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The Voyageurs Rally was born in the mid 1970’s in a small gravel pit just northwest of Kitchener Waterloo. Known as The Barum Rally Sprint, the event attracted notable drivers John Buffum, Taisto Heinonen and Randy Black. The competition between the drivers was intense and did not let up until the final run. But the length of the short stage used was limited by the size of the gravel pit. Longer stages were needed and organizers began to look for another venue.
The next year, the rallysprint moved to Owen Sound and ran as a full Performance Rally, the Peninsula Rally. That too had only a single year lifespan and a more permanent home was sought.
Huntsville was the headquarters for the appropriately named Muskoka Rally which next took up the mantle. Stages were run in the northern part of the region for one year. The rally HQ then moved a little further north to Burks Falls and used many of the same roads for stages.
By 1986, the rally came under the organizational talents of Terry Epp and his committee and was run as a national level event. At this point, the name became the Rally of the Voyageurs and the venue was moved to North Bay. It was during this time that stages were given names of famous coureur de bois which means, literally, runner of the woods. Groseilliers and Raddison were two well known special stages traversed by more modern versions of the “runners of the wood’, those specially prepared rally cars.
The title sponsor of the rally was a Canadian company, Voyageurs Airline. Hence the reason for the coureur de bois names.
Terry Epp organized the rally from 1986 to1993. Held under the organizational umbrella of the Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs (CASC), Terry was the Ontario Region Director. In 1990, the CASC divested itself of its rally division and a new organization , the Canadian Association of Rally Sport, (CARS) took over the management of rallying in Canada. Terry Epp became its first president.
The organization of the rally became the responsibility of the Kitchener Waterloo Rally Club in 1994 when Dennis Wharton became its organizer.
The club continued to use North Bay as its headquarters for that year. The town of Mattawa, north of Algonquin provincial park, then provided a home for the rally for several years. Dennis Wharton was the organizer until 1996.
For the year 1997 the rally did not run. In 1998 The Rally of the Voyageurs was headquartered in Parry Sound. It was organized by Martin Loveridge until 2000, in 2001 by Andrew Miller and then, in 2002, by Dennis Wharton again. The stages used were a mixture of roads from the Parry Sound area and some from the area used by the regional rally known as The Georgian Trials Rally further to the north.
The Rally of the Voyageurs attracted top talent from both the Canadian and American rally scene, a testament to both the expected level of competition and the competitor friendly nature of the organizing club. A list of past winning drivers includes
John Buffum
Frank Sprongl
Bernard Franke
Tom McGeer
Patrick Richard
The Voyageurs Rally was last run in 2002 and its reintroduction in 2017 marks a return to grass roots level rally sport.