Bristol Forest Rally: First Look
Speedway, Ind. ~ The American Rally Association crisscrosses the United States with eight national events, dubbed the Green APU National Rally Championship. It also encompasses three regional championships, including 12 Super Regionals (8 are held in conjunction with the national events) and nine regionals.
One of those upcoming events is the ARA Super Regional Bristol Forest Rally in Bristol, Tenn. Registration for the East Regional Championship event opened in March, and 34 cars will rally this weekend. Here's an ARA: First Look at Bristol and who's heading to Tennessee on May 5-6.
If you are a rally fan or competitor and have even briefly traveled through the eastern portion of Tennessee, your mind was likely spinning about all of the rally possibilities in the region. The roads of East Tennessee are covered with miles of relentless, twisty gravel roads. They have been carved into the sides of high ridge lines, making them near-perfect to rally.
The Team O'neil Bristol Forest Rally claims the roller-coaster roads of the Cherokee National Forest as their own and adds a unique twist to kick off its event: Tarmac stages. Widely popular in Europe, only a few U.S. events include Tarmac stages, such as Bristol's seven-mile ribbon that was once the home of the App Tarmac Rally Sprint.
The ARA Super Regional will cover 75 miles over nine stages, and while the roads are a great attraction, the main focus will be on a deep two-wheel drive field, which appears to have a heavy national competition feel.
Of the 34 cars, 25 are entered in a two-wheel drive category (14 Open 2WD, 11 Limited 2WD). At least the first three cars on the road are expected to be Open 2WD competitors. Seamus Burke (Co-Driver Martin Brady) leads the field and has won three of the past four National O2WD titles and the overall at Bristol in 2021.
On the heels of his third-place class finish at Olympus, Michael Hooper (Michael Hordijk) brings his raspy Lexus IS350 Gravel Spec to Bristol. He will start behind Burke's famed 1977 Ford Escort and ahead of Paulo Ferreira (Ozgur Simsek) and his 1997 BMW M3.
Dylan Gondyke (Ben Chuong) took NA4WD honors at Bristol in 2022, as the two-time defending ARA East Regional Champion also finished second overall at the event last year. Challengers to the top of the 4WD hierarchy include Phil Wearn (KJ Miller) and Tim O'Neil (Glen Ray). However, O'Neil has left his trademark AMC home for the weekend, opting instead to rally behind the wheel of a 1991 Mitsubishi Galant vr4.
Spectators will have ample opportunity to see Bristol up close and have their eyes set on a deep field of talent. Defending East Regional Limited 2WD champion Chris Nonack (Sara Nonack) will drive a 2013 Subaru BRZ this weekend. They will square off against 2022 ARA Central Regional L2WD champion Nick Bukky (Kyle Williams) and 2023 Sno*Drift O2WD regional winner Scott James (Gavin James).
The 2023 Bristol Forest Rally will present trophies and awards at Yee-Haw Brewing in Johnson City, Tenn.