Tracey Gardiner chases B-Spec championship in Toyota Yaris
By Colin Bane
DENVER, Colo. (May 29, 2015) – Tracey Gardiner is currently in second place in the overall B-Spec classification rankings, rallying in a Toyota Yaris she's affectionately dubbed "The Jellybean." After a class win at Olympus Rally and a second place finish at Oregon Trail Rally, she trails behind B-Spec leader James Robinson but says she's more focused on finishing each rally she can get to.
"Olympus has some really cool roads and a lot of beautiful scenery, so it's a fun one," says Gardiner. Olympus Rally was something of a homecoming for The Jellybean: Gardiner's Tag Rally Sport Team worked with Nameless Performance in nearby La Center, Washington on the build. "Cougar Mountain was a very big challenge: we had to keep the revs up pretty high and we lost it in a couple of spots, but other than that it was fun, with beautiful freeflowing roads. The Yaris corners really well, and it did a lot of what we needed it to. Next challenge: figuring out our budget to see what other events we can get to for the rest of the season."
B-Spec is a production-based class designed to provide a fun and inexpensive entrée to the sport of rally. The Yaris is one of eight cars eligible for entry. Robinson drives a Honda Fit, and the Chevy Sonic, Nissan Versa, Fiat 500, Kia Rio, MINI Copper, and Ford Fiesta are also in the class.
"I think the appeal of B-Spec is it's one of the more affordable ways to get into rally," Gardiner says. "With the car being production, you don't have to put all the bells and whistles into it. You've got the roll cage and all the safety equipment and suspension you went to put into it, plus the tires, but the rest is all stock and these are relatively affordable cars to begin with. Plus, driving front-wheel drive is fun!"
Not that it's been an easy ride for her: She jokes that she was "shaken, not stirred" after a smash-up last year at the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally, where she and co-driver Tabitha Lohr rolled dramatically. They both emerged unscathed, but Gardiner admits that it left her a bit rattled. She skipped the 2014 Ojibwe Forests Rally to get her car sorted out after the crash, but was back in action by the 2014 Lake Superior Performance Rally.
"It's not always easy out there, but then that's rally for you," she says. "The rally community is spectacular, whether you're with the guys at the front or hanging at the back of the field. And you really see it when there's a crash or any other problems out there."
Gardiner missed the season-opening Sno*Drift Rally, and was a DNF at the 100 Acre Wood Rally, but says her finishes at Oregon Trail Rally and Olympus Rally have her back in go mode.
"We've got some work to do to find some more power out of the car and to keep it on the road," she says. "Our other main focus is just getting the word out that B-Spec is where it's at. I'd love to see some more teams come in, and I'd be extra stoked to see more women: I think bringing in more women as drivers and co-drivers has been really good for rally. There's no male-female rivalry here, and no reason women can't compete with the men, so come on out, ladies!"