By Jeanne Sager
FORESTBURGH April 15, 2005 When air travel began to take the place of short car trips, the Borchst Belt of Sullivan County gave way to exciting adventures in Europe.
But thanks to Ivan and Olga Orisek of Forestburgh, a bit of the European-style adventure has come to Sullivan County.
The sport of auto racing, popularized in the states by the NASCAR circuit, has long been a fan favorite in Europe where finely tuned automobiles take turns on public highways at dizzying speeds in front of screaming crowds.
The Oriseks introduced the stage car rally road race to Sullivan County last year essentially drivers race their competitors on special stages, linked together by transit sections.
In certain areas, drivers in small sedans take to public roads that have been closed to civilian traffic. The cars start at one-minute intervals and drive at full speed along the length of the course.
When they reach the end of the closed roadways, they merge with regular traffic in transit to the next stage.
In the transit sections, the cars obey all traffic laws. If theyre caught speeding, the drivers are penalized.
Road rally racing is an incredible sport, said Ivan Orisek, chairman and clerk of the course.
Its very exciting, he noted. It shows the spectators the drivers skill.
While it might not be as well known in the US, in the rest of the world its the biggest racing spectator sport, he added. When you go abroad, there are hundreds of thousands of spectators.
This years race will be held this weekend, starting and finishing right in front of the countys government center on North Street in Monticello.
The majority of the 250-mile race will be run on roads in the Town of Tusten, with marshalled spectator spots for the fans to watch the expert drivers maneuvering through the field and a central service area at Landers Campgrounds in Narrowsburg.
The beauty of the road rally, Orisek said, is that it can be done pretty much anywhere.
This event is conducted primarily on gravel roads, he explained.
The reason for choosing Sullivan County, besides strong support from the Sullivan County Visitors Association and the Town of Tusten government, was location.
Although the rally was held last year on roads in both Delaware and Sullivan counties, it will be limited to Sullivan this year because of what Orisek deems better lodging and hospitalities available for the drivers and spectators.
The race is expected to attract 60 to 65 entries with two competitors per car. Thats almost guaranteed, Orisek said.
Now the idea is to zero in on spectators.
Road Rally New York is here to stay in Sullivan County, Orisek said, and it stands to attract thousands of people to the Catskills.
This weekends rally is Round Three of the 2005 Eastern States Rally Championship. There will be 12 stages running over approximately 63 stage miles.
Another race, set for Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 will serve as Sullivan Countys first international road rally. That event will be part of the United States Rally Championship (USRC), a four-event series run by the United States Rally Association.
USRC events are co-sanctioned by the United States Auto Club (USAC) and the National Auto Sports Association (NASA). Along with Silver Crown, sprint, and midget racing series, USAC also sanctions the well-known United States Grand Prix F1 Race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
This Saturdays race will begin on North Street in Monticello at 8 a.m. with a finish back in front of the government center around 6 p.m.
Spectators are welcome at the starting point as well as the service area at Landers and designated areas on Blind Pond Road (from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.) and Mahl Pond Road (from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.) in Narrowsburg.
For more information, call 794-4096 before the event or 866-9971 during the event or visit Rally New York at www.rallynewyork.com.