STAUNTON – Marcel Ciascai ended up in Staunton by accident.
While living in South Carolina, Ciascai’s ex-wife applied for a teaching job in what she believed to be Augusta, Georgia, about 90 minutes from where the couple lived in the time.
It turned out that she had applied for a job in Augusta County, Virginia. She realized this when Larry Landes, principal of Fort Defiance High School, called her to set up an interview.
âSo from an hour and a half trip it all turned into an eight hour trip,â Ciascai said.
When Ciascai and his wife divorced, he decided to stay in Staunton. He has lived in the city for 11 years now and has no plans to move.
âI loved the city, I loved the area, I loved the people,â said Ciascai, who works at German Master Works in Staunton. “I like it here.”
Ciascai was born in Romania, about 100 km from Viseu de Sus, Staunton’s sister city. His background includes both mechanical engineering and news media, working in both the radio and newspaper industry.
He also played semi-professional soccer and he loves the sport. In the spring, Ciascai is the boys’ football coach at Fort Defiance, and in the fall, he coaches football at Stuart Hall.
But speaking to him recently, it was obvious that his real passion was rally racing.
Rally drivers compete against the clock on roads that are usually unpaved. According to rally-america.com, events can last for several days for hundreds of kilometers in varying weather conditions.
There is a driver and a navigator in each car. The navigator has the route and reads the instructions to the driver, warning of upcoming turns and ridges. The cars go down the road one at a time.
Ciascai has been involved in the sport as an organizer, pilot, navigator and official.
Is it popular in the United States?
âSort of,â he said, describing it as a niche sport.
And it can be dangerous. Two years ago in New York City, Ciascai struck a tree at about 110 miles per hour. He saw the tree coming and heard a boom. The car has been totaled. He still has pain in his shoulder from the wreckage, but it could have been worse.
“Without the safety equipment, the helmet, the belt and the HANS device …”, Ciascai fades.
“You wouldn’t be here,” I said, completing her thought.
“No,” he said.
Ciasca raced in 11 states. Since the accident, he has not run as much, although he has done several tests. Recently he did more refereeing. It will be official at a race in Canada in November.
Besides being dangerous, sport is not cheap.
âHow can you become a millionaire by doing the rally? ” he said. “You start a billionaire.”
He said rally racing is about having fun, getting an adrenaline rush and being around friends who have similar interests. He estimated that more than 70 percent of his Facebook friends are involved in rally racing.
âIt’s like a family,â Ciascai said. âYou get to know people all over the country. ”
Ciascai said that a race can make a lot of money for a community. One of the unwritten rules, as he described it, is that drivers spend money in the community that hosts the race. It is a way of giving them back for the use of their roads.
This sense of community is a big part of why Ciascai is still involved in the sport.
âWhen I come to a rally, for me it’s like recharging my batteries,â he said. “When I go I have a good time, I have fun.”