For 50 years, Bellmore native Ted Ohland helped to organize the Metro New York Porsche Club of America’s Snowflake Rally, which took drivers on a winding, 150-mile journey from Hauppauge to the East End.
But with Ohland’s death in 2011, the club was left without an organizer for one of its most popular events.
That’s when Seaford couple Don and Barbara Coburn stepped in as “rally masters” for the event.
“Rallying is a dying art,” said Don Coburn, 59, of Seaford, who has been a club member with his wife since 1975. “People don’t participate that much anymore.”
About 40 drivers and navigators gathered at the Hauppauge Palace Diner on Sunday morning for the start of the 57th Snowflake Rally. This year’s 70-mile, three-hour trip took drivers from Hauppauge to Southampton along several local roads.
“It’s an awesome drive and it’s an awesome challenge,” said David Leonoff, 44, president of the Metro New York Porsche club. “Winning it is not easy.”
In the heyday of rally racing, the Snowflake Rally attracted upwards of 100 drivers each year. However, interest in rally racing has declined, and along with it, driver attendance, said Chuck Hartley, who has been a member of the club for 40 years. Although the current rally still bears many similarities to the Snowflake Rallies of old, the distance has been cut nearly in half.
“The main goal is not to be fast but to be on time,” said Hartley. “You have to pay attention to the instructions.”
Drivers in the rally are challenged to reach the end of the route at a specified time after passing several checkpoints. As in golf, the driver and navigator duo with the lowest score after finishing is named the winner. Drivers are timed within hundredths of a second and are given points for exceeding the designated speed limits of the race and for passing checkpoints before or after their allotted arrival schedules.
Teams did not have to be members of the Porsche club in order to participate, and many of this year’s racers said the Snowflake Rally serves as a way to get together with old friends and other Porsche enthusiasts.
“It’s just kind of a fun day to get out and do something different,” said John Casey, 57, of Setauket, who has been a club member since 2001. “It’s always a challenge.”
When the rally ended Sunday evening, Fred Cochran and Pete Schneider, both from New Jersey, were named the overall winners, marking the second year in a row that the duo has won the Snowflake Rally.
“We had a lot of old-time members come out,” said Coburn. “It was a nice day.”