Deep Open Light Field Dramatically Shaping Overall Rally America Title Chase
It’s incredible enough that, four rounds into the 2018 Rally America National Championship, Dave and Michael Brown hold the overall championship lead as an Open Light class entry. After all, 2018 is the first season that Open Light is listed as both a national and regional championship class, meaning that a number of its current competitors are actually new to its specifications.
What’s even more interesting, though, is that four of the top eight in the national driver’s championship are currently competing as part of the class.
Fifth-place Nathan Usher, sixth-place Jimmy Pelizzari, and eighth place Arek Bialobrzeski are all Open Light competitors, and all rank within 25 points of the overall championship. In fact, Usher, Pelizzari, and Bialobrzeski are all within five points of one another for the final top-five spot, and less than 10 points behind fourth-place Cameron Steely.
Open Light drivers have taken podiums in three of the four rounds on the schedule so far, with Usher and Marianna Langosch defeating Brown and Brown to win the Nemadji Winter Trail Rally in December. Brown and Brown then beat Chris Barribeau and Scott Rhudy for the overall win at Sno*Drift, before adding third place at the Southern Ohio Forest Rally earlier this month. It was only Rally in the 100 Acre Wood that saw the Open and Super Production class drivers lock out the podium; Usher and Langosch were best of the class in seventh.
But while Brown took a DNF at 100AW and Usher failed to finish Sno*Drift, Pelizzari and Bialobrzeski have earned their top-10 points rankings through consistent driving with no failures. Each missed Nemadji, but with only 12 national championship points on offer there, strong overall finishes in January helped them to climb toward the front, and no DNFs at the next two races have helped them stay there.
Of course, the fact that this quartet is so close in the overall standings means that they’re even more tightly packed in the class championship. For Open Light-specific honors, Brown leads Usher, 69-66, with Bialobrzeski sitting third at 57 and Pelizzari fourth at 55. Charles Surdyke rounds out the top five with 41 points.
The co-driver standings are slightly different, as Usher paired with Zachary Jacques during his DNF at Sno*Drift (Langosch was driving another entry, rather than co-driving) and Pelizzari had Ryan Dunham instead of Kate Stevens in the silly seat at 100AW. Michael Brown remains the leader at 69 points, Langosch sits second at 65, and Aris Mantopoulos, who pairs with Bialobrzeski, is third at 57.
The season resumes on July 20-21 with Rally Colorado, the halfway point of the 2018 Rally America National Championship. Brown and Brown won the event last year while competing in the Super Production class.