The automotive sport of rallying dates back over 100 years and the rules are simple: get from one place to another while hitting stages, or checkpoints, in between. Now, it’s up to the host on whether the award goes to the balls-to-the-wall fastest team, or the one who can reach the end in a predetermined “ideal” time. Since almost all rallying is done on public roads, I will let you guess which one is more legal.
This year the guys at Central Crown were putting on their 2nd annual Central Crown Rally and we at Short Shift thought we would check it out. The race started in Minneapolis, MN and went on to a grueling, yet gorgeous, 600 mile trek through the back roads of Wisconsin until we finally ended up at our destination in Downtown Chicago. In between there were 6 checkpoints where we were given the coordinates of our next destination. And, since the 42 registered teams were driving sports cars, we decided to take the journey in a 12 mpg, 3 ton, supercharged Range Rover… because environment. We also got to pick our team name which was, well, Short Shift.
In this article we will take you through each stage of the rally and show you what you can expect if you decide to take on the Crown next year!
Minneapolis, MN – Launch Party
The launch party kicked off at 8:00 am on Saturday and was a great chance for all of the drivers to get to know each other before the rally. Keep in mind, none of us knew where we were supposed to go at this time so the friendly competition mentality didn’t kick in until later. Local DJ Wyld Lyf pumped up some tunes and Playboy Energy Drink gave out samples of much needed caffeine. There was everything from American muscle, to powerful German sedans, to exotic Italianos, to, of course, a fat British Range Rover. I feel like I’m forgetting something though… oh yeah, a 1500 hp ProCharged Ford GT!
As the party was coming to a close, we decided that Steve would be the driver and I would be the expert navigator. When the clock struck 10:00 am the cars lined up, were given a card with coordinates for the first checkpoint, and then blasted out of the parking lot. The rally was on and, at that point, no one cared about meeting the predetermined time…
Welch, MN – Treasure Island Resort & Casino
After punching in the longitude and latitude into Google Maps (which thankfully worked!) we found out that our first checkpoint was Treasure Island Resort & Casino. The struggle wasn’t just arriving there, however, it was finding the best route to arrive there first! Luckily, I was navigating so we soon strayed from the path and found alternate routes with less traffic. The downside, however, is we got far less pictures when we did this. Either way, most teams arrived at the first checkpoint at around the same time, but the next one would not be so easy.
La Crosse, WI – Dublin Square Irish Put & Eatery
On our 100 mile route to La Crosse, WI we realized how beautiful the Midwest can be! We essentially followed the upper Mississippi River and all we found were windy roads, clear blue skies, and even bluer water. In between small towns we found ourselves surrounded by an infinite amount of green trees and some that were just starting to turn with the season. At some points we almost forgot we were racing and just enjoyed the view.
When entering La Crosse we also saw how you can build a beautiful city around a beautiful landscape. We took a wild mountain road straight onto a long bridge and right into downtown La Crosse. After we found Dublin Square Irish Pub & Eatery, we found our next coordinates waiting for us at some lovely outdoor seating.
Ontario, WI – Wildcat Mountain Stat Park
While leaving La Crosse we had a crucial decision to make: go straight on 14, or East on 16. We chose a last minute East on 16 and we couldn’t be more correct. What lied ahead was untamed, un-trafficked mountain roads. We zig-zagged in and out of roads that would excite even the best of drivers. The fun was only interrupted by the occasional podunk town, but luckily they were tiny and didn’t last long.
One strange thing we noticed is that there were quite a few garbage bags along the side of the road. Steve inquired if that was how garbage was collected in the country side and I assured him that they were body parts. It caused a stir in the car but we’ll never know because we didn’t stick around long enough to find out.
When we reached Wildcat Mountain State Park we came across the greatest horror that any person alive today can experience: a dead zone. We had no cell service and we had to find our way to a ferry crossing some body of water. I knew if we kept heading southeast we would eventually hit Chicago but that was the extent of my powers. Luckily team Porsche Cayman had a handy dandy map made out of paper. If you don’t know what that is, Google it.
Merrimac, WI – Merrimac Ferry
Probably the most fun, and most interactive, checkpoint was the Merrimac Ferry. Merrimac is a small town along Lake Wisconsin that hosts a fun attraction that transports your car across the lake… for free! Everyone got a chance to get out, stretch their legs, and get some well deserved ice cream from the gift shop. For this checkpoint to count, we had to take a picture of our car on the ferry and upload it to Central Crown’s community page.
After the short ride across the lake we hopped back in our cars and headed toward the second to last checkpoint.
Argyle, WI – Argyle Legion Community Park
On the way to get our last checkpoint card the roads remained curvy but the trees were thinned out by more and more towns. One such town, Blanchardville, WI, which seem to be nestled in between two large hills, was having a car show of its own. We stopped to get gas and snapped a few pictures of a pristine Plymouth Barracuda and a Mach 1 Ford Mustang. Normally we would like to stay and chat with fellow car owners but time was of the essence and we had a race to complete!
When we arrived at in Argyle we blew right by our checkpoint not knowing it was tucked back off the road a little ways. We quickly corrected our path but two cars gained position on us; the Maserati Quattroporte and the supercharged Pontiac Bonneville. The Central Crown representative informed us that we were in 18th place so we thought, by pure chance alone, that we would have a fighting chance for the crown.
Chicago, Il – The Race To TheWIT
Now the race was on. We had caught word that a few teams had finished an hour or so ahead of us so we figured we needed to book it to reach the predetermined time. Since the Maserati and the Pontiac had lost us fast, I needed to contribute some clutch navigating so we could win. I noticed on our GPS that there was some worrisome traffic in the next 30 mile on I90, which is the route I assumed most teams would take, so we decided to take I20 around and merge back later.
Once the traffic cleared up we made our way back to 90 and as it just so happened there was a white Maserati in our rear view mirror. This was incredible because 1. we couldn’t have planned this better and 2. I got the chance to hang out of the window and snap an amazing picture (see above)! We continued to keep our lead all the way into Chicago and our E-ZPass helped ensure that.
Chicago, IL – TheWIT Hotel
The time had finally come. It was about 8:00 pm when we pulled up to the final checkpoint: TheWIT hotel in downtown Chicago. And by downtown Chicago, I mean right smack-dab in the middle. If we would have taken a wrong turn here, which we almost did, it could have put us back 10 – 15 minutes. Luckily, like I’ve said so many times before, I’m an expert navigator.
After driving all day the only thing we could think about was getting to our hotel room, freshening up, and eating some well deserved dinner. We sat down with Team Pancakes (Ford Focus ST) in TheWIT’s restaurant, (which, by the way, has incredible food but an incredibly confusing menu) and we cheersed to a successful rally. We drank beer, ate food, and reflected on the awesome, and not so awesome, parts of the day.
The Central Crown
At the award ceremony following dinner we found that team Playboy Energy (Ford Mustang GT500) arrived first with a time of 7 hours and 39 minutes and we arrived in 13th place with a time of 8:56. Although we didn’t win, we beat team Maserati Minneapolis (Maserati Quattroporte) by 10 minutes. The true winner, which is the one that arrived in the predetermined time, was Team Champion (Dodge Viper) with a time 9:36. Other awards were also given out such as biggest chatterbox on the radio and best navigator and it’s important to know that awards were only given out to law abiding categories. Sorry Playboy!
This was Short Shift’s first rally and it blew the doors off of any car show. At a car show you get to look at a bunch of nice cars in a parking lot with their hoods up but in a rally you get to experience what these cars are capable of. You also get to know the people a lot better since you’ve just spent the last 8 hours navigating with them. This has been a great experience and we can’t wait to rally with the Central Crown guys again.
I should probably also tell you how crazy an after party on a rooftop in downtown Chicago on a Saturday night is, but I guess you’ll just have to join next year’s Central Crown Rally to find out!