STPR a perfect rally for Subaru Rally Team USA
Nick Roberts, Troy Miller climb in Rally America Drivers Championships
WELLSBORO, PA (June 7, 2015) -- Subaru Rally Team USA driver David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew celebrated a perfect rally on Saturday, edging out the FY Racing team of Adam Yeoman and Jordan Schulze in a head-to-head Super Special at Tioga County Fairgrounds to conclude a weekend of wins in all 15 stages of the 39th annual Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally.
Now, after five straight wins in the 2015 Rally America series, the team is on track to claim the first perfect season in American rally since John Buffum's undefeated season in 1987.
"The more rallies you do, the more wins you get, the more times you drive in different conditions, the quicker you can adapt," said Higgins, explaining how he comes by the confidence to push ever-faster in a technical and dangerous rally made even more difficult by heavy rains at the close of the first day of competition.
Higgins, who has scored 11 consecutive wins in Rally America competition over the last two years, also credited the Subaru Rally Team USA and Vermont Sports Car team behind his Open class 2015 Subaru WRX STI. "We've put an awful lot of thought into the car: we're not just coming out with the same setup all the time. We're always trying to adjust and prepare."
Higgins and Drew extended their lead over Yeoman and Schulze stage by stage this weekend, eventually finishing the two-day rally in 1:44:44.2, a full five-and-a-half minutes ahead of FY Racing's 2007 Subaru WRX STI.
It was also a big weekend for the Nick Roberts Global Rally team of Nick Roberts and Rhiannon Gelsomino, who made the overall podium in their Super Production class 2013 Subaru Impreza WRX STI for the third time this year and also topped their third SP podium, ahead of Lauchlin O'Sullivan/Scott Putnam, and Gary Gill/Harry Hanson.
"The roads here are beautiful, the fans are incredible: STPR is one of my favorite events," Roberts said. "We’re hoping to keep our momentum going through the rest of the series. We really, really want the SP championship."
Even as he extended his lead over O'Sullivan in nearly every stage, Roberts had other goals in mind: STPR's organizers have kept meticulous stage records over the years and the driver wanted to claim his place in the books.
"Nick said to me from the beginning that if we have a chance to push for some SP stage records, he really wanted to do it," said Gelsomino, who marked her 100th rally as a co-driver this weekend. "We ended up setting six new stage records. It's never about playing it safe to stay in front: if you back off, that's when don't continue to progress."
The road to the 2WD podium was more dramatic. The Troy Motorsports team of brothers Troy Miller and Jeremy Miller broke an axle on Friday, failing to complete Stage 3 in their 2011 Ford Fiesta R2. They made overnight repairs and returned to competition on Saturday under Super Rally rules, taking a time penalty for missed stages that knocked them down the results.
But closest competitors Cameron Steely and Preston Osborn crashed their 2014 Ford Fiesta ST into a tree early Saturday on Stage 7, while Steve LaRoza and Christopher Fary went off in Stage 11 with day-ending clutch problems in their 2014 Ford Fiesta 5D ST.
"It was fun running up front for a bit, but I guess you've got to pay your dues," said LaRoza, after towing his car back to service in Germania. "This rally in particular is a race of attrition. Tough weekend."
Those offs briefly put B-Spec competitors James Robinson and James Guitar at the front of the 2WD pack in the 2015 Honda Fit, but Miller/Miller were able to close the gap in the final stages to take the podium, even with the Super Rally handicap. Robinson finished in second, with Anthony Concha/Mark Tisdel rounding out the 2WD podium in their 2014 Ford Fiesta ST.
"STPR has always been really hard on me on Day 1, really good to me on Day 2," said Miller. "I guess this one was no different. We're really pumped to be here."
Next up, the Rally America field heads to Newry, Maine July 17-18 for the New England Forest Rally, where several top competitors are planning a return to spoil Higgins' and Drew's perfect season campaign. They say they'll be waiting with open arms.
"I like all the rallies in America and don't have any favorites, but what I'm looking forward to more than anything for New England is the competition and having some of our biggest rivals back," Higgins said. "Having Travis Pastrana back, Ken Block back, and some other guys rumored to be there will make for a lot of players there, a lot of guys battling for the win. It's going to be more of a challenge and it's going to make it interesting."
The STPR event included 119 miles of competitive stages over two days including spectator-favorite Super Special stages at the Tioga County Fairgrounds and nearly 63 miles of roads in the Susquehannock, Tioga and Tiadaghton State Forests. Hard-packed clay, gravel and stone roads through the region’s densely wooded forests have given STPR the reputation as one of the fastest and most harrowing events in the Rally America series.
In addition to the national championship event, Friday's concurrent Sherwood Forest Rally and the Finger Lakes Rally on Saturday also counted toward the Eastern Regional Championship. In all, nearly 70 competitors lined up to start the regional or national portions of the contest.
The next event in the 2015 Rally America National Championship is the New England Forest Rally, July 17 and 18, headquartered in Newry, Maine.
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.
(PHOTO: Subaru Rally Team USA)