With the 2022 American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National Championship season on its way, it’s time to plan out where you’ll be travelling to watch some of the intense action this year.
Rallying can be an incredibly exciting sport to watch, but it can also be confusing to find out how if you’re new to it, and even then you might need some help. Having covered the ARA National Championship over the past few years, we’ve decided to compile some of the best places to spectate across the calendar.
As always, for whatever rally you plan on attending, make sure you get a spectator guide from the organizers to confirm what spectator areas are available, as stages change from year to year.
Sno*Drift Rally: Bonfire Alley
Without a doubt my personal favorite, Bonfire Alley is a famous spectator corner that has been used for over a decade. Typically run in the final stage in the rally, and this year under the name Thunder River, Bonfire Alley is lined with fans who have braved the Michigan winter to see their favorite drivers slide around a left hairpin after a decent-length straight.
Obviously Bonfire Alley is lined with bonfires, but what’s even better is as cars come through the stage, spectators douse the fires with lighter fluid, creating better pyro than a Rammstein concert.
On top of this, the fans are constantly engaging in antics such as snowball fights, snowman building, and just plain partying. Plus if there’s still a good amount of snow, you’ll see plenty of cars bouncing off the large snow berms without much consequence, a driving style that, to me, never gets old.
Oregon Trail Rally: Maryhill Loops Road
Maryhill Loops not only holds the current title of being the only full-length asphalt stage in the ARA, but it also is probably one of the most visible stages to spectators in the US.
Built as the first paved road in the state of Washington, Maryhill loops road is now owned by the Maryhill Museum of Art and rented out to the rally organizers to use each year. The past few years have featured the cars attacking the stage on gravel tires as well, making for even more fun sideways action as they navigate the numerous curves of the hillclimb.
An overlook off on a nearby highway allows you to see cars for well over a minute at a time, much more than most spectator points get you, and while you might not get the same thrill of being right in the woods as cars fly by at 100mph, it’s a safe, easy and fun spectator point that’s great for rally novices and veterans alike to trek to.
Southern Ohio Forest Rally: Yonctangee Park Super Special
SOFR has only been an ARA National round for two years now, so it’s yet to have established any super-famous spectator points. That being said, last year’s Yoctangee Park super special showed some good potential.
Yoctangee Park SS (nicknamed ‘The Yoctangle’ by some competitors) is a roughly one-mile-long asphalt stage through a park ending with a decent sized jump to the finish. Competitors took the jump slow in 2021 due to being unsure how smooth it would be, but mostly agreed it could be taken much faster if run again.
The stage also has plenty other spectator points along the route if you prefer seeing cars slide around tight asphalt corners or fly down the straights.
A big advantage of ‘The Yoctangle’ is it’s start is right next to Parc Expose, basically a car meet in the rally, allowing you to go smoothly from one to the other without much hassle if you want to meet the drivers and watch them compete.
I’ll also throw in ‘The spectator’ corner on the Top Gun stage. It’s a 90° that switched from asphalt to gravel or vice versa depending on which way it’s being run and, while it’s nothing extreme, it can be interesting to watch drivers deal with the changing surfaces before violently accelerating away in the other direction.
New England Forest Rally: Concord Pond
Concord Pond is easily one of the most famous stages in the US. While I’ll refrain from yet another comparison to a certain famous Nordic rally, it is high speed with tons of blind curves and crests, including one of the biggest jumps in the ARA.
If you want the “classic” rally experience this is probably the one to go for. You’ll be packed into the woods just off of a dirt road that will have cars soaring through the air past you at well over 100mph. Make sure to get there early though, as parking around the spectator area fills up quick due to its fame.
A great thing to take advantage of if you’re new to rally spectating or unsure about navigating yourself, is the NEFR Rally Bus. For a fee, you’ll be bussed around all weekend to various spectator points, including Concord Pond, removing much of the stress of working out your own logistics for the first time.
Ojibwe Forests Rally: Crossroads Jump
Another one of the classics, Crossroads Jump (pictured top) also has competitors flying far over a huge blind crest into an immediate slight left. To get the proper line into the corner, drivers tend to push their car to the outside of the road when they reach the crest, which is conveniently the sharpest drop-off as well.
As the name implies, the area is a four way intersection, so spectators can line either side of the jump and that maximizes the amount of people who can gather. You hear the cars coming from so far away before seeing them, really adding to the anticipation and the excitement when they finally make an appearance.
This one does require driving into the woods a bit, but nothing too crazy or out of the way. I’d highly recommend Crossroads Jump for a first-timer looking for a great rally spectating experience.
Lake Superior Performance Rally: Arvon
This spectator point has been run a few different ways over the years. The most recent format has a large sweeping hairpin through dirt that is dustier than most of the stage, and is surrounded by a few tighter corners.
This allows for a longer spectating time but doesn’t sacrifice the pure rally action of a real stage. You get plenty of time to see cars sent sideways and carry some decent speed as they traverse the area.
LSPR also brought back the Mount Marquette and Ski Hill super specials last year, and though I didn’t get a chance to see Mount Marquette, the Ski Hill was decent if you were willing to hike up to the spectator area, but if you don’t get there early you might have trouble seeing.