Zedril broth­ers

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - AUTOS -

To­gether, they have trav­elled a long and wind­ing road, both lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively.

Be­cause there are no rally events here in Man­i­toba, the Zedrils have criss­crossed Canada and the U.S., tow­ing their rally car be­hind their van, just to com­pete in their cho­sen sport. They’ve trav­elled day and night, of­ten through ter­ri­ble weather; they’ve slept in the van and eaten at more truck stops than they care to re­mem­ber.

It’s of­ten said that the fam­ily that races to­gether stays to­gether, and the broth­ers are typ­i­cally joined by their fa­ther, Richard, who lends not only moral sup­port but also helps them pre­pare and re­pair the rally car.

Since their inaugural event in 2007, the broth­ers have com­peted in 33 ral­lies and won an amaz­ing 22 times.

It should come as no sur­prise that the Zedrils have built such an ac­com­plished rally team. The pair have al­ways been the best of friends and spent their child­hood rac­ing each other on dirt bikes, snow­mo­biles and ATVs. Prior to tak­ing up ral­ly­ing, they were also ac­com­plished mo­tocross rac­ers — Jan is a for­mer Cana­dian na­tional cham­pion and Jody was also an ex­pert racer.

That’s what Jody was do­ing the day his life changed for­ever. In the sum­mer of 1995, Jody was warm­ing up for a mo­tocross race when he crashed.

“I wasn’t go­ing fast enough and came up short on a dou­ble and flipped over back­ward,” says Jody. “I was con­scious the en­tire time. I hoped the feel­ing would come back, but it never did.”

Jody has been get­ting around in a wheel­chair ever since.

Life may have changed, but it never stopped. Only three months af­ter the ac­ci­dent, Jan, who is a CNC ma­chin­ist, had mod­i­fied an ATV for Jody to ride.

I asked Jody what the doc­tors thought of that. “I don’t know be­cause I never told them,” he said with a laugh. Fol­low­ing the ac­ci­dent Jody stayed in­volved in the lo­cal mo­tocross scene, and even served as sec­re­tary/ trea­surer of the Man­i­toba Mo­tocross As­so­ci­a­tion. He also started up a home-based busi­ness — nowa­days he’s a sea­soned com­puter tech­ni­cian with a long list of clients.

Jody may have lost the use of his legs, but his spirit of ad­ven­ture re­mained in­tact and he grew tired of be­ing a spec­ta­tor. When the broth­ers started look­ing for some­thing they could do to­gether, rally was the an­swer.

The pair at­tended their first event as spec­ta­tors in 2002 at the Ojib­way For­rest Rally in Bemidji, Min­nesota. They were im­me­di­ately hooked. They wanted to go out and buy a rally car that day, but there were still a few more ob­sta­cles to over­come. To fa­mil­iar­ize them­selves with all facets of the sport, they vol­un­teered at many ral­lies from 2003 to 2006.

“We wanted to com­pete but knew that, in or­der to do that, we would have to get to know them and they would have to get to know us,” said Jody of the close-knit rally com­mu­nity.

It took them the bet­ter part of three years, at­tend­ing nu­mer­ous events, to gain enough con­fi­dence to sub­mit an ap­pli­ca­tion to the sanc­tion­ing body that could give Jody the green light to co-drive. They were on pins and nee­dles for six months be­fore they got an an­swer, and it was ul­ti­mately a sim­ple one. If Jody could free him­self from the car in 15 sec­onds or less, he could co-drive.

The Zedrils pur­chased their car, a 2003 Mit­subishi Lancer, from an­other rally team in Stam­ford, Con­necti­cut, and prac­tised driv­ing the car at a few Man­i­toba re­mote lo­ca­tions be­fore they trav­elled to their first event, the Snow Drift Rally in At­lanta, Michi­gan, in Jan­uary of 2007. It was there that Jody fi­nally got the op­por­tu­nity to prove to the of­fi­cials that he could exit the car in the re­quired time. He fig­ures he got out of the car in about 14.9 sec­onds.

They fin­ished third in that first race, and won the cham­pi­onship in their rookie sea­son. They have since com­piled an im­pres­sive list of wins, re­sult­ing in Cana­dian, U.S. Rally Amer­ica and North Amer­i­can cham­pi­onship ti­tles.

The broth­ers com­pete in the 2-wheeldrive class in the Lancer, and have had huge sup­port from Mit­subishi Canada. They know the car in­side out and treat the car like a spoiled child, do­ing all their own re­pairs and main­te­nance.

Don’t let all those de­cals fool you though — this car is ac­tu­ally quite close to stock. The rules are pretty clear in the class they com­pete in: the only im­prove­ments can be for safety and re­li­a­bil­ity. That means beefier sus­pen­sion parts and tougher brakes are al­lowed, but things are pretty much stock un­der the hood. The car is ac­tu­ally street le­gal. On the safety front, there’s also im­por­tant stuff like blind­ing lights for night driv­ing, a roll cage, an on­board fire sup­pres­sion sys­tem, rac­ing seats and har­nesses.

Jody and Jan com­mu­ni­cate in the car via a two-way ra­dio sys­tem with speak­ers and mi­cro­phones in­side their hel­mets. Jody must care­fully map out the en­tire course and, dur­ing each event, calls out in­struc­tions to Jan rang­ing from di­rec­tion to top speed on a corner to the sever­ity of an in­cline or de­cline. The co-driver po­si­tion is ex­tremely im­por­tant. When roar­ing through a wooded trail in the dark at more than 160 km/h, telling the driver to turn right in­stead of left would ob­vi­ously be a bad thing.

When they talk about ral­ly­ing, Jody is the more vo­cal of the two and is ex­tremely knowl­edge­able about all as­pects of the sport. Jan doesn’t say much. He sim­ply stands nearby, grin­ning with that un­mis­tak­able twin­kle in his eye that seems to be a com­mon trait among great driv­ers.

While film­ing an up­com­ing episode of our MTS Win­nipeg on De­mand

TV se­ries, I had the op­por­tu­nity to go for a ride with Jan. And let me tell you, this man can drive.

Af­ter be­ing strapped in and given a crash course from Jody on rally nav­i­ga­tion tech­niques, Jan and I were off in a flash, blast­ing down the roads that sur­rounded a gravel pit the pro­duc­tion com­pany had rented for the af­ter­noon. It was the first time I’d ever been strapped into a car, wear­ing a hel­met and race suit, in the pas­sen­ger seat.

Early in our test drive, Jan was roar­ing down a steep hill with a hair­pin turn at the bot­tom. We were trav­el­ling at about 160 km/h. De­spite the fact that the Lancer is a front-wheel-drive model, Jan or­ches­trated a text­book Scan­di­na­vian flick and had the car go­ing side­ways through the corner like we were on ice.

I’ve had the chance to tool around in some pretty quick cars in my day, and have ran more than a few laps in a stock car. But, sit­ting be­side Jan while he mas­ter­fully manipulated his Mit­subishi, was surely the pin­na­cle of my mo­tor­ing life. It was like wit­ness­ing a re­ally great mu­si­cian play his in­stru­ment.

My head was spin­ning but, when I looked over at Jan he was as cool as the Fonz, mas­ter­fully bang­ing through the gear­box, feath­er­ing the brakes, ham­mer­ing the ac­cel­er­a­tor and twist­ing that Lancer through the cor­ners like a Sa­mu­rai sword. Thank­fully, Jan had the course mem­o­rized, be­cause my nav­i­ga­tion skills were surely blurred by the mas­sive amount of adren­a­line flow­ing through my veins.

When asked what they like most about rally, it wasn’t what you’d think. The Zedril broth­ers are not speed junkies. They both whole­heart­edly agree that it’s the rally life­style it­self, the chal­lenge, the out­door ad­ven­ture and all of the trav­el­ling that comes along with the sport that makes it so ap­peal­ing to them.

“It’s truly an ex­pe­ri­ence like no other, and it’s an ex­treme priv­i­lege to par­tic­i­pate in it,” said Jody. “Be­ing able to rub shoul­ders with past and present cham­pi­ons is very cool, and sim­ply be­ing as­so­ci­ated with ev­ery­one at each and ev­ery event, in­clud­ing com­peti­tors, me­dia, of­fi­cials, or­ga­niz­ers, vol­un­teers, fans and spec­ta­tors, is a great hon­our.”

The broth­ers may be peren­nial Cana­dian rally cham­pi­ons, but they con­tinue to dream big. They hope to one day com­pete in the mother of all events, the Dakar Rally. They also dream of a day when their rally ca­reers present the op­por­tu­nity to raise both money and aware­ness for the Cana­dian Para­plegic As­so­ci­a­tion and the Rick Hansen Foun­da­tion.

With Jan at the wheel and Jody co-driv­ing, it’s a sure bet that their dreams are just around the next bend.

Be­cause there are no rally events here in Man­i­toba, the Zedrils have criss­crossed Canada and the U.S., tow­ing their rally car

be­hind their van.

BARRY GILES

2009-2010 Cana­dian Na­tional 2wd Cham­pi­ons

2008 Cana­dian Na­tional Pro­duc­tion Class Cham­pi­ons

2007-2008 North Amer­i­can Pro­duc­tion Class Cham­pi­ons

2007-2008 U.S. Rally-Amer­ica Na­tional Pro­duc­tion Class Cham­pi­ons

Ral­ly­ing, also known as rally rac­ing, is a form of motorsport that takes place on pub­lic or pri­vate roads with mod­i­fied pro­duc­tion or spe­cially built roadle­gal cars. The events aren’t run on a race track, but rather in a point-to-point for­mat where par­tic­i­pants drive be­tween spe­cial stages. Ral­lies can be won by pure speed within the stages or by driv­ing to a pre­de­ter­mined op­ti­mal jour­ney time within the stages.

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