The factor that could bring Higgins back to ARA in 2021

Barry McKenna's Ojibwe result may dictate whether the 10-time US rally champion returns this year


It still feels weird to claim that David Higgins – a 10-time US rally champion – winning a rally in America was a surprise, but that’s exactly how we (and even he) all felt after the New England Forest Rally in late July.

Having not driven competitively since 2019 and returning with a new car (Ford Fiesta WRC) and new team (McKenna Motorsport), Higgins was in the uncustomary position of being on the back foot but ultimately his experience paid off and he won the rally.

His primary objective was to help team leader Barry McKenna’s title charge by taking points away from Subaru Motorsports USA rival Travis Pastrana. However McKenna retired with a mechanical and Pastrana – in a battle with Higgins for the rally win – retired.

Higgins hasn’t hidden his desire to return to the American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National series, but sadly that won’t be happening in Ojibwe this weekend. But McKenna’s result on the upcoming Ojibwe Forests Rally may dictate whether Higgins is back out again in 2021 or not.


“The first rally [NEFR] was a one-off with the sense that we might do some more if we need to, but I think for the moment Barry needs to try and go for this rally,” Higgins told DirtFish.

“If Barry can win Ojibwe then he needs to then push Travis back out of second because Travis needs two seconds places to win the championship. If Barry can win this weekend then there might be a chance we might go back out afterwards, but really there’s no real plan at the moment for anything really.”

The current ARA championship picture has been muddied by the news that Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally has been axed from the National schedule, and will instead run as an ARA Regional event only.

Losing a round plays into Pastrana’s hands and makes the task even more difficult for McKenna, who has recorded one DNF, one DNS, two thirds and just one win compared to Pastrana’s three wins, a second and a DNF.

“Say for example Barry wins Ojibwe and Travis is second, Barry needs to win the remaining three rallies and Travis needs to only have one second place finish,” Higgins explained. “So at the end of the day, we’ll just have to see how things pan out this week and then make a decision.

“If Barry doesn’t win Ojibwe then there’s probably no chance of me going out again this year but if Barry does win and there’s still a chance then I think there’s a good chance that we will go again.

“We’ll just watch from the sidelines and see what happens really. Depending how things go next weekend will depend massively on whether we’re needed or not later on in the year.”

Pastrana cannot mathematically seal the ARA National championship this weekend just by winning, but he can eject McKenna from the equation.

Semenuk could still be in the running if he was second behind Pastrana, but would be unlikely to produce a title-stealing run of form on the last two rallies given the two drivers race for the same team.

Photography:David Cosseboom

Words:Luke Barry