David Higgins and Craig Drew lead Olympus Rally heading into Day 2
SHELTON, Wash. (May 16, 2015) – David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew are in the lead of the fourth round of the Rally America National Championship after the first of two days of Olympus Rally competition.
Subaru Rally Team USA won all but one of the Day 1 stages to establish a comfortable lead of 2:30 over the second place FY Racing Subaru campaigned by Adam Yeoman and co-driver Jordan Schulze. Despite the healthy lead, though, Higgins said late Saturday that he didn’t plan to back down for the six stages that remain on Sunday. “If you want to be quick and you want to be winning a bunch, you can't afford to give anything up."
It was a flat tire Saturday that cost the team a perfect record for the day. They finished Stage 2 some 13 seconds behind Canadian rivals Antoine L’Estage and Alan Ockwell.
The Subaru Rally Team Canada duo are entered in the regional portions of the Olympus Rally. But driver L’Estage said his goal is to give their new competition car a proper shakedown before the next round of Canadian competition. The team is headquartered at Rocket Rally in nearby Squamish, British Columbia and this is close to home. “We’re happy to be here and we like the Rally America events, but we’re here this weekend as a real-world test and we don’t want to disrupt anyone’s championship,” said L’Estage. The team did not present their timecard for final tabulation at the end of the day and were scored as a DNF.
Higgins and co-driver Drew are undefeated in the Rally America National Championship this year and said they welcome the new challengers. "It's great having Antoine here, especially now that he's with Subaru (Canada) because it gives us a bit of an internal rivalry,” said Drew. “There's talk of Travis Pastrana and Ken Block coming later in the year and that's exactly what we want.”
Super Production leaders Nick Roberts and Rhianon Gelsomino are sitting in third place overall after the first day’s stages. “Right now, we're just going to try to run with as much of a lead as we can this evening,” said Roberts late Saturday. “That's how the game goes.”
Lauchlin O’Sullivan and co-driver Scott Putnam had been fighting for third when a flat tire cost them more than two minutes on Stage 7. They were later assessed a penalty for working on their car in a control area – which is against the rules – and ended the day in ninth.
After O’Sullivan’s unfortunate turnaround, Peter Fetela and co-driver John Hall moved into fourth place in their Open class Subaru Impreza STI. Jeff Seehorn and co-driver Michael Milos were just four seconds behind them, rounding out the Top 5 in their SP class Subaru STI.
Seehorn, a newcomer to national competition, said he is growing more confident with every mile in his Subaru WRX STI. A strong finish last month in regional competition at the Oregon Trail rally prompted his move to national for this round. “Tomorrow we have to stay clean and not get any penalties -- Lauchlin got a big penalty today, and it's an important reminder how fast a race can change,” said Seehorn. “If we can avoid major issues we should be able to bring home second place in national Super Production, then maybe a possible 4th overall national. Peter's only four seconds ahead of us right now so it's super close."
In two-wheel drive, Ramana Lagemann and co-driver Chrissie Beavis were leading after Day 1 in their BMW M3, and sitting eighth overall. Behind them were Cameron Steely and Preston Osborn in their 2014 Ford Fiesta ST, while Steve LaRoza and co-driver Alison LaRoza were third in their 2014 Ford Fiesta ST.
Oregon Trail 2WD winners Troy Miller and co-driver Ole Holter were out early on Saturday after they took a rock to the oil pan in their Ford Fiesta R2 and had to pull over to prevent further engine damage. It is not yet certain whether they will return to competition on Sunday.
In B-Spec, Tracey Gardiner and Tracy Manspeaker were leading in their 2007 Toyota Yaris. Championship leader James Robinson is absent this weekend because his 2015 Honda Fit is on display at the Brickyard with Honda for IndyCar’s big qualifying weekend.
Nearly 50 teams are entered in the regional and national portions of the Olympus Rally, taking place this year on the roads in the Puget Sound area near Shelton and Matlock. The Olympus event has recently taken a two-year break from the championship, but it has seen wins by many rally superstars in its long history. Block and Alex Gelsomino took the win for Ford the last time the race joined the Rally America calendar, back in 2012. Travis Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom have also counted Olympus among their victories for Subaru.
Sunday’s action begins with Parc Expose at The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Washington. Higgins said he was looking forward to taking on Sunday’s hilly stage roads. "We're looking forward to the stage with a good climb up Cougar Mountain,” said Higgins about the mid-morning stage 11, where teams will see a 2,000-ft elevation change in six miles.
A storied stop on the Rally America calendar, the event has a history spanning four decades. It ran as a World Rally Championship round in the notorious Group B era. Rally legends John Buffum, Rod Millen, Hannu Mikkola, Markku Alen and Juha Kankkunen have all had big wins there over the years. Gene Henderson and co-driver Ken Pogue were its inaugural winners back in 1973, in an AMC Jeep.
Rally America is providing live updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/rally_america using the hashtags #RallyAmerica and #OLY to filter Olympus Rally news. Attendance is free and a complete spectator guide is available for download at www.OlympusRally.com/Spectators/.
ABOUT RALLY AMERICA: Rally competition can be simply described “real cars, real roads, real fast.” It’s an all-season motorsport that sees drivers and their co-drivers take modified road cars to the limit as they achieve blistering speeds over courses that cover more than 100 miles of gravel, dirt or snow-covered roads. Based in Williston, Vermont, Rally America, Inc., sanctions the Rally America National Championship, which consists of eight national-level events in 2015 from Portland, Oregon, to Newry, Maine. More at www.rally-america.com