Start your engines, rally time has arrived

The annual Rally in the 100 Acre Wood is set to kick off Friday and Saturday, with Saturday being Dent County’s premier day. The biggest rally news broke last week when last year’s winner Dave Higgins and Travis Pastrana of X Games and Supercross fame announced they would be entering this year’s competition.

Rally 100 Acre

“It is great to have big names coming. They are both very talented drivers,” says the local organizing member of the 100 Acre Wood committee, Rob Benowitz. “It’s a great thing for the area, why else would Travis Pastrana come to Salem, Missouri? Beyond those two, there will also be great competition in every class.”

Pastrana’s last appearance in the 100 Acre Wood rally was in 2014. Higgins and Craig Drew won the 2015 rally in legendary fashion by dominating the weekend’s “snow rally.” With ice covering 50 percent of the roads on day one, and more than six inches of accumulation during day two, it was an unexpected, but true snow event.

This year’s rally won’t be snowy, but could be rainy. As of Monday, the National Weather Service forecast for Saturday projects mostly cloudy conditions with around a 50 percent chance of rain.

There are nearly 70 entries in this year’s rally. Among the other storylines emerging from the competitive field are Justin and Meredith Pritchard, a husband and wife duo who will be competing against each other as drivers of separate cars.

“There hasn’t been as much trash talk as there has been helping out,” Meredith says. “This is a new challenge for me. I’ve road raced for 15 years, but rally is completely different.”

Justin says he and Meredith both have the personalities of drivers, and he wouldn’t want her to miss out on the experience for what he calls one of the best rallies in the country.

“I look forward to the 100 Acre Wood every year,” Justin says. “It’s a great mix of fast spot and technical tight spots.”

Justin says he does not anticipate seeing his wife during the rally, as they will be in different spots. Meredith says if she does happen to find her husband stuck in the ditch, she won’t hesitate to help despite the competition.

“I’ll definitely stop to pull him out,” Meredith says.

Hometown heroes Kyle and Zach Williams will also be making their annual appearance in the rally.

“We’ve gotten a sponsorship from Chilton Oil Company since last year and have been able to make a lot of improvements,” Kyle says. “We are going to be hosting at least three teams at our house this year and are livestreaming online. I think it will be a lot of fun this year, and the weather should be better, too.”

For any newcomers, rally racing is a growing automotive sport that has an increasing presence on the national and international stage. As opposed to NASCAR, rally racing takes place on country roads and not tracks. It is also a timed event where drivers race the clock in set stages, with the winner being the team that gets the best finishing time.

The 100 Acre Wood rally is the second event of Rally America’s championship series. It has been a fixture in Salem and Dent County since 2002 and gained a regional following among Midwest rally enthusiasts. Special stages are temporarily closed-to-the-public sections of roads where competitors are allowed to travel as fast as they safely can, started one minute apart, between the start and the finish of the stage.

Trained, expert volunteers ensure the safety of the public and the competitors and provide a timing mechanism to score the event on the heavily manned special stages. The total elapsed times for each team over all the special stages will determine both individual class and overall victories in the event. The total composite times for both Friday and Saturday will crown a winner for six nationally recognized classes.