Montesano, WA (October 3, 2018)
The American Rally Association returns to the Pacific Northwest for round 7, the Tour de Forest Rally. The newly revived event enters the ARA championship as the 2018 season finale, the deciding round in the national Open 2wd championship and in all classes of the ARA West Regional series.
A newly revived event for 2018, Tour de Forest was last part of a national championship in 1983. The event, returning to the national stage after 35 years, represents an exciting new challenge for ARA competitors. Revived by the organizers behind Olympus Rally, TdF will feature many stage roads unseen in competition for a decade or more. Much like at last month's Idaho Rally, the playing field will be leveled as the advantage of experience is reduced.
Started in 1978 by the Rainier Auto Sports Club as a regional event, Tour de Forest was quickly picked up by the SCCA Pro Rally Championship the following year. From 1979-1983, it became a battleground between legends of the sport John Buffum and Rod Millen. After four years of intense competition, the fight ended in an even draw with each driver taking two wins.
For 1983, Tour de Forest moved home to Tualatin, Oregon, an event won by rally newcomer Steve Millen. The next year, the Tour de Forest Pro Rally evolved into the inaugural Oregon Trail Pro Rally, the precursor to the modern Oregon Trail Rally. The name Tour de Forest was partially revived in the 1990s for a regional event in Washington State, but quickly feel silent again for two decades before being formally revived for 2018.
Four ARA championships were decided last month at Idaho Rally International, David Higgins and Craig Drew from Subaru Rally Team USA mathematically locked up the the overall and Open 4wd class championship, their seventh American title together. At the same time, Jeff Seehorn and Karen Jankowski solidified their Limited 4wd class victory, making them the first team in ARA history to win back-to-back titles. Husband and wife team Blake Lind and Tricia Lind won the Naturally Aspirated 4wd championship and Jordan Guitar took the Limited 2wd title for the Honda Maxxis HPD Rally Team.
Just the Open 2wd championship remains to be decided this weekend. Erik Potts and Claudia Barbera-Pullen are in a dead heat for the championship with Seamus Burke and Martin Brady of JRD Rallysport. Potts and Barbera took the lead in class early this year after a second place finish in Oregon and a win at Olympus in their supercharged BRZ. They've held a championship lead in the class since then, but Burke and Brady have maintained an advantage on pace since joining the championship at STPR. The drivers of the V6 swapped MKII Ford Escort have won the O2wd class at each of the last four events to reduce their points deficit a bit-by-bit with every round. Heading into the Tour de Forest weekend, Potts leads the championship by 11 points, half a win ahead of his rival.
Though the championships in other classes have been won, there's still a lot to fight for this weekend. Patrik Sandell and Per Almkvist return for a third time this season, ready to challenge newly crowned champions Higgins and Drew. Sandell in the yellow Subaru won both of their previous encounters at Olympus and Idaho. But with the championship secured, Higgins now has free reign to push as hard as he can for the rally win.
In the Limited 4wd class, Jeff Seehorn and Karen Jankowski will battle head on against championship rivals Sam Albert and Michelle Miller. Seehorn is always one to push for the class win and the overall podium, he's hoping for his sixth of the season. Meanwhile, Albert is under pressure from Seamus Burke for his third place position in the overall championship. The home event for the DirtFish team, Albert and Miller will also be looking to put on a strong performance in front of the fans. Travis Nease is sitting this weekend out after damaging his car at last month's Idaho Rally.
The Open 2wd class is stacked with talent for Tour de Forest. With the championship fight in full swing, Erik Potts and Seamus Burke will be duking it out on the Washington stages, but they won't be unchallenged. Potential spoilers to championship fight, Jason Bailey and Chris Kremmer are back in their Fiesta R2 after last month's second place finish in Idaho. Joining the fray are Dave Clark and Jamie Willetts, who have sidelined their Merkur XR4Ti for a highly-built E36 BMW M3. Keanna Erickson-Chang is also back after her off at Idaho, this time partnering with newly minted television personality and veteran co-driver Krista Skucas.
The Naturally Aspirated 4wd class will see a fight between 2018 champions Blake Lind and Tricia Lind and ARA newcomer Leo Hughes in the national class. And side-by-sides return to ARA competition for Saturday's stages. 2013 US rally champion in his class, David Sterckx will come to Tour de Forest fresh off a win at the Gorman Ridge Rally in California. He'll be competing against Richard Matte an Aaron Schmidt.
Competitors will recce the Tour de Forest stages on Friday, with competition following on Saturday and Sunday. Side-by-sides will run in Saturday's regional event only. More details on the Tour de Forest stage roads will come on Friday after recce is completed.
For more information on Tour de Forest Rally, including how to spectate, check out the official spectator guide here.
Photo Credit: Alex Wong (Top, 1), Tedrick Mealy (2)
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.