What you need to know: Ojibwe Forests Rally
The Ojibwe Forests Rally marks the seventh round of the 2022 American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National Championship. Entering into the final few events of the championship, competition is tight for the titles, and teams are going all out for points.
he harsh, soaking wet roads of the Ojibwe forests are ready to cause havoc to the 43 competitors as they embark on over 120 stage miles across two days.
If you’re not caught up on the ARA this year, no fear, we have everything you need to know heading into the Ojibwe Forests Rally.
The National entry is a bit slim at Ojibwe compared to the rest of the series this year as people have gotten caught out with mechanical, personal, and other issues, but that hasn’t stopped the competition that has entered from being some of the fiercest battles we’ve seen this year.
The overall championship currently looks to be in the hands of one of three drivers, Brandon Semenuk, Travis Pastrana, or Ken Block. Semenuk currently leads the championship by four points of Pastrana, who is only five points ahead of Block.
Subaru has added a bigger front splitter to the front of its cars to help balance out the added downforce from the wing it extended at New England Forest Rally, but Block is still ready to put all of the pressure on in his Hyundai i20 WRC.
Despite sitting second, Pastrana has yet to take gold in a rally this year, but Ojibwe has historically been one of his best, having won the rally a record seven times.
Brandon Semenuk has been on fire every single step of the way to earn his lead. His drive at New England was one of, if not the, best we’ve seen from him, as he seemed nearly flawless every note, braking point, and turn with his new co-driver for the season, Keaton Williams.
The big threat for Subaru is Hoonigan and the Hyundai. The downtuned WRC car is still miles ahead of anything in the country in terms of research and development, and has proven an extremely comfortable fit for Head Hoonigan in Charge Ken Block. With long time navigator Alex Gelsomino in the passenger seat, this pair has been known to take huge amounts of time out of the Subarus on some stages, but various issues for the team have held them back from the lead of the championship.
Behind the big three, the Open 4WD class has Pat Gruszka, a promising up and comer at just 19 years old in a custom built Mitsubishi Mirage, Lucy Block in a Rally3 car, and ARA newcomer, Allen Dobasu, in a 2019 Fiesta.
The Limited-Naturally Aspirated 4WD championship is coming down to the wire as well. Points leader Phil Wearn returns after an absence at New England to hold off Black Rifle’s Dave Carapetyan, and sudden rising star in the scene Klim Fedoff, who only officially decided to chase after the title a month ago.
The 2WD championship is also coming quickly to a head, as Seamus Burke attempts to take the lead from Micah Nickelson. Nickelson has had an incredible run in his VW Golf GTI this year and sits just three points ahead of Burke’s V6 powered Escort, fresh out of the repair shop after a rough roll at New England.
Looking to make a comeback in the class is the Lexus IS350 of Michael Hooper. Hooper is traditionally a very fast driver with a very reliable car, but some teething issues on a new build have left him playing catch up in this year’s championship as he looks for some points.
The L2WD cup will feature Alex Ramos trying to take the lead back from Paul Dickinson who is absent this round, as Nathan and Eliot Odle chase him down in their Lexus IS250, and Nick Allen looks to stay on the road after two rolls at New England.
The Regional Rally will also see good competition, as Alejandro Perusina and Andres Bautista return in the AP4 Rav4 for seat time, and Stephen and Katie Gingras look to take the Central Championship lead back from Zachary Jacques with a good finish this weekend.
Another crew to watch will be Jacob and Michael Despian, who are fresh off a win at Rally Colorado that they got after finishing SS1 in 20th.
A few of the 2WD regional entries include the M3 of Ryan George, the S-10 of Scott Parrott, the Civic of Nick Lyle, and the Fit of Nicholas Bukky among others.
The stages of the Ojibwe Forests Rally are predominantly gravel and dirt with a sandy base. They’re a good middle ground between technical and fast, with many high speed corners, crests, and little jumps.
The roads tend to be on the rougher side, with big ruts from rain runoff, deep puddles, and large rocks near the surface that can cause all kinds of mechanical issues.
The most well-known parts of this rally are the Crossroads Jump, and the land bridge on Height O’ Land.
The Crossroads Jump is a popular fan spot, where a large crest falls away steep over the racing line, and driver commit hard into a high-speed curve just after getting 80+ feet of air in some cases.
The Height O’ Land land bridge is known as one of the most beautiful stage sections in the world. The tree line falls away as cars round a lake to reveal the road continues through the water with a medium right and left, all with only water on either side of the road, which bisects Shuckhart Lake. One wrong move could sink your car.
Notable this year is the addition of the Soo Pass Ranch stages at the end of the rally. These two stages will be run twice for a total of four Super Specials to cap off the event.
These aren’t just regular super specials though, while they do have many artificial elements, large parts of them weave through woods on off road paths that, while not quite reminiscent of the Ojibwe stages, feel more natural than most spectator stages in the series.
The conditions for the Ojibwe Forests Rally are going to be tough.
The main source of the problem is going to be the rain. Massive storms on Thursday have left stages soaked, and more rain Thursday night into Friday morning lasting throughout the entire day is sure to make sure they don’t dry out.
The sandy base helps keep parts of the road from getting too torn up and muddy, but it goes without saying conditions will still be slick through most of the rally, and depending on the amount of rain, deeper puddles and ruts can form causing more headaches for the teams as they fly through the stages.
Last year’s super special stages at the Detroit Mountains Recreation Area turned into a bit of a Slip N’ Slide as cars tore up the wet grass into the mud that comprised most of the spectator area.
While the much longer super specials of the Soo Pass Ranch have many purpose build dirt roads, there are still grass sections already showing signs of turning into a mud pit, and an overly slick super special could easily cause a last minute change in any of the tight championship battles taking place on the rally.