There are endless reasons to be watching the second round of the 2021 American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National season this weekend, and not least because megastar Ken Block returns to fight against the established front three.
Travis Pastrana heads the early championship table after his win last month on the Sno*Drift Rally, but his Subaru Motorsports USA team-mate Brandon Semenuk and reigning ARA Champion Barry McKenna were all on the podium and were the two duking it out for honors when this event ran as the Show-Me Rally last year.
But as always, it’s not just the fight at the front that’s worth keeping an eye on. This is especially true for this weekend’s action, which has attracted arguably the densest ARA field in years.
Here are DirtFish’s picks for who to be paying close attention to on the 100 Acre Wood Rally.
As per usual, Jeff Seehorn elected to skip the opening round of the ARA season on the snow and ice so the 100 Acre Wood Rally will be our first opportunity to see Seehorn in 2021.
What can we expect? In short, quite a lot.
Seehorn is one of the best drivers in America right now but it’s often unseen as his 2015 Subaru WRX STI doesn’t quite have the legs to match the ultimate pace. He is likely to wade into battle with the ever-growing R5 brigade in Missouri, so whether he can beat them and see off the likes of Ryan Booth and Joseph Burke will be fascinating.
Long-time ARA veteran Patrick Moro is making a return to 100 Acre Wood in a newly built LS-powered AWD Chevy Sonic this weekend. Moro has been running a similar car and working out the bugs since 2019 but an unfortunate wreck on Ojibwe Forests Rally last year left him out for the rest of the season.
Moro has yet to get the Sonic to the end of a rally without retiring, but with a fresh build and two years of testing under his belt, has a great chance to make a statement in Missouri.
Plus, with 100 Acre Wood being the fastest rally on the schedule, what better place is there for a screaming American V8 to shine?
Donnelly hasn’t been seen on an ARA National round for years, but the 2008 and ’09 Atlantic Rally Cup Champion will be a force to be reckoned with when he blasts off into the forests.
Yet another Irishman to pilot an R5 car, Donnelly’s recent form has been sublime. On his last four events in the Ford Fiesta, he has won two of them (including the Sandblast Rally two weeks ago) and took third on the other two.
Ranked ninth by speed factor this weekend, don’t be shocked to see him exceed that in the overall standings come Saturday evening.
Though 100 Acre Wood was canceled last year, Show-Me Rally took its place on the National calendar to fill the void and it was here that Brandon Semenuk got his first ARA victory and proved to the world that he was a force to be reckoned with going forward.
The Subaru Motorsports USA star currently sits second in the overall standings after a good showing at Sno*Drift, but he surely won’t settle for staying in Travis Pastrana’s shadow for long.
Having already proved that he’s capable and facing arguably the most difficult field of competitors so far, Semenuk is ready to prove himself once again this weekend and come out on top.
A familiar face in the O2WD class, Michael Hooper will be back behind the wheel of his Lexus IS350 on 100 Acre Wood. Though rare to see in rallying, Hooper has proven the IS to be a fantastic platform having scored a first and a second-place finish at 100 Acre Wood in the past with the vehicle.
Hooper tied Seamus Burke for the 2WD championship in 2020 but lost the tie breaker and ended up in second place. He’s often overlooked but perfectly capable of not only running away with the O2WD class, but also upsetting a good amount of the field for a high position overall.
Being so close to the title last year can only make him more eager to come out on top this time around, and his 2020 rival Burke (Ford Escort Mk2) will make his first start of the year in the class too.
In many people’s eyes, D’Orazio was the star of last month’s Sno*Drift Rally. The teenager won the two-wheel-drive class and netted 10th in the overall ARA standings in the process with his Ford Fiesta R2T; all on just one of his first ever rallies.
Expectations are therefore high ahead of 100 Acre Wood: can he do it again? The stages in Missouri are almost the polar opposite from the ones in Michigan and there’s increased competition this weekend, but there’s nothing to suggest that D’Orazio is going to struggle to adapt.
Last year in the R1 spec Fiesta he took two class podiums to complement his early 2021 success, so all bets are on D’Orazio continuing to cement his bulging reputation on round two.
Being a seven-time winner of the 100 Acre Wood Rally, there’s no doubt that Ken Block will be in full attack mode this weekend.
On Block’s last appearance in the ARA, he took second to McKenna and the Škoda that he will be piloting this weekend. Even in a new car to him, Block should be very comfortable on the stages this weekend thanks to his long history at the event.
Block has been focusing his rally efforts recently on his Ford Escort “Cossie” and it’s been a while since we’ve seen him focus on a series, so it can be tough to call what will happen in any given event. But with his long history at 100 Acre Wood, and a similar history of success in the US, Block is sure to impress this weekend.