in Harlan, in the Tri-City area, and also in Letcher County,” he said. “Our main purpose was to get people to the Main streets and spend money there.”

Hubbard said he was thankful for local government and state officials who helped make the event possible, such as Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley, Letcher County Judge-Executive Terry Adams, District 3 Magistrate Paul Browning III and state Reps. Chris Fugate, Angie Hatton and Adam Bowling.

“The drivers did a total of 83 grueling miles,” he said, noting each was already exhausted halfway through the sprint. “Top speed was clocked at 107 miles per hour.”

Hubbard said Letcher County “stepped up the game” by widening the trail for the race and cleaning it of debris, making it safer for every day drivers and participants in the race.

“We have people here who are major rally racers who aren’t supposed to be here, they have scouts for that. I’m going to go ahead and tell Harlan County that this is going to get a whole lot bigger and better, which also means a lot more money for both counties,” he said.

Hubbard said he is grateful for Double Kwik, which provided pizza and refreshments for the teams, Game Day Designs for custom graphics, Lifeguard Ambulance, Kentucky Mist Distillery for prizes, Appalachian Wireless, MCHC for providing masks and Rustic Roosters for donating 24 trophies, handmade in eastern Kentucky.

“They’re in love with what we got here. It was also mentioned that this will become the mecca of rally racing for tarmac, which is asphalt,” he said. “We already knew this, but we had to work and build together to get there.”

Adams said the race was the first of a “continuing effort” in Eastern Kentucky to boost the economy throughout the area by blurring county lines and working together.

“I’ve talked to the drivers and they love the mountains and our roads and they want to come back,” he said. “We’re a racing community. Those outside Harlan and Letcher, we invite you.”

Mosley was also quick to mention his excitement for NASA Rally Sport being in the region.

“It just proves that when people work together, work outside the box and figure out ways to survive because our coal industry has been declining,” he said. “Our natural assets give us the opportunity to expand on our tourism industry.”

Mosley said he was excited when Marcel Ciascai, chairman of NASA Rally Sport, approached him about the beauty of the area and scouted it out.

“Backroads of Appalachia has done some great work here with the Dragon Slayer Highway 160 bringing in a lot of motorcycle enthusiasts. Already, over 9,000 of them have come through since May,” he said. “These are things we’ve never promoted in our tourism departments, both motorcycle riding and rally racing. It gives us another opportunity to bring people here that have never been here before.”

Chris Greenhouse and Ryan Scott, the driver and copilot who took home first place in their class for the Atlantic Rally Championship during the event, said the race went very well although they have never been in the area before.

“This is about rally 85 or 90 for us, and I think this was some of the trickiest roads we’ve ever been on. Definitely the narrowest and very, very tricky,” Scott said.

Greenhouse said the team has competed all over the U.S., from Maine to Ohio and up to Canada.

“We’ve got a lot to draw on here, and I gotta say, this was a really challenging road,” he said.

The two said they might have come to the event with more confidence had the road still been dirt and gravel, but with it being their first tarmac event, they said it helped being cautious and taking the time to attune to the road itself.

In NASA Rally Sport, Scott said there are two different classes, one for four-wheel-drive vehicles and the other for two-wheel-drive vehicles, each with a category for turbo and non-turbo.

“The rally is broken into stages and each stage is timed. You start and run as fast as you can to get to the finish while they’re timing you the whole time,” Scott said. “One minute after you start, they start the car after you. So, on this stretch here where you have 12 and a half miles, you have 12 cars going at once but they are all a mile apart.”

Scott said once each stage has been timed, the totals are added together at the end of the race and the fastest team across the nine stages wins.

“You could be fastest on eight and then totally screw up on the ninth stage or get stuck and you can throw the entire day away. You gotta be fast from the word ‘go’ all the way until the end of the day,” he said.

Although this race was smaller compared to others they have seen, upwards of 80 cars or more, Greenhouse and Scott said there will be bigger races planned in the area in the future, bringing rally back to Harlan and Letcher counties for another competition.

“We were very impressed with how welcoming the community was and how friendly. Everyone was really, really kind,” they said.

Results from the 2020 Raven Rock RallySprint:

Atlantic Rally Championship

2WD

  • First — Chris Greenhouse and Ryan Scott (1:46:48)
  • Second — Alexander Larsen and Kaitlyn Jansen (1:50:44)
  • Third — Nathan Odle and Alessandro Gelsomino (1:57:44)
  • DNF — Brian Katz and Matt Vaught
  • DNF — C. Sebastian Gomez Abero and Lawrence Davis

AWD

  • First — Martin Donnelly and Leon Jordan (1:42:59)
  • Second — Dave Wallingford and Rhianon Gelsomino (1:46:29)
  • Third — Jordan Haberer and Blake Woody (1:51:47)
  • Fourth — Todd Totorelli and Cameron Carr (1:56:56)
  • Fifth — Liam McNelis and Kenneth Quirke (2:01:49)
  • DNF — Carlos Neto and Aris Mantopoulos
  • DNS — Duncker Felix and Santiago Jarrin
  • DNS — Johnny O’Sullivan and Brian Mc Namara

NASA RallySport

OAH

  • First — Martin Donnelly and Leon Jordan (1:42:59)
  • Second — Dave Wallingford and Rhianon Gelsomino (1:46:29)
  • Third — Jordan Haberer and Blake Woody (1:51:47)
  • Fourth — Todd Tortorelli and Cameron Carr (1:56:56)
  • Fifth — Liam McNelis and Kenneth Quirke (2:01:49)
  • DNF — Carlos Neto and Aris Mantopoulos
  • DNS — Duncker Felix and Santiago Jarrin
  • DNS — Johnny O’Sullivan and Brian Mc Namara

O2H

  • First — Christopher Greenhouse and Ryan Scott (1:46:48)
  • Second — Nathan Odle and Alessandro Gelsomino (1:57:19)
  • DNF — Brian Katz and Matt Vaught
  • DNF — C. Sebastian Gomez Abero and Lawrence Davis

O2L

  • First — Alexander Larsen and Kaitlyn Jansen

SxS

  • First — Lester Dickerman and Christopher Dickerman