SALEM — On gravel roads in the Ozark hills, competitors in the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood raced modified street cars around tight turns and down straightaways reaching speeds up to 100 mph.
On Friday and Saturday, the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood took drivers on back roads near Potosi, Steelville and Salem. Spectators lined up behind caution tape near the edge of the track to watch the world-class drivers compete.
This is the race’s 11th run in what chairman Curt Faigle called the second generation of the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood.
“Some guys ran the race back in the late seventies, early eighties,” Faigle said. “Then we started the race back up about 20 years later.”
The race is part of the Rally America National Championship circuit, which includes seven races that take place across the United States from January through October. At the events, drivers and co-drivers compete one at a time in several stages for the quickest total time. The co-drivers communicate constantly with the drivers to provide information about the track conditions, obstacles and upcoming track elements.
This year’s rally started Friday in Potosi and finished in Salem on Saturday. The sudden snow and ice on Thursday wasn’t what the drivers were expecting, but after modifying their cars a little, they were ready.
“The weather definitely affected the race, It just made everything more challenging,” Faigle said.
A couple of drivers canceled because of the weather, but the race still saw a record number of competitors.
“This year we had 63 (drivers),” Faigle said. “That’s one more than last year, and that was a record. It was a really good turnout.”
Before the start of the first stage, the cars lined up in the streets of Potosi on Friday and Salem on Saturday, where local crowds gathered to see the cars off as they left. The quiet Missouri towns were filled with the sounds of modified car engines and the smell of racing fuel as mechanics made their final adjustments and drivers revved their engines to get the cars warmed up for each day’s races.
After Saturday's stage, drivers, co-drivers and fans met back in downtown Salem in front of the Dent County Courthouse for the awards ceremony.
At the end of its National Championship events, Rally America doesn't award cash prizes. Instead, the professional rally car drivers compete for points at each of the series' events that will determine the Rally America National Champion at the end of the season.
Rally America also hosts regional events for amateur drivers who build their own cars and compete on the same stages as the professional drivers competing for the national championship.
The Rally in the 100 Acre Wood was the series' second race this season. The next stage will take racers to the Oregon Trail Rally in Portland, Ore., in May.
Supervising editor is Zach Murdock.