Celebrating 50 Years of National Stage Rallying in the United States!
At the end of 2022, stage rally racing in the United States hit a major milestone: 50 years of national-level, championship competition. Throughout 2023, that history, and the men and women who made it, will come together to honor five decades of U.S. National Stage Rally Championships.
In 1973, the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) sanctioned the first Pro Rally National Championship in the U.S. There were seven events in that inaugural championship, starting with the Sno Drift rally in Michigan in January and finishing in December with the Rally Du Noir in Alabama. In between, competitors raced in the Pacific Northwest at the Olympus Rally, at Big Bend Bash in Texas, the Nor’Wester in Washington, the Sunriser 400 in Ohio, and at the La Jornada Trabajosa in California. It truly was a national championship, an achievement that happily coincides with the World Rally Championship, which shares the same duration of 50 years of competition.
By 1973, Pro Rally/Stage Rally events had already been popular in Europe for decades, beginning with the famed Monte Carlo Rally. Across the pond in the US, these early events were built from scratch, and held mostly on forest roads, often after dark and with many events lasting all night into the next day.
Stage rally centers its existence around several key principles, including endurance, car preparation and skilled driving on loose or slippery surfaces. The sport is also unique in that its competitors do not navigate the tight and twisty roads alone, instead, a driver and co-driver compete together, often in small sedans or sports cars.
Datsun, Plymouth, Toyota, and various European cars were the most common. Rally fans have seen just about every make and model on stage roads over the years, including Triumph, Dodge, Audi, Mazda, Hyundai, Ford, and Subaru. Some of the greatest accomplishments in the U.S. have also been helped by the world’s best tire manufacturers with extensive help in those early years coming from the likes of Michelin, BF Goodrich, and Cooper Tire.
In the U.S., numerous sanctioning bodies have managed the national championship, starting with the SCCA in 1973. When they relinquished its sanctioning of Pro Rally after the 2004 season, the series was picked up by Rally America the following year. That relationship continued until 2017 when the American Rally Association (ARA) was formed by a group of passionate rally luminaries and several event organizers. Today, the ARA runs the U.S. Championship, and more than 20 total rallies, under the backing of the United States Auto Club (USAC).
Many of those same luminaries and event organizers that laid the foundation of sport on American soil are also planning a large celebration of it this summer. The 50th Year of Stage Rallying in the U.S. will be celebrated throughout the year in conjunction with ARA events. In June, many of the past champion drivers and co-drivers will be gathering at the Southern Ohio Forest Rally for a celebratory weekend. Some of the biggest names in U.S. Rally history have already committed and will be on hand to reminisce and share their stories and the passion that a half-century of flat-out competition has brought forth. SOFR is scheduled for the weekend of June 8-10 in the southern Ohio town of Chillicothe. For more information on the fifth round of the ARA championship, and to learn more about the 50th Year program, go to www.americanrallyassociation.org.