ARA First Look: Olympus Rally
Shelton, Wash. ~ The American Rally Association crisscrosses the United States with eight national events, making up the Green APU National Rally Championship. It also encompasses three regional championships, including 12 Super Regionals (8 of which are held in conjunction with the national events) and nine regionals.
Up next is this weekend's Olympus Rally in Shelton, Wash, just north of the state's capital, Olympia. There are 76 entrants in the third round of the Green APU National Rally Championship and the West Regional championship event. Here's an ARA: First Look at Olympus.
Competitors have been flocking to the Pacific Northwest since 1968 to participate in the Olympus Rally. First held as a Time Speed Distance rally, it became a formal stage rally event in 1973. Olympus was also the home of the World Rally Championship's last stop in the United States (1986-88). The rally ran under the Wild West name during parts several years between 1989 and 2005, it returned to national prominence and has been part of the American Rally Association's national championship since 2017.
The stage roads at Olympus are incredibly diverse, with road surfaces that are predominantly gravel but can vary from hard-packed to loose and potholed. They range from flat to crowned, with speedy straights and stomach-churning crests and dips that lead into corners that play mind games with its on and off-camber. Mix in elevation changes of more than 2,000 feet, and it is a true test for man and machine.
The competition will be fast and tight in Olympus. While speed is essential, the stages award driving ability equal to flat-out speed. And Olympus will offer up exceptional racing for the 76 entrants currently registered for the event.
Subaru Motorsports USA's Brandon Semenuk and Keaton Williams have teamed up to win the past three ARA nationals. The defending ARA Overall National champions won Olympus in 2022, including the Power Stage.
Patrick Gruszka is looking more and more comfortable in his Green APU-backed Hyundai i20. He finished third overall at 100 Acre Wood and won the RC2 class and will have John Hall's experience in the co-driver seat at Olympus. Tom Williams will challenge for the overall and the top of RC2. Kyle Tilley was a late scratch due to ongoing supply issues.
Jeff Seehorn is itching to get back behind the wheel of his 2021 Subaru WRX STI. Seehorn won the overall regional event at Olympus and Olympus' sister event, Tour de Forest, last fall. He is slated to start fourth on the road, one spot ahead of Alejandro Perusina and his 2015 Toyota Rav4.
Fans will be stretching their necks to get a look at the viral sensation built by Sam Albert. The 2022 regional overall winner at Olympus will be back but in national competition in his 2005 Subaru WRX STI, which he modified with a Ferrari 458 flat-plank V-8 under the hood. He will garner extra attention in Washington as a crew from Top Gear will be featuring his unique build at Olympus.
The national L4WD class is stacked with talent and fast cars. Matt Dickinson is currently third overall in the ARA National Championship standings. He is joined by Ele Bardha, Jason Bailey, Travis Nease, Lucy Block, Matt Brassfield, and CARS driver Vincent Trudel.
Of the 76 entries, 35 will run a 2WD class car in competition. That includes six in the stacked national classification. Michael Hooper leads the Open 2WD field and is looking for redemption after crashing out of 100 Acre Wood. Challengers include 2020 Olympus regional overall winner David Clark, Lia Block, Tim O'Neil, Nick Allen, and Karen Jankowski, who was a late switch to the national class over the weekend.
In ARA West Regional action, Andy Miller is the highest returning finisher from 2022 to enter as a regional in 2023. Miller was third overall (West Regional) last year and has finished first or second in class in his past six rallies.
John Hill will turn heads with his speed, but also his car. Hill is one of 22 cars entered in the West Regional O2WD in his Ford Escort. (Notably, his registration shows a 1968 model rather than the 1979 car he used in 2022).
Matt Brassfield currently leads the ARA West Regional Championship and won last December's Ridge Rally. However, Brassfield is entered as a national competitor, and the only other Ridge entrant to have championship points is Brett Livingston. With Olympus being a Super Regional, there will be a new points leader in the west after this weekend.
Along with Miller and Hill, look for solid weekends from Nate Tennis, Andrew Reavis, Spencer Crabb, Jason Cochell, David DeFrain, and Mark Tabor, who won the regional event in 2019.
All ARA Green APU National Rally Championship events will be live-streamed on the ARA YouTube page. You can also follow the action on ARA's Facebook and Twitter feeds. Additionally, fans can find live Tracking through the RallySafe app.