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A Brief History of the Lanark Highlands Forest Rally

Craig Hamm, Doug Woods*

The road being used for the Lanark Highlands Forest Rally is no stranger to the world of rallying, though we see from the timeline below that its usage as a stage road has waxed and waned over the years. With so many roads being reclaimed to forests, housing, or straightened by public works authorities, fortunately many roads, including the LHFR stage road, have managed to remain largely intact and offer the same challenge to modern rally teams as they did 40 years ago.

Early Beginnings (1960s to 1972)

The Lanark Highlands Forest Rally stage road was used as far back as the 1960s for road rallies, including the National Championship 1000 Islands Rally, and in the 1970s for performance rallies, as "selectives" in the National Championship Silver Lake Rally and the FIA International Canadian Winter Rally.

To the WRC! (1973 and 1974)

Photos from 1973 Event

In 1973, the stage road was part of the International Rally of the Rideau Lakes, when the event was observed for the FIA by Bo Helberg (Competition Manager of SAAB) for possible inclusion in the World Rally Championship. With a successful observation by the FIA, the Rally of the Rideau Lakes became a WRC event in 1974, and the Lavant Road was used for two stages during the rally. Interestingly, the name of the stage was "Arnold's Welding Shop" to reflect the fact that the only residence on the road had a garage with a large sign proclaiming it to be Arnold's Welding Shop. The first stage (SS #5) was won by Sandro Munari (IT) in a Lancia Stratos, and the second stage (SS #33) was won by Walter Boyce (CDN) in a Toyota Celica. See RallyBase for the event results.

Slow Demise (1975 to 1999)

The road continued to be used as a stage for several years on the Canadian Winter Rally. However, with the demise of the Rideau Lakes Rally, 1000 Islands Rally, and Canadian Winter Rally events, the road was little used during the 1980s and 1990s.

Return to Road Rally (2000 to 2006)

With the resurgence in rallying in the National Capital region, the Motorsport Club of Ottawa began using it as a navigational rally road in 2000 on the Lanark Highlands Rally. As so many of the roads in Lanark Highlands are "rally ready", the Lanark Highlands navigational rally evolved from a daytime event to the only overnight gravel endurance event in Ontario. The Lanark Highlands Rally drew several top rally teams from Ontario, Quebec, and the USA, many of who were, or later became, active in performance rallying. Several overnight winter rallies also used the road during this period. The thrill of driving on the Lanark stage road once more became well-known in rally circles.

Rebirth of a Stage! (2009)

After a brief hiatus, the Motorsport Club of Ottawa, in its 60th year, under the guidance of Darryl Malone, organized the Lanark Highlands Forest Rally, and the stage road is reborn!

Be a part of rally history, see you in the woods!

*With special thanks to D. Woods, Organiser 1974 WRC Rally of the Rideau Lakes for most of the historical perspective.

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