UPDATED: NEW SUPER PRODUCTION DRIVER NAME AT TOP OF CLASS STANDINGS
A new name sits atop of the Super Production (SP) points standings after two completed rounds of the 2014 Rally America National Championship.
It is still early in the season, but second year driver Nick Roberts leads the standings by two points ahead of another SP newcomer, Dillon Van Way, and ahead of two previous SP champion drivers, Lauchlin O’Sullivan and David Sterckx.
It goes to show how competitive the SP Class has been since its birth in 2009 when Rally America made one of the most significant changes to the class structure in recent memory. As a result, the competitive nature of Super Production is highly unpredictable having produced a new class champion each year.
Nick Roberts from White Bear Lake, MN burst onto the Super Production scene with a successful 2013 inaugural campaign which awarded him Rookie of the Year honors and a third overall finish in the standings.
In his first few events he placed fifth in class before suffering a big rollover wreck at the Oregon Trail Rally – his third national event. It was just a little mental mistake that launched Roberts end-over-end into a farmer’s field on a high-speed section.
“I would be lying if I said I don't have any reservations about the Oregon Trail Rally,” said Robert when asked about his return to the event. “I have a love/hate relationship. It’s my favorite event, and it’s one of the scariest for me. There are a lot of what I would call cliffs, and I have a very healthy respect for them, and there is that one corner I had my first big wreck on last season where I ended up rolling the car three times and totaling it.”
The 2013 wreck didn’t slow down Roberts, whatsoever. Roberts rented a Subaru for the next round at the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally, but a mechanical problem surfaced on Stage 12 that forced them out of the event.
After STPR, Roberts and his team turned a corner in their season and strung three incredible podium finishes, which included a first ever class win at the Ojibwe Forests Rally.
Amazingly this streak has now extended into the 2014 Rally America season to five consecutive podium finishes. Roberts began this year with a third place SP Class podium at Sno*Drift and followed up with his second class win at the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood.
The great results places him as the Class leader heading back to the Oregon Trail Rally, the site of the biggest wreck of his life still freshly lingering in his memory.
“I know that I still have a lot to learn with Oregon being only the 11th event in my brief career,” added Roberts. “Last season we learned a lot about building a class-winning car and we put a lot effort into redeveloping our car over the offseason. I am pretty proud of the car the team has put together and to see our car out there beating teams with much more experience is one of the most rewarding parts for me because it demonstrates the value of our preparation and planning.”
Roberts enjoys Oregon’s three-day format and the incredible variety of road conditions ranging from tarmac, sharp gravel, high-speed stretches and technical stages. It is the ultimate challenge for the driver and Roberts needs to keep Dillon Van Way from finishing ahead of him to take over the SP standings.
Despite a big wreck at the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood testing session, Lauchlin O'Sullivan will be back to compete at the Oregon Trail Rally and use this event to reinsert himself into the Super Production title conversation. David Sterckx is also expected to race at Oregon to deepen the SP entry field. Sterckx has battled mechanical difficulties this year, and he needs a good result and a clean rally to remain relevant when the midpoint of the season arrives.
The Super Production Class at the Oregon Trail Rally will be the most hotly contested and tightest battle to watch on May 2-4. Each SP driver views Oregon as a defining event to strengthen their standings position and Oregon has the most stage miles of any event to change a team’s fortunes.
Mark your calendars to watch the Oregon Trail Rally television broadcast on the NBC Sports Network on June 1st at 6:00pm EDT/3:00pm PDT.
Action photo: Alex Haugen