The Salem News - Article


DRIVERS LIST IMPRESSIVE, ORGANIZERS SAY

by Dwayne McClellan
Staff Writer
newsstaff@earthlink.net

The field of drivers and cars for this week's annual Rally in the 100 Acre Wood should be impressive, according to Rally America Managing Director J.B. Nidady.

The 2009 Rally in the 100 Acre Wood will be held Feb. 27-28. It is the second event on the Rally America national championship calendar. Cars and drivers could start arriving here as early as Feb. 26 since registration and tech inspection will be held 12:30-8:30 p.m. at the Dent Count Fire Protection District.

Residents can get a close look at the cars and talk to the drivers at the start of each day in what is called a parc expose, the opening ceremonies and at the service areas 5 p.m. Feb. 27 in the Potosi Lions Park and 1:20 p.m. and 4:50 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Viburnum High School parking lot.

The cars and competitors will also be at the Potosi Lions Club Park from 2 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Feb. 27 The first car is expected to leave at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 27 and finish at approximately 8:15 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express in Salem.

In Dent County, the events start 9 a.m. Feb. 28 on Fourth Street. The first car is expected to leave the starting line at 10:30 a.m.

Teams will compete throughout each day, passing multiple spectator points, before returning to Salem around 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at the Dent County Courthouse.

There is no admission charge for any of these events. Spectator guides published by The Salem News are available at area convenience and grocery stores, The Salem News, Salem Area Chamber of Commerce and city administration offices. The guides include maps for each spectator location and a schedule.

Information can also be found at thesalemnewsonline.com and the rally website, www.100AW.org.

A rally consists of transit zones and special stages. A transit zone has the rally teams on the roads with the general public following the rules of the road and merely gets the competitors from one special stage to another. Special stages are temporarily closed-to-the-public sections of roads where competitors are allowed to travel as fast as they safely can, started one minute apart, between the start and the finish of the stage.

The field includes Ken Block, who has won the local competition the last three years, and three-time defending national champion and current champion Travis Pastranna.

Pastranna, winner of the season opening Sno Drift rally in Atlanta, Mich., leads the 2009 Rally America overall point standings entering this week's second round of the national championship.

The field also includes new challenger Andy Mancin, who comes to the Rally America championship as an accomplished Polish rally, Rockstar driver Tanner Foust and Canadian Andrew Comrie-Picard.

Foust and Comrie-Picard are two and three in the point standings. Block, who was last season's championship runner-up, and his co-driver, Alex Gelsomino, found themselves out of the race at Sno Drift. The two failed to finish when they went off the road and suffered a mechanical problem.

Top drivers in several classes of competition vehicles will come from three regions across the U.S. to drive on what Block believes "are the best rally roads in America."

The new Super Production Class should also include some fierce competition. Subaru Rally Team USA's newest member, Dave Mirra, is expected to debut a car built for the new class while former two-time Production GT champion Matt Johnson is looking for a comeback after a tough first round.

"We have many new faces, new cars adding to the familiar competitors from 2008," Niday said. "The rest of the motorsports world seems full of tough news and tougher times, but we are bucking the current trend, and seeing an upswing in interest and sponsor participation for 2009."

In addition to the top national level rally drivers, the best regional drivers from across the United States will be in attendance. Top drivers out of six different classes of competition vehicles are invited to rally against one another to crown a 2008 Regional National Champion in each class.

Two Missourians, James Haas and Brian Schwantner, will battle it out in the Group 2 class.