Speedway, Indiana (May 16, 2018)
With the inaugural year of the American Rally Association (ARA) successfully in the record books, the second year of North America’s newest stage rally championship is off to an exciting start. Now a wholly owned subsidiary of the United States Auto Club (USAC), an organization which dates back to 1955 and currently manages seventeen different race series, ARA has an even more secure base in which to operate from these days.
In addition, ARA also benefits from a new full-time management team lead by longtime rally driver & co-driver, Doug Shepherd from Michigan. With nearly 40 years of experience in the sport of stage rally, Shepherd brings a vast amount of knowledge and experience to this key role. Assembled by USAC CEO Kevin Miller following the conclusion of the 2017 season, the full-time team has the ability to react to the needs of the ARA on a daily basis. This is something that Miller felt was extremely important for the series and the organization to have in place going into year two in order to be successful.
With a simplified set of classes that allow for better competition, a revised set of technical rules, a 2018 National Championship Series that consists of seven well-organized events taking place from April to October covering six states from coast-to-coast, and a growing list of nationally recognized marketing partners and contingency sponsors which include Subaru of America, Ford Performance, VP Racing Fuels, Autoweek, Maxxis Tires, Hoosier Racing Tire, Cooper Tire, GrimmSpeed, and AMSOIL, the stage has been set.
“After a hectic four months I am happy to say that we have most of the people and systems in place to handle the ARA operations”, said Doug Shepherd. “The media and industry response to the USAC/ARA partnership has been fantastic with many new marketing and contingency sponsorship programs benefitting the ARA Championship series. This brings increased visibility to the events and the participants and makes the all the hard work in the office worthwhile.”
The American Rally Association’s inaugural rally of their 7-event 2018 National Championship Series, the Oregon Trail Rally based in Portland, Oregon, took place April 20th – 22nd. Under near-perfect weather conditions, 58 top-level rally teams from across the United States and Canada gathered to kick off the American Rally Association’s second season. Following an evening of incredibly close competition at Portland International Raceway on Friday, where rally fans watched their favorite teams compete on a mixture of tarmac and gravel surfaces in a Super-Special format, the teams and fans moved several hours east along the Columbia River Valley to The Dalles, Oregon, for Saturday and Sunday.
Competition resumed in Goldendale, Washington on Saturday, April 21st, with 55 miles of racing stages in a 200 mile course. On Sunday, April 22nd, the Oregon Trail Rally relocated to Dufur, Oregon, about 15 miles south of The Dalles. Following a well-attended Parc Expose in the village of Dufur that attracted hundreds of rally fans, teams competed on 65 miles of amazing stage roads just south of the Columbia River on a 190 mile course.
The awards ceremony for the 2018 Oregon Trail Rally took place at the Columbia River Discovery Center located in The Dalles, OR. With the Columbia River as the backdrop, Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins and Craig Drew accepted first place overall honors in their 2018 Subaru WRX STI, while the team of Jeff Seehorn and Karen Jankowski driving their Maxxis Tires-backed 2016 Subaru WRX STI claimed second place overall. Longtime rally competitors Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino reunited after several years apart to take third place overall driving a fan favorite, an extremely rare ex-WRC 1991 Ford Escort Cosworth.
With the Oregon Trail Rally completed, the American Rally Association is now continuing its effort to add several classes of side-by-sides, or UTV’s, into ARA competition in 2018. A preliminary set of technical rules was developed and published in April, classes are being finalized and event organizers have been asked to see where these popular vehicles can be added to their events. To date, the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally (STPR), Rally Idaho International and the Tour de Forest rallies have all agreed to include side-by-sides in their respective events as competition classes for 2018.
The 2018 ARA National Championship Series continues May 19-20, 2018 with the popular Olympus Rally in Shelton, Washington. Following Olympus, the ARA heads to the East Coast with the always-exciting Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally (STPR) taking place June 1-2 in Wellsboro, PA and the New England Forest Rally (NEFR) July 20-21 in Newry, Maine and Errol, New Hampshire. The Muscatell Ojibwe Forests Rally in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota is next on ARA’s 7-event schedule August 24-25 followed by Idaho Rally International September 15-16 in Boise, Idaho. The ARA 2018 National Championship Series concludes with the Tour de Forest Rally and a year-end awards celebration in Shelton, WA October 6-7, 2018.
For additional information regarding the American Rally Association, be sure to visit www.AmericanRallyAssociation.org.
Photo Credit: Alex Wong
About American Rally Association (ARA)
A member-driven organization dedicated to the sport of Stage Rally, the American Rally Association provides a transparent, inclusive, and growing sanctioning body to competitors throughout America. A 501 (c)(3) non-profit and wholly owned subsidiary of the United States Auto Club (USAC), ARA is led by seasoned Stage Rally professionals who work hand in hand with an experienced Board of Directors to deliver a framework for safety, competition, promotion, and education for all aspects of the sport. The common goal of our members, volunteers, and organization is a thriving Stage Rally program in America.