Phantom Hill Revisited: The 2015 Sun Valley Road Rally
SVPN Magazine, September 2015
Words & Images by David Concannon
The weather was perfect. Slightly overcast, all the better to mask the sun’s harsh rays at high altitude. A light breeze. Not too much to cause a disturbance in the ground effects of a fast car moving at high speed, but just enough to create lift under the wings of hawks as they swooped above the sagebrush, looking for prey. Mother Nature had decided to show mercy on the 800 spectators gathered at the base of Phantom Hill for the 9th running of the Sun Valley Road Rally, and the wind and clouds were a welcome respite before the howling of engines that was about to begin.
If you had any doubt that the Sun Valley Road Rally had become, as SVPN Editor Kim Frank predicted in her September 2014 story about the Rally, an internationally-recognized event with drivers and spectators traveling to Idaho from as far away as New Jersey (by road) and Finland (by air), these doubts would have been dispelled by the scene unfolding before you.
By 11:00 a.m., Tilly’s clothing company founder, Hezy Shaked had posted consistent 230+ mph run times in his one-of-a-kind Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse L’Or Rouge, with its distinctive “Darth Maul” paint job and apt knickname, “Hellbug.” Crowd favorite, 82-year-old “Go Granny” Shirley Veine, had pushed her yellow Corvette to 171.4 mph; and a locally-owned twin-engine Piper Aerostar piloted by [name withheld to protect the guilty] had buzzed the course at 240 mph in a daring bit of aeronautical acrobatics that began with the plane dropping in from the northwest, skimming the Big Wood River at below-treetops height, steeply pulling up to barely crest the hill above Oregon Gulch, before topping out in an inverted flat spin, recovering, and quickly exiting the scene.
That’s about the time our prescient SVPN editor and two adventurous Californians set a new speed record for an electric vehicle: 157.9 mph in the whisper-quiet, all-wheel-drive, 762 bhp wolf-in-sheep’s clothing known as the STRUT Tesla Model S P85D.
This green demon, introduced to the public just two months earlier, can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in only 3.1 seconds—faster than the Corvette C6 ZR1 and the Ferrari 599 GTO – when the driver engages its “Insane Mode,” and cover a quarter-mile in 11.6 seconds, making it faster than any other production sedan and a host of sports cars. The Tesla is supposedly limited to a top speed of 155 mph, but not today. With the car in what STRUT CEO Simon Trumper (half) jokingly referred to as “Kim Mode,” driver Scott Reidl pushed it past its factory limit and bested its top speed by three miles per hour, breaking a speed record recently set by a P85D at the legendary Nurburgring race track in Germany.
All of this happened at Phantom Hill, on a public road 12 miles north of Ketchum, Idaho, on a sunny Saturday morning, for charity. But the fun didn’t stop there.
By early afternoon, 34 drivers had completed 64 runs in exchange for charitable donations of thousands of dollars per run, with five passengers paying up to $5,000 to ride in a Bugatti. Shaked had screamed across the finish line at 235.7 mph in the Hellbug; last year’s winner Benjamin Chen had delighted the crowd with a near-200 mph run in a Bentley sedan (his Bugatti Veyron, which hit 246.4 mph in the 2014 Road Rally, was a scratch after ingesting a pebble on a leisurely run to Redfish Lake the day before); Tom O’Gara’s spectacular Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo race car turned in a respectable 190.6 mph,
which was nearly matched by Mike Denkers on a BMW S1000RR motorcycle; and Road Rally co-founder Dave Stone was left wondering which of his three runs was more fun: 190.2 mph in a Porsche, 135.2 mph in a vintage Ford Mustang, or a hilarious 65.9 mph putter in the “Mutt Cutts” van from the movie Dumb and Dumber 2.
But enough of this talk about speed; let’s talk about some numbers that really matter: the 2015 Sun Valley Road Rally raised a net total of $200,000 to fight drug abuse among teenagers in the Wood River Valley. Two Hundred Thousand Dollars, in a single day.
This was truly a community event. The Road Rally’s organizers expected 100 cars to participate in the Ketchum Cruise and Car Show on Friday night – they were met with 170. An estimated 6,000 people packed Ketchum’s Town Square after the Cruise to walk among the cars, eat food, and inundate local businesses. It was as if every man, woman, and child in Ketchum showed up on Friday night to experience what their community had to offer, and they each brought a friend. The response was overwhelming, the positive feeling of community spirit was palpable, and both the public and local merchants were delighted.
Nothing tears apart the fabric of a community faster or more thoroughly than the scourge of drug abuse. As parents, we are often focused primarily on seeing the good in our children. We see their potential, do our best to raise them and, oftentimes, we simply cross our fingers and hope for the best. But sometimes, this is not enough. Hope is not a plan. Combatting drug abuse takes action. It takes dedication and it requires resources. And resources come from the community.
This year, the community stepped up: several Road Rally participants and sponsors made cash or in-kind contributions of $15,000 or more; the public-private partnership between the Road Rally organizers, the Drug Coalition, Blaine County Sheriff, and SNRA was a model of efficiency and cooperation; and the public came out in droves.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the noun “community” is defined as: “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals” and “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.” Clearly, the spectators, sponsors, and participants in the Ketchum Cruise and Car Show and the Sun Valley Road Rally fit this definition. Whether they came for the cars or the camaraderie, the gathering of families or simply like-minded individuals to share a space and view this one-of-a-kind event, they formed a community within a community, and everybody benefitted.
The scream of engines has now dissipated and Phantom Hill has grown silent once again, with the quiet broken only by the sound of an occasional vehicle headed to or from Redfish or Galena. Until next year, when the community gathers once again to set records, make memories, and raise money to maintain the fabric of the community and benefit us all.
Sun Valley Auto Club
1930 Electra Ln | Hailey