Ah, June. The magical time of year when Canada and Michigan's Upper Peninsula finally thaw enough for residents to leave their log cabins and take up nobler, more exciting pursuits. By which I of course mean the annual moose rodeo and maple cook-off. Or, for those who are allergic to being trampled to death, rally. June is the busiest rally month of the year in North America, with nine events over five weekends (there's an asterisk there, which I'll explain momentarily). The Canadian Rally Championship breaks it's five month mid-season hiatus, the Rally America National Championship holds it's first eastern event of the year, and, thanks to a veritable cornucopia of smaller events, every U.S. time zone hosts a rally this month. And it all kicks off with...
Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally - Wellsboro, PA - May 30-31
Welcome to the asterisk. STPR typically takes place during the first weekend in June, but this year was bumped back a week so as not to overlap with X Games and their Global Rallycross Championship event (Subaru Rally Team USA and Ken Block are both pulling the STPR/GRC double). Thanks to Rally America's typical funky "Friday-Saturday" event schedule STPR technically misses the month of June entirely. I opted to include it on the list of June events because, while the rally may fall entirely in May the weekend itself technically ends in June. Also, as this is the first installment of "The Month in Rally," not including it here means completely omitting the event this year, and STPR deserves better.
STPR is one of my favorite events of the year. The rally takes place near the gorgeous Pennsylvania Grand Canyon and is run on twisty, narrow, (mostly) smooth state forest roads, lined with large, formidable trees that grow right up to the edge of the road, and sometimes even encroach upon the road itself. This rally is a test of both skill and testicular fortitude, as the fantastic road surface encourages you to constantly go faster but the trees wait to brutally punish even the slightest mistake, a point that was brutally made two years ago with open class driver Adam Yeoman of FY Racing. Fortunately he escaped with just a concussion and a totaled race car.
This year the traveling Rally America circus brings defending champion David Higgins, former champion Travis Pastrana, and 2013 rally winner Ken Block, along with 65 other drivers who will be racing everything from Subarus to BMWs to Pontiac Vibes to Mustang-Powered-Rangers to Porsche 944s to classic VW Beetles. If you live within five hours of the event I strongly urge you to come out to this one. Spectating in the forests is, like at most rallies, free, the people are awesome, there's great hiking trails and other scenic attractions, and the side-by-side super special stage at the end of both days is a major crowd pleaser. I'll be there competing for my third time, sitting with Ryan Wilcox in his open class Subaru STI wagon.
EDIT: Ken Block has been forced to withdraw from STPR due to the time and expense required to fix the damaged rallycross car after his Barbados roll.
Olympus Rally - Shelton, WA - May 31-June 1
If you live in the Pacific Northwest and missed the recent Oregon Trail Rally you are officially a goober. A goobery goober from goobertown who missed out on a fantastic event. But fret not, for there's still time to make amends with the rally gods, all you have to do is scale Mt Olympus and beg forgiveness.
The Olympus Rally has been a staple of American rallying since the early 70's. It was part of the first national championship in 1973 and is one of only two U.S. rallies to ever be part of the World Rally Championship, having been a WRC event from 1986-1988. It's list of winners includes the names Buffum, Millen, Mikkola, Alen, Biasion, and Kankkunen. After the formation of Rally America it spent six years as a R.A. national event, but sadly left the championship in 2013. It's set to return as a national next year, and this year is being run as a R.A. regional. This is another fantastic event, with incredible, technical forest stages. This is another "don't miss" event. Go now while there will only be regional-level crowds to get a heads-up on the best spectating locations and stop points when the big boys return next year.
HyperFest Rally Sprint - Summit Point, WV - June 7
If you've never heard of HyperFest then you're seriously missing out. HyperFest is essentially the real-world version of Forza Horizon, a festival of automotive speed and beauty meant for all gearheads, regardless of tastes. The events include drifting, road racing, rallying, a car show, something called "OG Racing HyperDrives" (think track day, bro), a rice-off, karting, a rollover contest, live concerts, and other automotive competitions and activities ranging from the skilled to the ridiculous. Fans can even get out on the track themselves via the HyperDrives session, along with rally rides and drift car rides. Yes, you did read that correctly.
Headwaters Regional Rally - Elbow Lake, MN - June 14
Headwaters Regional Rally is a small regional event held on some of the roads used by the Ojibwe Forest Rally, the latter event being the penultimate stop of the Rally America national championship. Headwaters is a newly returning event, brought back from a long hiatus but competitors and organizers determined to bring more rallying to Minnesota. The event boats short transits between stages and a simpler, more laid-back format thanks to it's smaller size. If you're local and want the chance to see cars go fast through the woods, followed by the chance to have casual conversations with the drivers, this is the event to go to.
Rallye de Saguenay - Saguenay, Quebec - June 14
If you're a Quebeccer looking for some rally action then June is your month, as you have not one but two rallies at your disposal, starting with Rallye de Saguenay. This may only be a single-day regional event but it by no means skimps on the action, with 118 km of excellent gravel stages waiting to be tackled (that's 73 miles to us Yankers). I've neve been to Rallye de Saguenay, but with the abundance of lakes and ponds in the area that forced road designers to be "creative" with their layouts, it's hard to find a bad rally road in Quebec.
Magnum Opus Rally - Newberry, MI - June 21
Magnum Opus is the first of two rallies for Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the second being Lake Superior Performance Rally in October. Magnum is another old event given new life, infused with the spirit of Press On Regardless and run on fantastic gravel roads. For added excitement this rally has a motorcycle class along with the typical car class, and at the time of writing the bike count is looking fairly strong with 13 registered competitors in the two-wheel category. The car category looks interesting as well, with a Toyota MR2, a Mazda RX7, a GMC Sonoma, a Jeep Scrambler, and that Mustang-infused-Ranger all on the roster. Like too many of the rallies on the calendar I haven't been to Magnum Opus and my knowledge of the event is limited. Fortunately I'll be correcting that with a ride in the Datsun 280Z of Greg Healey.
Idaho Rally - Boise, ID - June 21
Also taking place June 21 is the
anti-Doug DeMuro Rally Idaho Rally, the third of the northwestern U.S.'s three events. At less than ten years old Idaho is a relatively new event, but it has already established itself as a favorite of competitors and fans. I know little of Idaho Rally (curse you, distant events, you and your mysterious ways!), but everyone I've spoken to who has competed there has given rave reviews about the event and the roads. One of the unique aspects of the Idaho Rally is it's diverse competition field. Like Magnum Opus it allows cars and bikes, but Idaho also opens its doors for side-by-side UTVs, and even hosts the odd road-legal desert truck as well. Subaru vs desert racer vs Polaris RZR sounds like a good showdown to me.
Mount Washington Hillclimb - Gorham, NH - June 27-29
After a three year hiatus the toughest hillclimb in North America is back. For those who have only heard of Pikes Peak imagine climbing the same vertical distance on a road that's half the length, averages just 20 feet wide, contains grade changes so aggressive that at speed they can become jumps, spends 5,200 hours per year shrouded in fog that can reduce visibility to less than 100 feet (for reference a year is 8,700 hours), and nearly half the year has hurricane force winds at the summit. Oh, and did I mention the road has dirt, thousand foot drops, and zero guardrails?
The Mt Washington Auto Road is so intimidating, so terrifying, that drivers who simply drive to the summit at the speed limit feel the need to attach "This car climbed Mount Washington" bumper stickers to their car like a badge of honor, showing they didn't chicken out when the trees suddenly disappeared and they were faced with the frailty their mortality. Some Hondas are banned from driving the auto road because their first gear is too high to allow a safe arrested descent on the return trip down, and just riding down on the brakes is a fool's errand because it's a virtual guarantee for brake failure (this has, in fact, contributed to a fatal accident on the road). There are pull-off points in approximate mile intervals to stop and cool your brakes, and water barrels for your radiator to help combat overheating. These are the safeguards that are in place for the casual driver, making it all the more insane that people will be attempting to race up the mountain.
Technically speaking the Mount Washington hillclimb isn't a rally. Hillclimbs run a different format, using the time of a driver's best run instead of taking cumulative time of all the runs. They also have different car classes from rally and often don't use co-drivers (philistines). This year, however, Mount Washington is part of the Rally America national calendar, with a 20-car, invitation only rally class. Unfortunately with only 20 rally cars running there were no open seats for me as a co-driver, but I still fully intend to be on the mountain for race day. The non-rally portion of the event entry list makes the maddest rally car seem ordinary in comparison, as hillclimbers will be racing ex-circle track open wheel modifieds, classic British roadsters, Group B Audi Quattros, home-built tube frame Frankensteins, and even a 1929 Stutz. Visiting the mad mountain alone is reason enough to come out to this one, the race itself is gravy. Trust me, you need to be here.
Rallye Baie des Chaleurs - New Richmond, Quebec - June 28-29
If you decide not to go to Mount Washington you better be Canadian and you better be at Baie des Chaleurs instead. Baie is the first non-winter rally of the Canadian Rally Championship, which is probably because up there winter ends somewhere around Father's Day. Joking aside Baie is an epic two-day event, and while virtually all Canadian rally roads are good the Baie roads are spectacular, and spectacularly unforgiving. Baie also ends in what is a rarity in rally these days, a true flying finish. The final stage of the rally culminates in high speed uphill straight, leading to "the largest jump in North American rallying," a massive spectator-friendly leap over the finish line. Top cars normally launch more than 75 feet and madmen like Richard Burton have flown as far as 140 feet. This is one of the few jumps in North America where officials put out distance boards to track and measure the jumps. If you're from Quebec let me put this in a language (Google translate claims) you can understand: Vous devez aller à ce rallye!
That's all for This Month in Rally. If you're planning/hoping to attend one of these June events let us know where you're headed in the comments below (and post photos/videos when you get back). Be sure to check back in late June to see what July has in store.
This month in rally is a monthly series where we highlight upcoming rally events in the U.S. and Canada. For more information on an event, including spectator points and event contact info, click the link in the event title.
Lead image by Jim Culp