Tuesday, October 10th, 2017
Paul Westwick has been the man behind the Pacific Forest Rally since 2000, including bringing it to the Canadian Rally Championship over ten years ago. We caught up with the event organizer in the final two weeks before the rally, to get his thoughts on how PFR has come to its current state.
CRC: How long have you been involved with the Pacific Forest Rally, and how did it all begin for you?
Paul Westwick: I headed up the committee that revived PFR in 2000, after it had lain dormant for 15 years. We initially based the rally in Cache Creek, and then moved it to Merritt two years later. I had actually begun working on getting a performance rally going in BC since the early 90’s, and helped out with some of the events on Vancouver Island in the mid 90’s.
CRC: The event has often played a key role in how championships have played out over the time it has been a national. Part of that may be time of year and place in the season, but how do you think the nature of the roads play into things?
PW: The roads certainly provide a special challenge. My goal has always been fun roads over car-breakers – as much as possible, test the skill of driver and co-driver rather than a pure horsepower challenge or test of skid-plate endurance. That’s not to say we’ve never used rough sections – remembering the boulder field at AMR one year – but it’s not my goal, and generally only done if really needed for a spectator stage.
CRC: What do people need to know about the roads at this year’s edition of PFR?
PW: We have a good mix of old favourites and some awesome new sections of roads. There were two big washouts on Helmer this spring, which forced us to redesign the north end of the stage and turn it into a dead-end. I try to avoid dead-end stages for what they do to the schedule, and how it can break the teams’ rhythm, but this extension gives us some really fun technical driving, while allowing us to use 95% of the old Helmer stage. The other new section is Spius – an entirely new 29km stage, full of varied terrain and driving challenges. It’ll be interesting to see how everyone does with completely fresh pace notes. No home-turf advantage!
CRC: How can people get involved?
PW: We are still looking for volunteers, particularly anyone with a HAM radio license. You can sign up through pacificforestrally.com – it is a great way to see the action up close, and be part of a really fun bunch of people.
CRC: How did the forest fires this summer impact the rally?
PW: BC had an extremely rough summer with record-breaking fires and a province-wide state of emergency. We had to postpone PFR, and for a while it looked like we might have to cancel it entirely. I’m thankful for all of the patience and support from members of our organizing committee, CARS officials and everyone else who helped make this possible.