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2014-07-02 / Front Page

Back Road Racers Swamped Newberry Area for Third Annual Magnum Opus

by Jared Buchholz

Fans get a dirt shower as Mark and John Huebee zoom by the a spectator area at Canada Lakes in a Volkswagon Beetle. 
photo by Jared Buchholz Fans get a dirt shower as Mark and John Huebee zoom by the a spectator area at Canada Lakes in a Volkswagon Beetle. photo by Jared Buchholz The third annual Magnum Opus Rally race roared through Newberry Saturday as the fourth stop of the NASA Atlantic Rally Cup series. The race drew 29 competitors from across the U. S. to compete through the closed back roads of Newberry’s countryside.

Rally racing, also called rallying, pits high powered roadlegal cars and motorcycles in a race against the clock on public and private roads. The vehicles are generally released in oneminute increments along stages, which are sectioned off roads and trails. Magnum Opus featured 11 stages, though a stage was cancelled due to time constraints.

“I think it went really well,” praised event chairman and Newberry sheriff’s deputy Tim Maskus. “We had some hiccups like we do every year. We have little snafus that catch us, but we learn.”

Four stages were run on County Road 510, also called Skyline road, north of Newberry. Two stages were in the Carlson Camp area, as were two in the Wolf Lake area. One stage ran in Canada Lakes, and another one was cancelled.

For the delight of the fans a short “Super Special” stage was run in the field of the Luce County Fairgrounds.

Husband and wife combo Henry and Cindy Krolikowski took home the plaque as the overall rally car champions, completing the course in 1: 03.36, beating Jacob and Dane Marsack and their Impreza RS by three minutes. They raced in an all- wheel drive Subaru Impreza, serviced by Thompson Racing Fabrication.

They clocked the fastest average speed, 60.7 mph, while also posting the top time in four stages, including a blistering run in the final stage in the rain, at night and without windshield wipers.

The duo had the second fastest time in five other stages and only placed outside the toptwo once: a fourth-place finish in the second stage.

This was the first year Magnum Opus allowed Rally Moto, which is a street-legal dualsport motorcycle competition running the same course and basic rules as the rally cars. The addition drew another 10 competitors with their service teams.

“They (NASA) asked us to add Moto Rally to the series ast year, but we held off because we had already instituted some changes. We didn’t want to change up too many things at once,” explained Maskus.

Devon Mahon took home the Rally Moto crown on his KTM 530 EXC, posting a time of 1: 05.58, which would have placed him second among the cars. His performance included all first- and second-place finishes.

The event costs between $15,000 and $20,000 to run, which is paid for by local sponsorships and entry fees. Including the Moto Rally was the difference between losing money on the event and breaking even.

“Without the extra entries, we woul d los e money on thi s event. We don’t get a lot of sponsorship locally and it is difficult for the businesses to contribute,” Maskus pointed out. “The bikes really made up the difference. When we break even, we’re happy.”

The event is the brain-child of Maskus and Kevin Vanatta. Vanatta, who saw some rallies on television and the wheels started to turn.

“Within two weeks we had a plan, and we were committed to it. It took a year to put together. We have to get permits across state land and county roads. You have to get insurance, all types of things. We needed an organizing team, you have to have workers, a worker chief, control captains in charge of timing, a scoring captain, a clerk of the course who is my first right hand man, Bill Wester,” Maskus listed.

The roads chosen by Maskus can’t exceed 80 mph as an average over the whole course, which is a threshold set by the insurance companies.

Consideration for the locals is a concern for the stages as well. Many of the stages are in common recreational areas with civilian property. The event coordinators went to great lengths to avoid interference, though one civilian got free of the taped roads, causing an hour and a half delay as the crews secured the course.

According to Maskus, the biggest obstacle to the success of the event is volunteers.

“That is the most important part of a rally. It is so hard to harvest and get committed people to come up. Without those people, we don’t have an event,” Maskus lamented. “We had about 80 workers pre-register, and we probably had 25 after the fact.”

Thankfully for Magnum Opus, groups from as far away as Missouri came to help. Dustin Privett, Curt Faigle and Lee Hilliard made the 11-hour trip by car because they love the sport.

Besides the driver and codriver, service crews are contracted to keep the cars operational between stages. Ryan Thompson, owner of Thompson Racing Fabrication, and his crew were responsible for servicing four cars during the 20- minute service stops between stage sections.

“The crews are here mostly for fun. They get a little bit of compensation, but they are really here to be part of the environment. They just like being part of the team,” revealed Thompson.

Since it takes about a year to organize the event, the preparations for next year’s race will be underway soon.

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