As you may know, we’re doing the Alcan 5000 Rally this February. It’s going to cover 5,120 miles (and then some) from Kirkland, WA all the way up to the Arctic Ocean, and back down to Anchorage, AK. So what is it really, and what’s it like?
This video from the 1994 Alcan 5000 was put together by Isuzu, a former backer of the rally. It highlights the ’94 Rodeo, which was the first SUV to win the event. Despite the video’s age, the rally’s fundamentals are the same. The Alcan 5000 is a time-speed-distance (TSD) rally held in the dead of winter in one of the coldest parts of the globe, specifically Canada and Alaska, in February. Accuracy is the name of the game for TSD rally. You have to get from point A to point B as close to the exact prescribed time as possible. You’re penalized for being early, penalized for being late. Things to consider: road conditions, odometer/speedometer accuracy, ability to maintain the average speeds listed in the route book, and not getting lost. Oh, and not freezing to death. There are various classes allowing for different methods of navigation, time keeping, and modifications.
We’re doing it in a 1991 JDM Mitsubishi Pajero with a diesel engine. Our speedometer is off due to the larger tires we run. On top of that, our speedometer and odometer are in kilometers. Did I mention I’ll be driving on the right side of the vehicle? Hey, why not? Needless to say, Mercedes (my wife and co-driver) will be doing a bit of arithmetic from the passenger’s seat to ensure we’re as close to on-time and on-course as we can be.
The Alcan 5000 has been going on since 1984. The first winner? A Mazda RX7. There were 23 entries. And while we’re running the winter rally, there’s also a summer Alcan 5000. Like the Olympics, they alternate every two years. This year is winter; 2022 will be the summer rally; 2024 back to winter. And a bit of trivia: While the name suggests that the event is 5,000 miles long, it varies. This year it’ll be 5,120 on-route miles. In 1990, the longest Alcan, it was 6,300 miles. We will be driving over 10 days, or more than 500 miles per day.
There are around 40 teams driving everything from MINI Coopers to Ford Raptors. Notable entrants include racers Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Loren Healy, as well as King of the Hammers Founder, Dave Cole, and owner of Off-Road Evolution, Mel Wade and a host of others. But it’s really not about who’s who. It’s about an amazing rally up through the last frontier through incredible winter scenes and surviving temperatures that go down below -50 degrees Fahrenheit. To say it’ll be an adventure is likely a gross understatement.
Before you think we’re completely nuts (maybe it’s too late for that) it’s not like we’re going up there alone and totally clueless. Just moderately clueless, maybe, but not completely. In addition to the 40+ entries, there will be a sweeps team to ensure everyone makes it, gets pulled out of snow banks, and gets to “point B” successfully. Well at least semi-successfully. Ergo, not dying. We all have a buddy team. People have extra fuel. We aren’t camping (thank God), we’re staying in motels in towns along the route. We’re required to carry sleeping bags, fire extinguishers, food, water, flares, and other things to stave off impending doom, God forbid something happen. We’re also bringing spare parts. This includes spare belts, spare alternator, spare glow plugs for the diesel, spare headlight, and extra fluids. And while we don’t anticipate changing out an alternator on the side of the Dempster Highway, knowing that we have some hard-to-find parts with us brings us some solace.
We’re also going prepared as much has humanly possible. This means preparing our ’91 Pajero, the Terra Tractor, for the frozen tundra, and preparing ourselves with the right gear. Whether that’s our studded Nitto Exo Grappler tires and heated Scheel-Mann seats, to spacious totes from Roam Adventure Co. and buying the warmest socks this side of Tuktoyaktuk, we’re doing our best to prepare. We’ve got a host of other partners that are helping our Alcan 5000 dreams come true. More on that at a later date.
Yes, it’ll be cold, yes, it’ll be grueling, yes, it’ll be a hell of an adventure. As evidenced in this video by Nitto from the last Alcan 5000 winter rally (2016), you can see there will be plenty to look at. It will be a test of man and machine, and we can’t wait.
Our goal is to finish and finish strong. Once complete, we’ll ship our Pajero from Alaska back to the mainland. Wish us luck.