The Ojibwe Forests Rally is home to some of the most beautiful stages in the world. The ‘land of 10,000 lakes’ has many hidden dirt roads that come out of the woodwork every year for the American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National competitors to enjoy, and this year is no different.
However rain hitting the region this weekend has caused some concerns. Friday’s stages have a sandier texture to the dirt, and after an extremely dry summer, a rain-filled weekend means no one knows for sure how the surface will react. Saturday’s stages have already started to show some serious surface-degradation and are ever-deepening with sloppy mud in places.
While we can’t say for sure what the future holds for the stages as weather and racing progress, here is what DirtFish was able to learn on recce.
SS1/5 Crossroads (10.14 miles)
One of Ojibwe’s most famous stages, Crossroads, will kick off Ojibwe for 2021. The stage is quick with co-drivers calling mostly ‘threes’ and ‘fours’ toward the start before becoming more technical later on.
Crossroads features the famed Crossroads jump, which is situated 1.5 miles onto the stage. The jump is a favored place for spectators year after year and provides some great airtime for the crews. Cars land immediately into a left turn meaning drivers will have to trust their notes more than their eyes if they want to get a good time through this section.
The back part of the stage does get technical, but more of a fast-technical, almost similar to areas of Olympus Rally. Turns flow back and forth at speed, but a great level of precision will be needed to avoid any mistakes.
SS2/6 Steamboat (12.3 miles)
Starting just opposite Crossroads, Steamboat explores the technical aspect a bit further at the beginning, but opens up and takes drivers on some of Ojibwe’s famous high-speed crests.
The elevation changes on Steamboat are a bit more pronounced than those of Crossroads, and despite not having a super clear jump, fast cars will likely be experiencing small bouts of airtime as they avoid being thrown off course by the constant ups and downs.
Steamboat features one very long straight that goes up and down a few crests, before dumping drivers right into an acute left as they’re bouncing off sixth gear; just one of the few moments of the 12-mile stage that could hypnotize drivers if they become too comfortable.
SS3/7 Thorpe Tower (4.32 miles)
At a shave under five miles long, Thorpe Tower should be one of the easier stages of the rally. The roads here are wider, straighter and flatter than the majority of anything else drivers will see this weekend.
After what is likely to be a very wet first two stages, the easy turns of Thorpe Park will allow drivers to have a little bit more speed, and will hopefully let some of the two-wheel-drive classes play a bit of catch up to their all-wheel-drive counterparts.
This stage does become a bit slower and curvier towards the end, but only for the last half-mile.
SS4/8 Refuge (6.03 miles)
Refuge is very similar to Thorpe Tower but just a bit more consistent in nature throughout the whole length of the stage. Drivers won’t have as many moments where they’ll be caught off-guard by the note they just heard, and should be able to get into a very good rhythm for this stage.
It will complete both loops of Friday, bringing the first 65 miles of Ojibwe Forests Rally to an end.
SS9/12 Height O’ Land (11.56 miles)
If there’s any stage more famous than Crossroads at Ojibwe, it’s Height O’ Land. The nearly 12-mile stage will start things off on Saturday for competitors who survived the first day.
What you’ll probably know about Height O’ Land is the beautiful land bridge that snakes through Shuckhart Lake. This section of road produces some of the greatest rallying photography and video that you’ll find anywhere in the entire world.
But what you might not know about Height O’ Land is everything else. It’s an absolutely fantastic stage to race on from start to finish, starting off with the gnarliest crests competitors will have raced on yet, and has many super steep downhill sections with dangerous drop-offs on the side, sometimes turning as well. If the rain continues this weekend those areas will likely be terrifying for racers come Saturday morning.
As the stage proceeds past the land bridge, things gradually get more and more technical, and the branches on the side of the road seem to encroach further and further into your path. Drivers who finish this stage are sure to feel a mixture of pure adrenaline, as well as relief.
SS10/13 Otterkill (7.89 miles)
Otterkill is where the threat of rain really starts to become obvious. While most stages prior had maintained their hard-packed surface for the most part, Otterkill’s surface was quite often already torn up and sloppy to the point where DirtFish was nearly sliding off the road under the recce speed limit.
While proper rally tires will help with grip, they’ll also help cause deeper, slushier mud pits that, while entertaining, could cause problems for many drivers.
It doesn’t help that Otterkill will throw half a dozen really rhythmic linked corners at you, followed by one or two that are just that little bit tighter; enough to make you go off course if you weren’t fully prepared.
The latter half of the stage is extremely deceptive, and there’s even one point with two large trees on either side of the road almost forming a chicane barely wider than the cars themselves. We suspect they might be missing some bark after this weekend.
SS11 Anchor Mattson (9.08 miles)
Anchor Mattson starts off fast, possibly enough for cars to top out, but then drivers will spend the rest of the time tackling some back and forth turns which are slightly wider than normal roads at points.
If anything, Anchor Mattson could be called nondescript, which for drivers who rely on watching video recce and trying to memorize parts of stages could be an issue.
SS14/15 Detroit Mountain Super Special (0.49 miles)
Being run back to back, the innovative half-mile super special will finish off the rally, giving drivers who have been in close battles over the course of the event that last ditch effort to get ahead.
The stage features a long sweeping turn followed by a medium left around a small pond. Drivers will have to navigate two rallycross-style 180-degree hairpins as well before a mad-dash to the finish line of the stage and the Ojibwe Forests Rally for 2021.