The 100AW rally kicked off at the Steelville Park Expose under beautiful sunny skies and 50 degree temperatures. A little rain was predicted and that led a Police officer to innocently ask “If we were going to race in the Rain?” I answered “Of course we are! This isn’t NASCAR.” He looked slightly offended.
64 teams were primed and ready to tackle the fast, twisty and extremely fun roads of the Mark Twain National Forest. As most of the Rally America races have been in recent history, this was a very competitive event with 5 different stage winners and 4 lead changes. Late in the race the difference between 1st and 2nd was only 2.2 seconds.
Overall – Demons Be Gone!
The Burke family was well represented with the return of Joe Burke to the driver’s seat after an absence of 5 years. J Burke/Jankowski kicked it into high gear right from the start taking stage 1 and not looking back. They rang up an impressive string of stage wins and built a lead of 1:23 (M:SS). That is until the last stage of the night when a rear control arm broke and spun them sideways in a very narrow section, blocking the road completely. The car wouldn’t move and they had to wait for 20 or so teams to show up before they had enough muscle to move the car. Everyone received the time for Fetela/Jozwiak.
The first night ended with Fetela/Jozwiak leading by 14.5 seconds over Pritchard/Kaltak with Rooney/Vohs over a minute back. Steely/Osborn were learning AWD and only 40 seconds beyond. One surprise of the day was the speed of Ferreira/Simsek. They set 2 – 2nd fastest stage times and were 3rd on 2 others. They also had a flat that cost them about 3 minutes and damaged the car.
Day 2 started off with the traditional downtown park expose in Salem. With Super Rally now allowing teams to reenter with a large penalty, everyone was wondering if J Burke/Jankowski would be back. Sadly they were unable to repair the damage.
The battle was on. Prichard/Kaltak mounted new tires and were going for it. They would win 2 of the 3 stages before service and moved into the lead by 2.5 seconds. Fetela/Jozwiak would fight back and gain 3 tenths of a second on stage 11. The battle came to an end on Stage 12 as Pritchard/Kaltak would blow their motor and join the growing DNF list.
Fetela/Jozwiak would exercise the demons from their massive crash 2 years ago and take the victory by 3 minutes over Rooney/Vohs. Steely/Osborn were really enjoying their first race with AWD and brought the SP car home 3rd overall.
SP – Super on St. Paddy’s Day
Pritchard/Kaltak picked up where they had left off at LSPR. They won every stage on Friday and at the end of the first day they were 1.5 minutes ahead of Rooney/Vohs. Steely/Osborn were sitting in 3rd with Whitebread/Carr only 22 seconds behind them.
Even though Saturday started pretty much as it had on Friday, it would not end that way. At the first service Pritchard/Kaltak were not only leading the SP class, they were leading the entire rally. The tide started to turn on Stage 10 when Steely/Osborn won the stage overall. On Stage 12 Pritchard/Kaltak went spectating due to a blown head gasket.
With 5 stages to go and Rooney/Vohs were leading Steely/Osborn by less than a minute with Williams/Peterson in 3rd about 4 minutes back. AWD must agree with Steely/Osborn as they turned up the boost and won 3 of the next 5 stages. In the end, Rooney/Vohs would hold them off and win the SP Class by almost a minute. Williams/Peterson brought home the Fat Yellow Pig in 3rd place.
OL – Life is better on Gravel
The attrition started immediately with the rookie team of Barribeau/Rhudy. Their alternator wasn’t charging and they decided to not start the race and work on it instead. This decision would turn out to be a bad one. The first rule of Super Rally is that you must start the first stage. They were unable to Super Rally and were a DNF before the race even started, which is too bad as they won several stages on Saturday in the Regional. The winners of the Sno*Drift Rally – Brown/Brown made it a whole 1.2 miles into stage 1 before their motor let go and stranded them. Patel/Dobbins also lost their motor on Stage 2.
Enough bad news – on to the race. Usher/Langosch won the first stage by 2 seconds over Surdyke/Vickman with Johansen/Little in 3rd only 9 more seconds back. At the end of Friday Surdyke/Vickman held a 25 second lead over Usher/Langosch. Ellis/Sherwood had moved up to 3rd with Johansen/Little 32 seconds back in 4th.
Saturday started off with some bad news for Surdyke/Vickman. They were penalized 2 minutes for jumping the start of stage 3. Even though the official that reported the infraction said they only left about 1 second early the penalty is still 2 minutes. They had opened up a lead of about 25 second on day one. Could they overcome the minute and half deficit on the longer day 2?
Surdyke/Vickman, Usher/Langosch and Barribeau/Rhudy all traded stage wins on stages 8, 9 and 10. At the Huzzah Valley Service after Stage 10, Usher/Langosch had extended their lead to 1:46 (M:SS). At the second service Usher/Langosch had opened up the lead to over 2 minutes on Surdyke/Vickman. Johansen/Little were in 3rd about a minute back.
Johansen/Little bent their front suspension late in the race and dropped from 3rd all the way down to 5th. While they were dropping, the teams of Bialobrzeski/Mantopoulos and Pelizzari/Dunham were charging. They would both win one of the final stages. Pelizzari/Dunham won stage 16 and moved up to 4th for their best finish in the new car. After winning the final stage Bialobrzeski/Mantopoulus captured a well-earned 3rd place. The runner up spot went to Surdyke/Vickman after a long hard weekend. After rolling their car while leading at Sno*Drift Usher/Langosch had a comeback victory and won the class by over 2.5 minutes.
2WD – Who Else on St Patrick’s Day?
With all the excitement swirling around the OL class you might be surprised to learn that 2WD had the most entries with 23. There was also an answer to the never ending question of which is better for rally FWD vs RWD.
Burke/Brady took stage one in their RWD 1977 Ford Escort. Not to be outdone Nickelson/Ptacek would win the next 2 stages in their FWD 1987 VW Golf. At the first service Nickelson/Ptacek would be leading by 13.4 seconds over Burke/Brady. Hooper/Barbera in a RWD Lexus were in 3rd another 30 seconds back. By the end of the first night the Burke/Bradly would be leading Hooper/Barbera by a minute with Mason/Hutchings in 3rd about 3 minutes further back.
On Saturday Hooper/Barbera pressed hard and won a few stages but in the end the big powerful Lexus couldn’t reel in the light nimble Ford. Burke/Bradly win for the 2nd year in a row by a margin of almost 2 minutes. Who else could win on St. Patrick’s Day! A late surge by Morris/Nagy allowed them to edge out the local team of Mason/Hutchings by only 7.6 seconds and claim 3rd.
So what 2WD platform is better for Rally? At this year’s race the battle between Burke/Brady in RWD and Nickelson/Ptacek in FWD could be a good indicator. They traded stage times and the lead early on. Later, Nickelson/Ptacek had car problems and fell off the pace. Burke/Bradly would win 9 of the 11 stages that both teams competed on. I was always told that FWD cars are easy to drive fast but RWD cars can be driven faster. The data from this race certainly points to RWD as being faster. Would the results have been different if it rained or snowed? We will never know but in the end I believe it comes down to driver preference. I am sure the debate will continue for many years. At least until the Turbo Encabulator drive system is fully developed.
B Spectacular – If you’re a Rookie
This year’s B-Spec fielded features 3 of the same cars from last year but with all different crews. The Sonic was crewed by the veteran team of Doug Gekiere and Matthew Hoffman. Last year’s championship car was driven by 1st time driver Chris Sladek with John Sharps handling the co-driving duties. The dazzle Yaris was crewed by Bridgestone Winter Driving School Instructors Kubo Kordisch driving and Scott Anderson co-driving. This was Kubo’s first rally as a driver and Scott’s first rally ever.
As expected Gekiere/Hoffman jumped out to a lead on the first stage. By the first service the fast learning rookies had taken over 1st and 2nd. Sladek/Sharps were leading Kordisch/Anderson by about 20 seconds. Gekiere/Hoffman had a problem on stage 2 and lost about 2 minutes to the leaders. At the final MTC for Friday Sladek/Sharps had the lead by 53 seconds over Kordisch/Anderson. Gekiere/Hoffman had closed the gap to 1.5 minutes.
Kordisch/Anderson started day 2 with a string of stage wins to cut the lead of Sladek/Sharps down to a mere 3.7 seconds at the service after stage 10. Gekiere/Hoffman were about 2 minutes back in 3rd. That is as close as Kordich/Anderson would get as Sladek/Sharps would pull away from there to win their first race by 2 minutes. Kordich/Anderson brought home the Yaris in 2nd place. Gekiere/Hoffman make it back to the final MTC in 3rd.
The first time drivers had a great time and really enjoyed the competition. I hope we will see more of them in the future. Gekiere/Hoffman showed how fast the Sonic can be. I hope they will get the chance to develop it so they can show the upstarts how to drive.
Noteable Notes: Press On Regardless Awards
Patel/Dobbins and VanDamme/Proseus both had terminal engine issues on stage 2. Together with the help of Zach Williams they both located motors and changed them in Zach’s shop. Both teams worked thru the night to get the new engines installed and running. Both teams successfully finished the engine swaps and started the race on day 2. VanDamme/Proseus finished 14th in 2wd with their 1 Hour and 15 Minute Super Rally Penalty. The news wasn’t as good for the Patel/Dobbins team as they crashed out of the event 1.2 miles into the first stage on Saturday. That was a lot of work for 1 mile of fun.
Biggest Jump Award
This year was the first time that many teams were able to run the famous Cattle Guard Jump. 2 years ago Fetela/Jozwiak made the jump famous and last year the stage was red crossed due to a State Trooper needing to get down the road for a non-rally related incident. In their excitement several teams went too big and damaged their cars. Pepper and Davis in the Porsche On Regardless 944 damaged their water pump on landing causing the car to bleed to death. The jump also claimed Gill/Kremer this year but it’s not what you thought, they ran out of gas! This year’s winner of the High Jump Award goes to Nickelson/Pacek as they jumped their GOLF like a Tiger Woods Tee shot.
The best Sticker goes to Pepper/Davis – Porsche On Regardless
Of course I am biased but I don’t care. I was introduced to the POR in 1974 and I never got over it. For you youngsters the POR (Press On Regardless) was a WRC rally in Marquette, Michigan.
Once again the 100 Acre Wood Team put on an excellent event that leaves you just wanting more. Speaking of wanting more the Southern Ohio Forest Rally is right around Pooh’s Corner!