Stroll Harmony recently attended the staging of the June 21st RockyBahn Peak-to-Peak Mountain Rally, the one-day event that was just one of the precursors to the three-day, exotic sports and luxury car rally that will take place September 27-29. The 25 entries were on exhibit then departed (powerfully!) from the Harmony Clubhouse parking lot for an all-day drive into and through the mountains, with a lunch stop along the way. The route took them up the Poudre Canyon to Joe Wright Reservoir and a pit stop, followed by a return down the canyon, south on Stove Prairie Road through Masonville, stopping for a quick bite to eat and gas up at Sandy’s Convenience Store. The rally then headed up the Big Thompson Canyon to Estes Park, then south on Colorado State Highway 7, the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, to Nederland, then east down Coal Creek Canyon to the final destination, The Golden Mill, in Golden.
Leading up to this event, RockyBahn owner and Harmony resident Stuart Thomas provided answers as follows to Stroll’s questions about his creation, promotion and administration of these events showcasing his obvious passion for exotic, high-performance automobiles:
What inspired the creation of your exotic sports car rally concept?
In 2002 I watched a trailer for the Gumball 3000 Rally, and it made an impression on me. I must have watched that five-minute video a few thousand times, and it still makes me smile today. Back then, at age 22, I was too young and with too few resources to participate in something similar. Fast forward to now… about a year ago I drove into my office building's parking garage in downtown Denver, and there was a rally preparing to launch the next day, with dozens of exotics lined up, many with event decals and sponsor logos. I parked and walked around the cars, and I wanted to get involved in something similar. I did research about various rallies across the country, taking note of what I liked and didn’t like about them, with an eye toward starting my own rally. I have friends and acquaintances who have sports cars, and I wanted to put an event together to bring us all together and have fun. So, one weekend this spring I came up with the RockyBahn name, put a website together and floated it out to people I know to get ideas for the necessary vibe and culture, and it’s grown from there.
How did the concept evolve from the initial idea to its current form?
The primary concept and focus with RockyBahn is the three-day/two-night fall event. This multi-day, event is September 27th to the 29th and will take advantage of fall foliage and less traveled roads that time of year, a great time to be in the mountains. The look and feel of the September event will be like a five-star luxury accommodation vacation. Also, to create a buzz for the main event, I put together two one-day events, easier for people to commit to while still promoting the brand. [The other one-day event will be held on August 5th, traveling from Harmony to Steamboat.]
What specific features or elements will set this exotic car rally apart from others?
We’re lucky to have seasons in Colorado, so RockyBahn is primarily centered around the fall foliage and iconic Colorado roads. Most rallies across the country are during the summer months and focus on destinations such as Las Vegas, so I wanted to do something a little different. I envision that as the brand grows in recognition, it will catch on with out-of-town people wanting to experience the fall time in Colorado.
How was the route for the rally chosen? What factors were considered in the selection process?
The name RockyBahn is meant to tie together the Rocky Mountains and its scenic roads with the ‘bahn’ of Germany’s high-speed highways. Most of the routes have iconic locations along the way, from mountain passes to Estes Park’s peak-to-peak byway, to the various canyon passages.
Were there any challenges or obstacles encountered during the development phase? If yes, how were they overcome?
The biggest challenge was all about, “If you build it, will they come?” Fortunately, the concept has been well received thus far (The initial event Stroll attended was sold out!).
What type of exotic cars are eligible to participate in the rally and are there specific participant requirements?
RockyBahn doesn’t really have a minimum make/model policy because it’s more about bringing car enthusiasts together. That said, you’ll see Lamborghinis, Ferraris, McLarens, Porsches, BMW M cars, Audi RSs, Aston Martins, and various others. And if you’d like to participate and don’t have a suitable car, we have a relationship with an exotic car rental dealer in Denver and can help connect you. Participants just need a valid driver's license and a love for cars.
What types of experiences or activities are offered during the rally?
The September event will feature luxury accommodations, private evening dinners and cocktail parties, and of course great roads for driving enthusiasts. During the actual driving, it’s also important to me to have checkpoints throughout the route so the cars can come back together. The checkpoints are stocked with refreshments and are usually a time for fun reflection on the previous road segments.
What marketing and promotional strategies were employed to generate interest and attract participants?
Networking within the Colorado car scene mostly and word of mouth. There are several car enthusiasts at Harmony Club, so that was a good place to start. I usually bring my car with RockyBahn decals on it to cars & coffee events, which often strikes up conversations about my events. The response so far has people excited and looking for more such endeavors.
How do you feel the rally will be welcomed by the locals in the areas it passes through?
When you see 25 exotic sports cars all together with the same logos and decals, it’s a pretty cool sight, so I think it will be well received. When we’re stopped at checkpoints or gas stations, people tend to gather around to look at the cars and take photos. The most fun though is when kids want to sit in the cars.
What plans are in place to further improve and expand the exotic car rally concept in the future?
I’d like to see the one-day events grow in participation, which will allow for a better focus on the luxury accommodations, high-end culinary options and an overall VIP experience at the fall event. Given the duration and accommodations of the main event, it’s my goal to have participants remember it as a five-star vacation.
Are there any unique partnerships or collaborations associated with the rally?
Shortly after its inception, RockyBahn partnered with Apex Run Rally, which is a Colorado Springs/Denver-based network and one-day rally event coordinator. By collaborating with Apex, we’re able to link the Northern Colorado car community with the Denver car community.
Does your rally have sponsors?
The one-day events are typically sponsored by local businesses such as Ed Carroll Porsche, Loveland BMW (Michael Gonzales), Slick Mobile Oil, Apex Signs and others. The September event sponsors will be announced shortly.
How has technology been integrated into the rally experience and is there media coverage?
One of the best ways to capture the sense of what it’s like to drive in the event is with a drone. Some of the two to three we use can follow a car going 70 mph, which is really cool to see. We also have two to three videographers and two still photographers.
How will you measure the success of each rally edition?
Easy… did people have fun and do they want to come back?
Have you always been an exotic sports car enthusiast?
From the moment I turned 16 and got my driver’s license to now at age 44, I’ve always been into cars. My wife teases me that I have a special compartment in my brain that keep all the stats and other information about cars and their performance.
What do you drive now?
I currently drive a BMW M5 Competition. I’ve been a longtime BMW enthusiast and have owned several, but the M5 is by far my favorite.
Is there anything else you would like to share about the development and concept of the exotic car rally?
Our website, with full information about all the events, is www.rockybahn.com.