The Pacific Northwest is home to Dirtfish Rally School, the hub for rallycross (and to some extent, rally) in America. There are a few interesting reasons why.
My coworker Mike Ballaban and I happened to be in the PNW to spend a few days at the old set of Twin Peaks to lean the ropes of rallycross. Dirtfish is a rally school, but it’s also the main center for rallycross driving here in the States, leveling up drivers from Rallycross Lites to Supercars.
We did stuff like this:
And rode around in this:
And anywhere we went, everything looked like this:
It is a gorgeous, wonderful facility. But why is it just outside of Seattle? What is it about the Pacific Northwest that lets it operate every day of the week?
We took a trip into town to meet Jalopnik alum Sam Smith, now writing at Road & Track and elsewhere. He moved to Seattle a few years back and after flipping out for a while looking at a Marty McFly Toyota pickup, he explained what makes the area so rally friendly.
The first is just geography: Seattle is surrounded by volcanoes, and the Cascades are just outside of town. The East Coast equivalent of Dirtfish, Team O’Neil Rally School, is hours away from the nearest major city. Dirtfish feels just as remote, and though it’s on the far side of a mountain range it’s only a half hour drive from Seattle itself.
What these mountains afford are an endless series of twisting mountain roads, often unpaved. Add in some regular snow and you have a population of Subaru drivers, all driving sideways all year long. Rally enthusiasm is built into the soil almost.
And there’s history behind it, too. The last World Rally Championship event run in the United States was held in the Pacific Northwest: the 1986 Olympus Rally.
That ‘86 event was not only the last American WRC event, it was the last rally of the Group B era.
So rally has some living history up in the Pacific Northwest, still sliding along in the mist.
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