The FIA World Rally Championship may no longer run in the United States, but as the stars and cars of WRC resume their season this weekend in Argentina, America’s finest will test their mettle in the country’s former WRC round.
The 29th edition of Olympus Rally returns to Shelton, Washington this Saturday and Sunday with a new title partner in DirtFish Rally School and a number of top crews ready to do battle. Some of the most legendary names in the sport of rally have won here, from four-time champions John Buffum, David Higgins, and Rod Millen to World Rally Champions Markku Alen, Miki Biasion, Juha Kankkunen, and Hannu Mikkola. 2006 JWRC champion Patrik Sandell, in his return to stage rally, won here last year.
But Sandell won’t be back to defend his crown for Subaru Motorsports USA, which will roll with its usual pairings of Higgins/Craig Drew and Oliver Solberg/Aaron Johnston for this weekend’s event. They’ll look to reclaim the top two spots in the American Rally Association standings from Piotr Fetela/Dominik Jozwiak, who won the season-opening round at Sno*Drift, and Barry McKenna/Leon Jordan, whose multi-year pursuit of a victory finally ended in triumph last month at 100 Acre Wood Rally.
If the premier Open 4WD class hadn’t gotten interesting enough this year with the return of a number of top names, though, it certainly will at Olympus. Defending North American Rally Cup winner Sam Albert returns to action for DirtFish in the Open 4WD class with co-driver Krista Skucas, while the legendary duo of Seamus Burke/Martin Brady will trade in their vintage Open 2WD Ford Escort for an Open 4WD Ford Fiesta R5 as teammates to McKenna and Jordan. Sprinkle in the Limited 4WD front-runners, from defending class champions Jeff Seehorn/Karen Jankowski to the always-competitive Cameron Steely/Preston Osborn and Travis Nease/Danny Norkus, and the overall podium finishers are anyone’s guess.
DirtFish Olympus Rally boasts 134.1 miles of stage roads, including some of the longest and most treacherous in North American rally. All stages except for the Simpson Super Special are over 10 miles, with the signature Wildcat and Nahwatzel stages coming close to 20 miles apiece. Spectators will be able to take in the action from Stillwater Industrial Park, which hosts both the service area and DirtFish Spectator Area.
The first car out for this year’s DirtFish Olympus Rally will begin at 9:30AM PT on Saturday. Higgins/Drew, McKenna/Jordan, and Solberg/Johnston will draw for the top three spots on the road on Friday. Fetela/Jozwiak and Seehorn/Jankowski will complete the top five to start the event.