ARA Driver Spotlight: Dave Wallingford
Dave Wallingford with Savage Rallysport exploded on to the US rally scene about five years ago. In that time he has had multiple wins, a championship, and a hard wreck.
What you might not know though is that Wallingford didn't have any interest in getting to racing until a trip to a rally school.
"I went to Team O'Neill Rally School in 2015 not expecting to get into rally, not interested in motorsports at all," he said. "But [I] caught the bug on the very first day and was like, 'alright, I guess this is what I do now.'"
Wallingford dove into the world of rally headfirst. Having bought a Ford Fiesta R2 he immediately started competing in any event he could. Getting through the teething pains of starting a rally team was rough, but Wallingford still managed to pull off a class win and fifth in points for 02WD by the end of 2016.
Not a bad rookie year by any means, but in 2017 Wallingford would prove his abilities behind the wheel with a vehicle upgrade.
"2017 [I] had a [Ford Fiesta] R2T, and won the North America Rally Cup 2WD, second in ARA, and first in Canada," he explains.
Wallingford described this as the proudest moment of his career, and for good reason. Winning any championship on your second year of driving is absolutely astounding, not to mention winning two!
"My co-driver [Leanne Junnila] is Canadian and it's great to have the cross-border competition, because there are great events all over North America."
The R2T proved to be a great stepping stone in Wallingford's rally career, and the perfect boost in confidence to move on to the next step.
In 2018 Wallingford made the biggest upgrade yet, and got himself a Ford Fiesta R5 car. Moving out of the FWD setups of the past, the R5 would allow Wallingford to compete closer to the top level of the ARA, and also compete in other FIA rallies.
WRC Mexico 2018 would be the biggest event Wallingford had ever entered, as well as his debut in the R5, but would bring the biggest barrier he'd have to face yet.
Wallingford explains, "I was at WRC Mexico in 2018. Things were going pretty good, it was my first event in the R5."
"There just happened to be this one corner I went around, and there was this big washout right in front of me that I wasn't expecting to be there. [I] hooked the front left time into it, hit it, like went down into it hard, flipped the car over, broke my back, couldn't feel my legs, couldn't walk, and ended up having to have surgery down there to put rods in my back."
"I spent about a month and a half in the hospital and months in a wheelchair, having to re-learn how to walk again."
Despite the terrifying accident, Wallingford's desire to get back behind the wheel never faded.
"After my surgery down in mexico, I woke up, still totally high on painkillers that they gave me for surgery, and I was like 'I hope the car's okay, because I think I can still finish the race today!'" Wallingford said. "I guess that was kind of my attitude the whole time I wasn't allowed to race for a year after that. It was just my goal, and led my rehab back toward getting in the car."
The 2019 Rally in the 100 Acre Wood was the fist event back for Wallingford in his R5. Despite retiring from the event, it marked the beginning of a new chapter in his rallying career competing in the R5 after an incredible come back from WRC Mexico.
Most recently we saw Wallingford at Southern Ohio Forest Rally where he placed 11th overall and second in class.
Watch out for Wallingford at rallies near you, he may still be relatively new, but his results and skills speak for themselves. He may just surprise you.