Detroit Lakes, Minn. ~ 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.
This weekend, the ARA heads to Northern Minnesota for round seven of the Green APU National Rally Championship: The Ojibwe Forests Rally. Registration for the event opened in July, and 42 cars will rally this weekend. Here's an ARA: First Look at Ojibwe and who will be starting Friday in Minnesota:
History has woven a winding tale for the Ojibwe Forests Rally over the past 40 years. In 1983, it started as a TSD (Time, Speed, and Distance) rally and continued to push the envelope on creativity and excitement over the next four decades.
Ojibwe is one of the longest-stage rally events in the United States. Its smooth, quick, and free-flowing stage roads have long been a competitor's favorite. Located in the 10,000 Lakes Region of northeast Minnesota, Ojibwe is a fast rally, with competitors spending much of their time in higher gear. Several times during the event, the racing surface transitions from wide, hard-packed dirt to ATV access roads barely more expansive than a car.
The Rally will begin in Detroit Lakes on Thursday night, with a Pre-Rally Party, Parc Expose, and Ceremonial start at Soo Pass Ranch. Teams will move roughly an hour north for competition on Friday and Saturday. The single service area will be held at the Lake Itasca Pioneer Farms site, just a stone's throw from the start of the mighty Mississippi River.
Forty-two cars are scheduled to start on Friday, with an intimate but talented National field of 13. With Ojibwe being the penultimate round of competition for the 2023 Green APU National Championship, points will come at a premium this weekend.
Subaru to Unleash New Ride for Semenuk
Hundreds of cars could be lined up at Ojibwe this weekend, but all eyes will be on the official launch of Subaru Motorsports USA's all-new WRX.
Brandon Semenuk and co-driver Keaton Williams have been testing the latest Subaru and Vermont Sports Car collaboration throughout the 2023 calendar year. But all of the testing can't replicate a strong showing in real world rally conditions, and the defending champions will get their chance starting on Friday.
Semenuk and Williams drove the "old" car to near perfection in 2023, winning every round to date and leading the overall national points. Ojibwe is a perfect rally to break in the new whip and see how it stacks up to the championship-winning 2015 build.
"I would say relatively the car feels similar speed to the old car, but it's more modern, it's like how nice the gear shift is, and the driver comfort in the car and obviously the suspension provides more confidence in the terrain and things like that," Semenuk told DirtFish earlier this month.
A Creative Collection of Cars
With Semenuk first off the line, the depth of competition will come from a cornucopia of competitors and their cars. Pat Moro (co-driver Claudia Barbera-Pullen) will be second off the road in Moro's 2021 LS3-swapped Chevrolet Sonic. Seamus Burke (Gary McElhinney) is in the fan-favorite 1977 Ford Escort. Javier Olivares (KJ Miller) is slated for fourth on the road in his 2021 Ford Fiesta, and Matthew Dickinson (Chris Kremer) will round out the top five. Dickinson and Olivares are in a tight race for the ARA National LN4 championship, with just six points of separation.
Michael Hooper (Michael Hordijk) will challenge Burke for O2WD supremacy in his 2010 Lexus IS350 Gravel Spec. Cameron Steely (Steve Harrell) will turn heads in O4WD, piloting a 2015 Audi A1 Maxx through the Minnesota Northwoods.
Regional Depth on Display
In regional action, Stephen and Katy Gingras have been very successful at Ojibwe over the years. They won the overall regional rally in 2020 and finished second overall the following year.
Ryan Rethy and co-driver James Dallman are making their first run at Ojibwe. The 2023 100 Acre Wood winner has won four of the past eight events he has entered, including this month's Missouri Ozark Rally.
2020 National LN4 champion Robert Sanders is making his season debut in Minnesota. Along with co-driver Ashley Speare, Sanders will be looking to put his 2018 Subaru STi atop the leaderboard. The last time Sanders competed at Ojibwe, he finished first in National Limited 4WD.
Another former National driver, Roberto Yyglesias, will run as a regional this weekend. Yglesias was the 2021 National Limited 2 Cup winner, the same year he last ran at Ojibwe, finishing third in class. Sarah Freeze will co-driver for Yglesias this weekend.
Michael Engle (Ryan Scott) will start fifth on the road and are fresh off their overall victory at NASA's Hardwood Cup. Engle's last run at Ojibwe was in 2021, when he took home the regional win.
There is deep talent on display in the regional class this year. To view the complete field, go to www.sneakattackrally.com and select the Ojibwe Forests Rally entry list.
Spectators will have ample opportunity to see the Ojibwe Forests Rally up close. Along with Thursday's Parc Expose and pre-rally party in Detroit Lakes, there are spectator areas on both days of the rally. On Friday, you can watch cars from SS1 and SS3, and on Saturda, you can get stage side on SS9, SS12, SS16, and SS17. Please download the Ojibwe Forests Rally Spectator Guide for more information and directions.
You can follow every twist and turn of this weekend's Ojibwe Forests Rally at DirtFish Live Center.