It’s 2001, my birthday, and in my hands my wife had placed a gift certificate for a motor racing experience in Thompson called Racing Reality. All our life together, she had heard about my desire to run and she made it come true.

“You are going to run! ” she said.

I also think that maybe this was his solution for me to get rid of this running problem.

It didn’t take.

She was a dealer and I was a brand new speed junkie.

After my racing adventure, I discovered Skip Barber Racing School, a school based on road lessons in Lime Rock Park, where Paul Newman used to race. I took a course there too, in an open-wheel format.

Still not out of my system, I found the ultimate racing school in the entire known universe: Team O’Neil Rally School. Set in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, snow-capped photos of rally cars flying through the woods jumped out at me, and I might as well have been in Sweden. I was hooked instantly.

I have to go to this school, I thought to myself.

Right now.

European sports have always been sort of my favorite, cycling, football etc. and when I discovered rallying in the early 1980s that sealed the deal. By the time I hit driving age a few years later, I could barely afford my first $ 500 car, let alone a race car.

So I made a phone call and before I knew it I was sitting in a real rally car (I had never seen a real rally car before) in the middle of the mountains. If I wasn’t yet a rally junkie, I was quite ready for rehab after the week of class.

We learned the intricacies of driving on gravel surfaces, using left foot braking and something called the pendulum turn, or more colloquially, The Scandinavian Flick.

This particular maneuver goes against all natural driving instincts of normal humans and spins the car around a corner using – you guessed it – a pendulum swing at mind-blowing speeds. For the full story of my rally school experience, check out this page:

It was 2004. The following summer I was able to cover the Maine Forest Rally (now New England Forest Rally) for my newspaper at the time. After seeing a real live event, where cars, drivers and co-drivers were immediately accessible in something called Parc Exposé, I was so addicted that I would have dropped my 401k to be able to be a part of this world.

On the five hour drive home, I dreamed, but the dream had turned into a scheming, prioritizing and turning my world on his ear to get into the race – somehow. of another. I learned something called autocross, a high performance event where a driver drives any car (race or street) through a cone course in a closed parking lot. I hit Craigslist looking for a cheap car and made a list of VW Golfs and Jetta, like they used at Team O’Neil, and showed them to my wife.

“No,” she said. “You need something even cooler.”

So I showed him a classic BMW, the one I wanted in high school. “There you go,” she said. “Take that one.”

I almost renewed my vows on the spot.

So the search started again and at the end of September of that year a 1988 BMW 325is was sitting in my driveway. The following April, I competed in my very first competitive motoring event, an SCCA sanctioned autocross at Horseneck Beach, Westport, Massachusetts.

The next day a friend of mine came over and we started to take the car apart. Then, after an exhaustive search for safety cage builders, I landed on Cage This, in Lynn, Mass. The owner, Bill Doyle, and I quickly became friends, in part because we both had the same car.

Eventually he agreed to sponsor me and my efforts with Slapdash Racing ( Bill was very influential in bringing me to my very first stage rally, the New England Forest Rally, the very one I covered as a reporter in 2011. After 25 years of dreaming, I finally found myself driving my own rally car. – even though I had to take the real wheel (Thanks Bill!)

In high school, in the heyday of the late 1980s, I sat on my couch on a bright summer morning and saw a 30-second clip of a stage rally competition in Europe on ESPN. What the H is rallying, I said. Was it an Audi with truck tires on it pounding the woods at ridiculous speeds?

That Lancia has just crashed and the fans are turning it over, and the car drives off through the narrow lanes of Finland? Or on the cliff side in Monte Carlo?

More of that, please. More … of … this.

When you fall in a rally, or have a ‘stop’ or ‘big time’, you are meant to keep going at all costs, whenever possible. Press anyway, that’s the mantra.

There are more than a few photos online of a dedicated co-pilot operating the throttle from the engine compartment after the throttle cable broke. The fans lined up the course, which was on a regular road. Like, a real road. Just like the forest roads that cross Voluntown and Griswold, among others. And did those license plates on these race cars literally seem to go off the show floor?

Yes and yes.

Most people – and I would actually recommend it – take several years to develop their autocross and rallycross skills before attempting a stage event. I went from autocross to rallying on stage in two years, including the time it took to build the car. I only had three autocrosses under my belt before going to Maine. Somehow, I had in mind that I was going to get hit by a bus before I even got on the stage. So I accelerated my plans.

Before I knew it, I was in a panic while queuing for technical checks (technical inspection) at the Sno-Cat hangar at Sunday River Ski Resort, the base camp of the Nova Forest rally. -England. I passed the technology with flying colors – a testament to all the hard work of everyone on my team, sponsor and myself – and eventually found myself sitting at the start control and then doing it. shoot through the woods of Maine, with my navigator beside me shouting the directions of the course.

I had materialized a dream. Cloudy visions during sleepless nights finally descended from the ether and took the form of a vintage BMW loaded with fast pieces.

I did it.

I made it happen.

Kris Gove lives in Voluntown.

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