The Atlantic Rally Cup (ARC) moves north to West Virginia following the mid-season break. The next stop on the tour is Rally West Virginia, returning after a two-year hiatus. Known for its technical stages with lots of elevation changes, new roads this year will put all racers on an even playing field. With multiple 20-mile stages and nighttime racing, the rally will severely test the endurance of all teams.

Newcomer Eric Wages is the current All-Wheel-Drive points leader. Wages, in only his second season of competition, has a long history within the sport, having served as a crew member and course opening vehicle throughout the ARC. Jason Smith, last year’s AWD champion, is not going to let his number one plate go easily. A DNF at Sandblast Rally early in the season put Smith down for points, but he’s closed the gap through a steady season performance along with wins at Rally Tennessee and HyperFest, putting him only three points behind Wages.

“The rest of the season is going to be really tough,” said Wages. “Jason and Jared have been on a tear winning both regional rallies at Susquehannock Trail Rally and one at New England Forest Rally since the last time we’ve competed against them. Coupled with their knowledge of the remaining events, it’s going to be a challenge to keep the ARC lead. But if it’s not a challenge, then it’s not a rally!”

In Two-Wheel-Drive, Simon Wright appears to have a decent cushion ahead of Tom Barton. The gap is deceiving, however, as the father and son team of the driver Simon and co-driver Kieran Wright have been stepping up their attack resulting in a ‘go big or go home… on a trailer’ mentality. “We’re safely in the lead at the moment,” says Kieran Wright stating that he’s balancing getting Simon ‘to go fast enough to beat the Bartons, but not so fast as to not finish!’

There appears to still be a lot of uncertainty as to the final outcome. “It’s only July. We’re only halfway through the season. There’s still half a year of rally left before this is decided,” said Anders Green, the series promoter. “Rally West Virginia, Black River Stages, and Charlevoix are all still in front of us. And as we move north, we typically have new drivers show up that don’t make the more southern rounds. It’s entirely possible that one of the fast northern drivers like, say, Wyatt Knox, comes in and shakes things up.”

Several other drivers are pushing their way forward following the season openings. Lewis McMurran had an off at Sandblast Rally, an engine fire at Rally Tennessee, yet still made it to the third round at HyperFest to pull home season points. Billy Mann laid down some smoking times at the all-tarmac Rally Tennessee to win day one. Based in the north, it will only be a short trip east for Mann to make an attempt to repeat on gravel what he’s proven he can do on tarmac.

Rally West Virginia, the fourth round of the ARC, runs August 12 and 13 in the Snowshoe region of the Appalachian Mountains. RallyWV.com will have information and results, as the rally, based at the famous Snowshoe Ski Resort, takes to the back roads and mountains of West Virginia.

AWD leader Jason Smith at Sandblast Rally, photo by Mark Moore
AWD racer Eric Wages at Hyperfest, photo by Anders Green

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