Portland rally teams head north on an Arctic adventure
Driving up to the Arctic in winter may not be everyone's idea of a good time, but for several Portlanders, it's an adventure they've been planning for years. The Alcan 5000 Winter Rally takes participants north to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, nestled on the shoreline of the Arctic Ocean. At 69.44 degrees North latitude, the village of Tuk (as it's known to the rallyists) is about 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
The rally happens every four years, and many participants enter every time. Among the regulars are Paul Eklund of Tigard and Yulia Smolyansky of Sherwood. The duo competed against each other in the 2016 rally. Smolyansky's team won the event, while Eklund's team finished second. This year, they are aiming to win together in Eklund's Subaru Forester.
"Yulia and I are very excited to be returning to the Alcan 5000 Winter Rally as a team in 2020," Eklund said. "We just completed the grueling Thunderbird Winter Rally in British Columbia as a shakedown and did very well, winning overall. We proved that our Cooper Evolution winter tires perform well in nasty conditions."
The Alcan Rally is a Time-Speed-Distance (TSD) competition. To win the event, teams attempt to maintain a specified average speed so that they arrive at periodic checkpoints exactly on time. A TSD rally never requires speeding. It's not a race; it's about split-second accuracy.
Paul Duchene of Portland and Mark Scholz of Beaverton will also be participating, driving a 2020 GMC Sierra AT4 pickup truck. This team plans to be competitive, but also to enjoy the scenery.
"It's my first time in the far north," Scholz remarked. "I just feel really fortunate to have the opportunity to see that part of the world in winter."
Another Portland team preparing to compete for the first time is Andy and Mercedes Lilienthal. They'll be driving an unusual vehicle: a 1991 Mitsubishi Pajero. This small SUV was built for the Japanese market, so the driver sits on the right-hand side of the vehicle.
"Andy and I are trying to prepare for the unexpected," Mercedes said. "Even though we're used to driving off-road in a variety of terrains, we're both novices at rally. I always say, go big or go home! So, for us, competing in the mother of all winter rallies will be hard to beat."
The Alcan 5000 Winter Rally departs from Kirkland on Wednesday, Feb. 26, and ends in Anchorage, Alaska on Friday, March 6. You can find out more and follow along at www.alcan5000.com.
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