National road rally races to Tioga County

WELLSBORO – The oldest continously-running motorsports event in Pennsylvania, the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally, will return to the Tioga County Fairgrounds Friday and Saturday.

“This has become a very popular family event, where kids can meet the drivers, enjoy some refreshments and watch the cars battle on a closed course,” event committee chairwoman Meridith Croucher said.

More than 40 modified street cars will race through the woods at speeds exceeding 100 mph, according to event organizers. Cars racing this year include a 1970 Volkswagen Beetle, 1987 Porsche 944, 1993 Honda Civic and a 2013 Subaru WRX STI. The cars, all street-legal to allow driving on public roads between stages, have had varying amounts of performance modifications.

The natural-terrain track consists of gravel and dirt public roads, closed to the public for the event and used by permission of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Thanks to the “outstanding cooperation” of the DCNR, the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally boasts some of the best and most demanding roads in the country, according to the event press release.

Unlike other forms of motorsports, teams are not allowed to practice on the track prior to competition. Teams are allowed only one pass to review the course at the public speed limit before the event, according to the STPR press release.

The alcohol-free rally is round four of seven of the Rally America National Championship, a national motorsports competition featured on ESPN’s X Games that draws participants from across the globe.

“Our position as round number four is pivotal for all classes of competitors,” Croucher said.

Due to a crash earlier this month that destroyed their car, last year’s STPR winners, Antoine L’Estage, of Quebec, and Nathalie Richard, of Nova Scotia, will not be entered to defend their title. This year’s standouts are driver David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew, of Wales, U.K.,who won the last two rounds of the Rally America National Championship.

Spectators can watch for free at pre-arranged points throughout the forest. Free spectator points are Asaph Picnic Area, Colton Point, Wilson Point and Twelve Mile. To view stages at the fairgrounds, spectators must pay $5 admission per person and $5 parking per car. Spectators are asked to stay behind the yellow tape and to not to point their camera flashes at approaching competitor cars.

An estimated 10,000 people will come to the Wellsboro area for the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally, either as spectators or workers for the various teams and their sponsors, according to the STPR press release. The rally contributes mullions of dollars to the economy of Northcentral Pennsylvania, according to Croucher.

This year’s STPR also will host a fundraiser to benefit Oklahoma tornado victims, with donation cans located at various points around the fairgrounds. Cash or checks will be accepted. Checks should be made payable to the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army, with “OK disaster relief” written in the memo field.

The rally is sponsored by Waste Management, Citizens and Northern Bank and the Wellsboro Chamber of Commerce. Event tickets may be purchased in advance at the Wellsboro Chamber of Commerce.