If you happened to be on B.C.’s Sea to Sky highway, the endlessly twisty and scenic route that runs from Vancouver to Whistler and beyond, during the first weekend of May, you might have seen more than just a few supercars out under the sun. In fact, if you had stopped to enjoy the views, you might have spotted a few hundred exotics being put to use on one of the province’s best driving roads, including thirty-eight Lamborghinis – there was even a beautiful and well-used white Countach from my dreams – and countless Porsches of varying vintages and intentions.
However, what looked like a car spotters dream on that Saturday was actually the Hublot Diamond Rally, a supercar event with a purpose. You couldn’t ever convince me that driving isn’t the biggest draw, but the real purpose of the rally is to raise money for the charity of each participant’s choice – all two hundred and twenty-five of them.
”It really started because we have an annual event called the ‘Luxury and Supercar Weekend’ on the second weekend of September,” said Craig Stowe, the rally’s founder. ”Many of the clients that were involved in it and own supercars said ‘It’d be great if we had a collective drive, just to blow the dust out of the exhaust and get the cars out in spring.” So, what started out as just twenty-five car nuts meeting for a cruise up to Whistler a handful of years ago has grown into one of the premier driving rallies – and charity events – on the West Coast.
But it didn’t stop there. ”Collectively, people said ‘Hey, we should bring some awareness to charity and raise some funds at the same time,”’ Stowe went on to explain. The genesis for combining the gathering of exotics tied into owners competing against each other to see who could raise the most money for the charity of their choice happened over drinks, as many great ideas do, and the original rules were even scribbled down on a cocktail napkin.
Darren Pedersen, a long-time Porsche owner, as well as a Weissach friend and customer, is one rally participant with a special bond to the event. ”I’ve been a car nut since I was a little kid; afflicted first with car fever, and I continue to suffer with it on an ongoing basis. But six years ago, I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer; very serious, very scary. I began to battle through that, and I built a relationship with my surgeon, Dr. Manoj J. Raval of St. Paul’s hospital, and I already had a relationship with Weissach through my Porsche ownership,” Pedersen said of the connection that eventually brought himself, Dr. Raval, and Weissach together.
”Asgar Virji, Weissach’s owner, and CEO was incredibly supportive. It was on one of our first driving experiences, down the coast to a track in southern Washington, that he presented us with a cheque [for charity] at dinner,” explained Pedersen. ”I was totally unaware that was coming, and it was very emotional to support St. Paul’s hospital and the work we’re doing with them.” That donation from Virji and Weissach helped St. Paul’s hospital purchase extremely specialized equipment that Dr. Raval has used to help countless cancer patients, a cause that’s understandably close to Pedersen’s heart.
But Pedersen and Stowe were far from done. ”From that, we got more involved with another good friend, Craig Stowe, and the Diamond Rally that was originally just a group of car enthusiasts who wanted to drive their cars up to Whistler, which is an amazing road. And we decided to add a charitable component to that because everyone who owns these cars are already very charitable. They already do a lot of stuff within the community, and this was an opportunity for them to showcase the charities they’re involved in,” Pedersen went on to say. ”We started to decal our cars, and we wanted to support the St. Paul’s Foundation, and that’s where this thing all started and it has continued to grow on an annual basis.” And grow it has; from a small gathering of a few dozen supercar owners to a charity event with two hundred and twenty-five cars taking part this year, teams came together that raised and donated an untold amount of money for the charities of their choice.
”Two hundred cars roaring… It just tells you that this is bigger than you and I. It’s gas in your blood, right? You can’t get it out, and you’re part of the gig,” Asgar Virji, Weissach owner/CEO, replied when he was asked what makes the Hublot Diamond Rally so special. ”Weissach’s involvement started a few years ago when they first started the Diamond Rally and Craig [Stowe, the event’s founder] came and spoke to us about being part of this. It was a small event, but it started to build momentum, and over time we realized that we could get our people together, get their people together, and before you know it, people and cars were having fun. And then we thought we’d support it through our favorite charity, St. Paul’s and the Love, Hope, and Faith initiative that’s close to many of us,” Virji said of how things came together.
Since Virji presented Darren Pedersen with a donation to St. Paul’s hospital during that trip down to southern Washington, Weissach, along with many of its long-time customers and friends, has continued to be a major part of the event, and especially the charity aspect of it. ”The passion for supercars has evolved in a dramatic way,” Stowe said of Vancouver’s ever-growing car scene and, having now ridden along on the Hublot Diamond Rally, I’d argue that the event itself is dramatic in a way that only countless Italian and German supercars can provide.
So, what’s it like to be in the thick of such a spectacle? While only a car-phile might start breathing heavy over a pair of well-driven Ferrari 308s, a fleet of custom wrapped Porsche GT3s, and more Aventadors in one place than should ever be possible, the sound of it all is special enough to grab absolutely anyone’s attention. With the police escorting our group out of Vancouver and onto the highway, it seemed as if anyone within a few kilometers stopped to watch and listen. Crowds lined the roads, and most of the cars we passed on the highway had camera phones dangling out their windows to take in the sight and sound of it all.
Our eventual destination was the Pemberton airport to settle some quarter-mile rivalries on the safety of a closed runway, but it was our stop in Squamish that had most drivers excited. A big part of having one of these machines in your garage is seeing the smiles it delivers to others, and that couldn’t have been more obvious as our group rolled into Chances Casino after passing crowds lined up on the side of Highway 99, some of whom were camped out in lawn chairs or perched on top of their own cars to get a better view.
The best view, however, was on the footbridge over the highway just a few hundred feet north of the casino, and it’s where most of the cameras and car spotters were waiting for a very good reason: ”I would say the best part is just north of Chances Casino, just because people leave the pack and spread out,” Stowe described. ”But when we empty out of Chances Casino in Squamish, it’s right on the highway and when they turn the corner and accelerate up the hill, the sound is pretty dramatic.” If you’ve never heard an Aventador’s naturally aspirated V12 wind up while standing mere feet above more than three dozen of them all doing the same thing, I’ll describe it like a pack of angry Italian dragons being let loose from their cage. You don’t just hear this kind of noise; you feel it, too.
No one needs to tell you that these machines are quick, but common sense, responsibility, and a hell of a lot more radar guns than usual made sure the speed limit was respected… Until the group arrived at the Pemberton airport to let their engines breath more than just a little bit. Stowe was wise to include this speed-focused side-track before the group backtracked to Whistler: ”It’s where you can open up your car for a short distance, and you’re off the road and off the highway.”
When you see a supercar on the road, what do you think? If you’re anything like me, you might be picturing what’d it be like to drive one, or even to own one, while your eyes stay locked onto whatever exotic is in front of you for a few seconds before it disappears up the road. What you’re probably not considering, though, is charity. But if you were lucky enough to see the Hublot Diamond Rally pass by this year, that’s exactly what was on these drivers’ minds.
”Children’s Wish has embraced it, and they’ve been embracing it for five years, and each year they build and bigger connection with people that are in love with supercars,” said Stowe of the less than obvious connection between these four-wheeled exotics and the philanthropy of their owners. ”And they tap them to be part of their team, so their sponsorship and donor base has grown as a direct result. So, a lot of charities, like Children’s Wish and St. Paul’s Hospital, are collectively working with specific dealers and they’re working a charity, a dealer group, a manufacturer of cars, and then a group [of owners and drivers] that are passionate about that vehicle.”
All told, the two hundred and twenty-five cars who took part in the Hublot Diamond Rally raised an incredible amount of money for over twenty different charities during what turned out to be one heck of a beautiful day for a drive up the Sea to Sky highway.