While the LN4 class within the American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National championship has had large growth in competition over the past few years, one of its most successful competitors has been experimenting with competing in the Open 4WD class.
Now that the competition has grown, however, Jeff Seehorn is finally back to show he’s still a top dog in the Limited world after some time away.
If you follow US rallying, Seehorn is a name who needs no introduction. ARA National runner-up and L4WD champion in 2015 and the 2015 Rally America North West title all mean he left his mark quickly after his debut in 2014.
In 2020 Seehorn made the decision to switch to Open class and get a feel for how much he might be able to do without changing up too much on the car.
“I initially put the car in Open [spec] to lose some weight and see how much the difference in weight advantage [it] would give me.” Seehorn tells DirtFish.
Three of Seehorn’s next four finishes were in the top five overall, sometimes beating R5 pace, and often being the first competitor behind the usual top three to four drivers competing for the National championship.
A wreck at Olympus in 2021 and a busy personal life have meant Seehorn has been away from rallying for a bit, but next week’s Oregon Trail Rally will be the first event back for the Seehorn Rally Team, where they’ll be returning once again to a newer, more competitive LN4 field.
“We have some stiffer competition that came in,” Seehorn says. “Back when I think Sam Albert, Travis Nease and I were all running together Sam and I always had some tight competition and then Travis was always very consistent so if you were breaking the car he was right there.
“All of us were funding our program off of Subaru’s contingency program and that’s all gone now too. We have early entry discounts but we don’t have the winnings for running in a 2015 or newer car right now.
“Texas Dave [Carapetyan] is back and he’s been very competitive. And I’m not sure when Mark Piatkowski will be coming back in his naturally aspirated car, but yeah there’s some good competition.”
When Seehorn last entered as an L4WD competitor in 2019, the ARA hadn’t combined limited and naturally aspirated classes into the LN4 class yet. The class that year had 15 national entries, with over half of those only competing in one round.
Two years later in 2021 the LN4 class boasted 28 entries with very tight competition between first and second, and this year has welcomed 23 entries after just three rounds with more expected, and many already battling for a championship.
So the competition is stacked, and the team is excited to see what it can do in a more competitive field. But Seehorn is more reserved, just dipping his foot back in the water this year.
I think we have the speed and I think I built a good car this time so I think we can be competitiveJeff Seehorn
“I’m only scheduled for four ARA events with Amsoil,” Seehorn tells DirtFish. “I have two Nationals which will be OTR and Ojibwe, and then the two local Regionals. [I’m] hoping I have time to do The Big White Winter Rally, and possibly Pacific Forest but we’ll see.
“Oregon Trail Rally is one I wanted to make sure I made it to. I’m always fast there because its terrain fits my driving style. The town I grew up in is just south of Spokane here, a lot of those back-country roads are actually similar, so I’m used to running on the same kind of sightlines when I was growing up, being a menace,” Seehorn jokes.
“I think we have the speed and I think I built a good car this time so I think we can be competitive, and hopefully come out on top.”
But what’s new in the rebuild of Seehorn’s car? What had to be done to take it back down to the Limited rules? As it turns out, not much.
“Honestly, minus the chassis lightening, pretty much all the parts I had on the car in the open class fit on the car in the Limited class, so we’re really not changing much besides taking away some of the chassis-lightening stuff I did with the car.
“The new chassis I just left the OEM front clip in the car and that’s pretty much the only changes that I’ve made. The suspension, and even the engine, I never really upgraded.
“I always had a stock turbo because the stock turbo is fairly well optimized for a restrictor anyways, and the cost of purchasing one that functions, well, just the turbo alone that some of the factory cars are using are like $12,000 and the one I’m using is $1200.
“In Open class we had to run a 34mm restrictor, and I’ll be going back to a 36mm restrictor with the lower boost limit which the turbo is actually optimized for anyway. I’ll probably be making more power, I think we might actually be a little bit faster!”
The only other thing Seehorn needs to make sure of is that he reaches the higher minimum weight of L4WD, but running with some extra tools and spares in the car should take care of that easily.
But, of course, anyone familiar with the Seehorn Rally Team knows it doesn’t go on stage without a striking livery, and this year is no different.
Seehorn explains: “I’ve been a big fan of Talladega Nights, I just think it’s a fun movie, and actually a bunch of my buddies call me ‘Jeffy Bobby.’ I think I have the whole movie memorized. I thought about just removing the Wonder Bread and putting Amsoil on there because the logos are fairly similar, and Amsoil said they’d be OK with that.
“You can probably expect a lot of re-enactments from the movie in different interviews, so it should be a fun, fun time.”
Maybe we’ll see some collaborations with fellow L4WD competitor Matt Dickinson, whose team name, El Diablo Rally Team, and livery is inspired by Talladega Nights as well.