2017 Dream Rally
Some days, you wake up knowing it will be a good day. On Sunday, August 6th, I was up early as I had a press pass for the Okanagan Dream Rally presented by August Motorcars, a luxury dealership located in the heart of the Okanagan, host’s an amazing event, for an even better reason. August pairs up with Autism Okanagan, KidSport and the Central Okanagan Hospice Association to let a handful of special kids co-pilot the most exclusive super cars the Okanagan has to offer. It was a day filled with smiles and the unbelievable thought that this was actually happening. It is a good day when you see more Lamborghinis and Ferraris than any other particular car on the road.
As I am walking from the parkade where I left my car, I questioned which way the event was, watched a McLaren 570 drive by and followed the noise. Only a handful of cars were at the event when I got there, about 715 AM. As Shane got there, the other Firing Order photographer on hand, we decided that I was to shoot with my prime lens for detailed photos of the cars so we didn't take the same photos. This worked out, as when we found the event organizers they asked for photos with the kids as much as the cars. At this point he also laughed a little and said that we were in a Mercedes but probably not what we expected, we were just happy to be along for the ride. More on the Mercedes later.
I had my project, Shane and I went our separate ways to cover as much as we could. I was bent over the back of a Ferrari 458 spider taking pictures of the badging and I hear a kid from the other side of the road yelling "OH MY GOD ITS A LAMBORGHINI!". Forget the Ferrari, I run across the street to take pictures of this kid and I see Shane is not far behind me. Massive smile, simply can't believe the machinery that is around him. In the end, the cars, the crowd, the charity, is all for kids like him and to see that smile on their face while supporting local kids charities.
At this point, a crowd was starting to gather around the park beside the road, drivers meeting was coming up. I see a kid walk up to someone I didn't immediately recognize, he asks him "Are you Shea Weber?", indeed it was. Shea is an NHL hockey player that, back in the day, did play for the Kelowna Rockets WHL team before he went on to the big leagues. The kid goes on about how he is a big fan and how excited he was to meet him. Of course I managed to get a few photos of them together.
The 1986 Mercedes 560 SEL
Right, time for Shane and I to find car 85 and meet our driver. A 1986 Mercedes 560 SEL, okay this is different from what we expected, but interesting. The driver happened to be beside the car at this point, a British man who was actually a retired driver for MI6 (Britain's secret service, think James Bond). He goes on to tell us about the car, that this model of car was the first car he drove heads of state around for MI6. Most 560SEL's had grey or black interiors, but this one had the optional red interior, making this 560SEL the rarest made. He then goes on to tell us that this exact car was a former movie car, particularly used for Eddie Murphy's movie Coming to America.
Its coming time to get ready to leave, the driver has gone off to the washroom, and one of the event organizers runs up to us and says they have a pilot car, a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT 8, that is supposed to be a camera car but they ran out of photographers. Shane was now to be in the front of the pack in the Jeep, his experience is now going to be very different from mine for the day, I got to experience the day as the kids would in any other car, while Shane was in a car labelled as a camera car.
We get in the car, immediately discover how cushy the seats were, as they were cushioned with an air pocket , quite bouncy actually. The dash had a few cracks in it, age and UV damage, the driver said it adds character. The back seats had foot rests, and was also supposed to have a champagne fridge over the center hump that he had removed for the day. The head rests, most cars are adjustable with set locking positions, these were electronically adjustable to any exact position you want. As well, being that the 560 was commonly used to drive heads of state around, the car had two horns. I am not talking about a high note and a low note horn, every car has that. There was a switch inside, you had your every day horn, and then you had the get the f*** out of the way loud horn, something we used a few times to say hi to the crowds. Overall 2 Tonnes of German machinery, but you would not know it as it had a 425 horsepower 90 degree V8 under the hood that was in perfect working order, we did drift a few corners.
(If the owner of the Mercedes is reading this, we intended on planning with you on a separate photo shoot for the car, but at the end of the day we couldn't find you again to set this up. Please message us, we would love to give the car the attention it deserved)
Kelowna to Penticton
The area closed off for the gathering around the park in Kelowna was more of a T shape if the T was rotated to the left 90 degrees. The main straight went first, thing is the Mercedes was not on the main straight, we were towards the back of the pack. The local RCMP blocked off the first four stop lights for our trip, this meant that the William R Bennett bridge was all ours. For the readers who aren't local to Kelowna, an average day this bridge sees heavy constant traffic all day. Three lanes wide, and very few cars on it. Unfortunately, due to the fact that we were towards the back of the pack, we missed the group photos that got staged on the bridge.
The crowds to see these cars were immense. The sidewalks leaving Kelowna had hundreds of people lined along the sides, as well as numerous grassy areas along the side of the highway between Kelowna and Penticton.
At this point, I realized how big the Mercedes really was. If the hood or mirror weren't getting in the shot, the diplomat style flags on the front corner were. Took a little bit to get used to, but I had work to do and it was time to start hanging out the window. I had Audi R8's, Corvettes, the lone first gen NSX, and a couple Porsches to roll with for the trip down to Penticton.
We pull into the campground in Penticton, now my driver wasn't slow so we passed a fair number of cars along the way. You could see which cars were really the crowd favourites at this point, as the Porsche 918 had a crowd around it, and you could see which cars were more special than it got credit for as the Lamborghini Diablo VT nor the Citroen SM Maserati had very few people. Everyone was off to go have lunch, only the campers at the campground were really walking around the cars, so I started at the front and slowly walked my way through all of them, getting the pictures that I could as I wasn't the only one with this idea.
1:15 comes around and one of the event organizers tell me that we are getting ready to leave, half hour earlier than schedule. Police showed up early to block traffic, and the kids were getting a bit restless. He asks how my ride is in the "Dictator's Mercedes" as we are walking to the back of the campground. I tell him the story of the car, and suddenly he realizes how much more interesting the car was than he expected. This point he says to me that he's glad that I was in the 560, as a young kid may not have appreciated the car as much as I did.
As I am sitting in the car with the driver, he comments that there isn't that good of storage in the car. Kind of baffled what he meant I ask why he thinks that, as the car is a land yacht. The interior of the car does not have that much storage space, small glove box, not a proper center console. I said to him that the trunk must be huge though, and he laughs and says "you can fit three dead bodies in there, don't ask how I know that". I took his word for it, as he was former MI6.
Penticton back to Kelowna
Traffic was both a blessing and a hindrance to the photography. As it created issues between Summerland and West Kelowna in creating spots for photos with other cars. I did what I could, but for a while the cars we wanted were mostly single file in front and behind.
However, the traffic in downtown Kelowna played in our favour, as we were on our way back to August Motorcars, the traffic lights created photo opportunities with the non SV Aventador and a Murcielago. My initial reaction is that that I don't think I will ever have the opportunity to take roller photos of an Aventador and Murcielago in the same shot, but I am optimistic with next year's charity drive.
Pulling into August motorcars, the atmosphere was great. The kids were now meeting up with their parents again, telling the story of their day and how absolutely epic it was. In the end, the day is all for them. It is a drive to support kids charities, but that can be done with a fancy dinner and a concert. August Motorcars has their niche, the high end cars of their dealership and their clientele. The benefit of this is the ability to help a sick or disabled kid smile for a day. They were all ear to ear smiles.