Detroit Lakes, Minnesota (August 24, 2018)
The latter half of the American Rally Association season kicks off with the Muscatell Ojibwe Forests Rally. The Detroit Lakes, Minnesota based event was last year's season finale, and was the deciding round for multiple championship battles. This year, Ojibwe is round 5 of 7 and will serve an important role in the developing championship fights, as contenders in every class look to make the push to solidify their place in the standings.
Muscatell Ojibwe Forests Rally is 132 miles of smooth fast roads through the forest and around water in the 10,000 Lakes region of Minnesota. Flow, the defining attribute of Ojibwe, is why drivers make the trek here. The corners, crests, and dips of Ojibwe string together in a way that few other rallies do. It's a constant source of entertainment for both the teams in the car and for spectators watching from the treeline.
Ojibwe's smooth gravel road surface sees very few pothole, large rocks, or other imperfections, allowing sustained high speeds. Few dangers from the road surface exist, but competitors will need to steer clear of some embedded rocks and sandy patches that see grip levels drop in an instant. Though dust and visibility has been an issue in previous years, passing rain showers ahead of the weekend may offer alleviation from the threat.
Some changes to the route book this year see the return of several road sections from years past. The effort, pushed by Ojibwe rally organizers, seeks to make the event less stressful and more fun for competitors by simplifying the rally's route. Friday's stages begin with Parc Expose in Detroit Lakes before a super special at the nearby Becker County Fair.
From there, the rally heads out to the Paul Bunyan State Forest and it's famous Crossroads Jump. The jump, featuring the Red Bull arch, will be seen twice this year. For Saturday's stages, a new route showcasing many stage roads unseen in nearly a decade is set to excite competitors. The newly returned roads are fast and smooth but have many blind corners over crests that can catch drivers out.
David Higgins and Craig Drew of Subaru Rally Team USA come into Ojibwe holding the lead in the overall championship after a dominating performance at NEFR. The pair are looking to extend that lead, but their championship position cannot be secured just yet. The current leader's principal threats in the Open 4wd class will come from 2017 ARA championship winners Travis Pastrana and Robbie Durant and from the Green APU team of WRC regular Bryan Bouffier and Florian Barral.
Pastrana and Durant are competing in their second and final event of the season. The sitting ARA champions wear the number 1 on their car to commemorate their 2017 victory. After taking last month's NEFR to settle back into the car, Pastrana will be looking to go for it and fight for the win this weekend. 2011 Rallye Monte Carlo winner Bryan Bouffier is back to drive the Green APU Evo-powered Mitsubishi Mirage, his first time behind the wheel of the car since finishing third at the Oregon Trail Rally in 2016. Joining him is Florian Barral, an up-and-coming co-driver with several wins under his belt at french national rallies.
The battle for the Limited 4wd class picks back up at Ojibwe. Jeff Seehorn maintains a narrow lead in a three-way driver's championship fight between the 2017 class champion and DirtFish teammates Travis Nease and Sam Albert. For the co-drivers, a two way fight between Karen Jankowski, of the Seehorn Rally Team, and Michelle Miller of DirtFish, co-driving for Sam Albert. Nease enters Ojibwe with a new co-driver, his third co-driver in 5 events.
Limited 4wd also sees the return of home-crowd favorite Nick Roberts, driving this weekend for the CPD Racing team. Competing in his first rally event since 2016, Roberts will be partnering with team owner Scott Putnam, who is getting back in the car for the first time since Ojibwe last year.
Both have won rallies and competed for championships, but this weekend's event will be more focused on getting back into the groove and having fun, rather than an all out push for a class win.
Naturally Aspirated 4wd championship leaders Blake Lind and Tricia Lind of Primitive Racing have made the trip east from their base in the Pacific Northwest. Ojibwe represents a great opportunity for the team to earn extra points in their national championship push. Making the opposite trip west from the east coast and a championship push are regional competitors TJ Pullen and Erin Kelly. After NEFR the Pullen Away Rally Team found themselves in contention for the NA4wd ARA East Regional Championship, later crowdfunding their trip out to the final ARA East event of the season in hops of winning that championship.
In Open 2wd, Erik Potts and Claudia Barbera-Pullen come into Ojibwe holding a one race lead in the national championship over Seamus Burke and Martin Brady of JRD Rallysport. Potts has been consistent for most of the year and scored a win at Olympus, but Burke comes into Ojibwe having won two previous events. Neither driver has much experience on the Minnesota forest roads, so adaptation will be the name of the game for both.
In Limited 4wd, the Honda Maxxis HPD team returns with a two car entry. While the cars have been seen at previous ARA events, the drivers are an all new roster at this one.
More information about Muscatell Ojibwe Forests Rally, including how to spectate, can be found at ojibweforestsrally.com and AmericanRallyAssociation.org/ojibweforestsrally. You can also download the free spectator guide here.
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.