Driving four times the posted speed limit is likely to get you arrested — but for one day each year, auto enthusiasts from around the world gather in a small town to push their cars to the limit and legally drive at speeds of more than 180mph.
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We’re talking about an event known as the Sun Valley Road Rally. It’s held annually in July and began in 2009. This event brings together luxury car owners, classic car aficionados and anyone who wants to put the pedal to the medal and race to raise awareness for addiction, substance abuse and recovery among youth.
The SV Road Rally takes place in the small mountain town of Sun Valley, ID — which is famous for having the world’s first three ski chairlifts. Nestled deep within the Smoky Mountain range, Sun Valley became home to, and the final resting place, of famous author Ernest Hemingway. It is also home to one of the few stretches of road in the U.S. that, for a day, has no speed limit. That’s right, you can drive as fast as you want.
The SV Road Rally typically takes place in multiple stages spanning the course of two to three days. There are numerous events for the owners/drivers of the cars, as well as for spectators of the event. The event organizers often auction off a car or some other high priced item to help raise donation money for the cause. Some drivers even auction off a spot in their passenger seat so the spectator can ride with them for the high-speed run.
Day one is focused on the driver experience. Cars ranging from Porches and Ferraris to Lamborghinis and Bugattis cruise up and down the streets of the small town, stopping to relax at local restaurants and other “hot spots.” If you are a spectator in town, it can be quite a surprise to watch millions of dollars’ worth of classic and luxury cars drive by or be parked in front of the local coffee shop.
Some years, a group of drivers will get together and take a scenic drive 70 miles north to Redfish Lake where the event organizers host a benefit lunch or dinner.
Day two is when the real fun begins (unless of course you own a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 LS6, then you have fun every day). The cars are taken downtown and inspected by a local auto club. They usually look to make sure the tires are properly inflated, the car’s engine oil is topped off and that the brakes are in suitable condition. As the inspections are happening, the cars are on display for everyone to walk around and take pictures.
Once the drivers are briefed on all the rally specifics, they take their cars on the “Ketchum Cruise” and find a spot to put on a car show. In previous years, the car show has taken over multiple city blocks, as the streets are closed and car enthusiasts both young and old feast their eyes on some remarkable pieces of machinery. This is your time to get up close and personal with cars you’ve only dreamt about.
Day three is when the drivers get into gear and get ready to go really, really fast. Everyone heads a few miles north of Sun Valley to a spot known as “Phantom Hill.” You better get there early if you want good seats because they go almost as fast as the cars themselves. This little stretch of Highway 75 transforms into a no-holds-barred speedway, with cars aiming for one goal — go as fast as they (safely) can go. It isn’t so much of a race against others, but more of a race to hit your car’s top speed.
During the speed portion of the SV Road Rally, spectators watch car after car fly down the one-way “no speed limit” zone, as they enjoy good food and good company. In years past, spectators got to watch three Bugattis competing for top speed with one Veyron Super Sport hitting a high of 246 mph.
After the last car has taken its run, the event wraps up and life returns to normal in the small town.
Phantom Hill returns to its pervious state as a pass-through highway, the speed limit of 65 mph returns and the police will once again start handing out tickets for speeding.
If you are ever near Sun Valley, ID toward the end of July, make sure you look up when the next Sun Valley Road Rally occurs. You won’t regret taking a few days to support a good cause, drool over some fancy cars or just go really fast.