Deals Gap Rotary Rally - Events

Rotary fanatics make their annual pilgrimage to Deals Gap to tackle the Tail of the Dragon.

By David Pratte, Photography by Dennis Barreto, Jeremy Stone

Last year a blown Achilles tendon kept me from attending rotary fanatic Phil Sohn’s brainchild known as the Deals Gap Rotary Rally. This year it was a poorly timed engine swap and a phantom engine misfire code that prevented Project RX-8 and its feeble owner from attending 2012’s edition, but that’s not going to stop us from sharing a few highlights from this must-do adventure for rotary engine lovers and fans of Mazda’s RX-model sports cars.

For those of you unfamiliar with DGRR, it’s an annual springtime gathering where devotees of the Wankel combustion engine come to flog their Mazdas (as well as some other unique rotary-powered creations) around the 318 turns of the Tail of the Dragon. This infamous ribbon of mountain tarmac runs along the spine of the Great Smoky Mountains and crosses the Tennessee/North Carolina state border. There’s also a car show at the Nantahala Village Resort & Spa, which gives everyone a chance to discuss the merits of spinning triangles.

DGRR isn’t just an excuse to engage in rotary-powered hooning on one of the greatest roads in the world, though. According to DGRR head honcho Phil Sohn, what makes this event unique is the people who attend it. “The rotorheads who attend DGRR love modifying their cars and are also true driving enthusiasts. Most of us, including myself, have to drive at least 500 miles to get there. This also dispels the myth that rotary engines are unreliable. Driving to the DGRR, driving “the dragon” all day, and making the journey back home—I consider that a testament to the strength of these engines.”

According to Phil Sohn, this year’s rally was his favorite: “For the first time in eight years, we finally didn’t have some random nonrotary car (usually a truck) at our traditional Damn Dam Picture Day at the famous Fontana Dam (used in the movie The Fugitive).” Not that everything was smooth sailing for Phil, whose famous FD RX-7 blew not one but two PowerFC’s before he discovered that the wiring harness was damaged by tire rub. Luckily for Phil, the DGRR has attracted some great sponsors, including Addicted Performance, which drove more than two hours to get him a spare ECU so he could drive his FD home.

Phil started the rally back in 2005 because he wanted to create an event that combined a passion for driving with a passion for rotary engines, and the DGRR has grown into one of the biggest and best rotary events in the country. So if you own a rotary-powered car or just love Mazda RX cars, head on over to RotaryCarClub.com and DealsGapRotaryRally.com for information on the 2013 event. With any luck, Project RX-8 and I will see you there!

By David Pratte
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