Why Drive 5,000 Miles to the Arctic Circle? Because Rally
If you’ve ever seen Southern California drivers attempt to commute during a rainstorm, than you’ll begin to realize how ridiculous a 5000-mile rally in the middle of winter on some of the snowiest roads in North America sounds. The Alcan 5000 winter rally is not for the faint of heart. It traverses public roadways between Seattle, Washington into Canada and up to Alaska and the Arctic Circle. So why would anyone subject themselves and their vehicles to such torture? It seems the answer to that question is simply, “fun.”
Photo courtesy of Jerry Hines/Alcan 5000.
The Alcan Rally was started by Jerry Hines shortly after he participated in a 1984 Mexican rally. Jerry had dabbled in rally during college, later ran and helped organize national pro rallies, and then launched Alcan 5000 wanting to create a rally that was accessible to anyone thirsty for adventure.
You may think of big names like Sèbastien Loeb or Ken Block when you hear “rally”… but you’re thinking of the wrong sort of rally. The Alcan 5000 is more a precision-in-timing variety rather than the fastest-through-finish stage variety most often heard about. In fact, teams can’t even use the word “race” or “racing” in their team name. Navigational equipment regulations seems like the largest distinction in Alcan’s eight class designations. From an unlimited navigational equipment class to ones that just a simple odometer and vintage calculating tools are allowed. While there are timed stages, the majority of the nine day rally is touring.
2016 Alcan Rally route map.
The first 1984 Alcan 5000 ran 4,700 miles and was the farthest rally yet ran in North America. Running every four years, just like the Olympics, Alcan 5000 now alternates each two years (more or less) between a winter and a summer run. Both take a route from Seattle and then up north – often ending in Fairbanks or Anchorage. The winter rally averages approximately 30 entrants whereas summer has a large contingency of motorcycles join in, upping entries closer to 50.
Photo courtesy of Colleen Hines/Alcan 5000.
Over the decades, not much has changed about the rally – save for obvious changes in cars like improved AWD. Newer doesn’t necessarily mean better in this rally - modern specialized equipment is hard to locate replacements for in remote areas (like the year a BMW X5 was stranded awaiting factory parts.) And with no chase trucks allowed that ends your adventure. This year is seeing more Jeep entries and for the first time some Ford Raptors.
Photo courtesy of Mel Wade/Off Road Evolution.
The 2016 Alcan 5000 winter rally will traverse 4,540 miles through Yellowknife, Whitehorse, Fairbanks, with an optional 600-mile trek up to the Arctic Circle, before ending conveniently where the Iditarod is beginning. What could possibly go wrong? We’ll be following along as Mel Wade with Off Road Evolution and Nitto Tire will be joining for their first year. Follow along and keep track of the 27 teams as they travel north on Alcan 5000’s SpotWalla map and check back in to Driving Line for more from the road!