by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Rally America

It’s finally race day at Rally Colorado, as the first leg of the Rally America National Championship round kicks off this morning in downtown Rangely. After a lengthy recce session yesterday morning, the biggest thing that returning competitors have noticed is a much smoother road, the result of grading before this year’s event.

“I think the two stages that we won last year have been regraded, so there’s not as much line and I think it’s going to be looser,” said Steve Bis, who won the first pass at CR 131 E/W last year. “There’s not going to be as much rough dirt, which is good, but it also means it’s going to be slippery because fresh dirt is out, and new, pointy rocks are out that weren’t there before. So we might find some places to take caution. Besides that, there are a couple of corners that I think were filled in because of water running out onto the road.”

Here’s everything else to look out for from today’s Rally Colorado and regional Prospectors Run Rally:

SOFR Podium to Lead Friday Start Order

Piotr Fetela/Dominik Jozwiak will start their pursuit of their third consecutive overall victory from first on the roads at Rally Colorado. Second will be Cameron Steely/Preston Osborn with O.D.D. Racing, the top Super Production starter, while defending event winners Dave and Mike Brown will hit the stages third overall and first in the Open Light class.

The other leading starters in each class will be:

12. Mike Erickson/Jacob Good, Group 2
16. David Kern/Alison Kern, Group 5
19. Chris Sladek/Zach Pfeil, B-spec
36. Stephan Verdier/Hudson Hall, UTV Turbo

From the Co-Driver’s Seat

Rally Colorado will prove to be a challenge for the 39 crews who will be taking part in the event, not only because of the complex nature of its stages, but also because of the grading. All of that makes for quite the challenge for co-drivers, who will be working hard to stay on point with their notes, and may have had to make a number of changes from last year’s information.

“These are probably the busiest stages from a co-driver perspective that I’ve ever been a part of,” said Scott McCarty, who will partner with Steve Bis in Open Light. “The pace of the roads changes a lot, there are very fast sections that don’t require a lot of reading, and then there are slow sections of the road that are very busy for the co-driver. It’s a tough event to stay on top of the notes, not run away with them, and not get behind. You can get too far ahead, get behind, and get lost, all on the same stage here. So it’s a very tough event, and with the heat, it’s also very challenging.”

“With the grading, as the stages sit right now, they are much smoother,” added Preston Osborn of O.D.D. Racing. “A lot of the notes we had last year, notes of going over ruts and over dips, were taken out, so we don’t have to worry as much. A lot of people think this is a rough rally—I would say it’s rougher than normal, but it’s not out of control racing by any means.

“The big difference for us is that last year, we were in our Fiesta ST, which was front-wheel drive with a decent amount of power, but we were limited. With the STI this year, we’re much faster through the corners, so the big changes we needed to make this year were braking points. One thing we’ve learned as we’ve picked up speed is, we have a lot of braking points that I give to Cam in the notes, and we were laughing during recce because sure, in the Fiesta that was a braking point, but in the STI it’s a guaranteed off—there was no way we were making that braking point!”

“I didn’t make a lot of changes, but I did slow us down for a lot of the double and triple cautions, just because those are areas you don’t want to mess up,” concluded Cameron Carr of Toasted Racing. “There’s not a lot of room for forgiveness there. Other than that, I put a lot of go, go, go—so when it opens up, we’re going to be pushing pretty hard!”

Toasted Racing Looks for Clean Run in Colorado

The start to the 2018 Rally America National Championship may have looked great on paper for Toasted Racing’s Zach Whitebread and Cameron Carr, with multiple regional event victories in Super Production, a national podium in class at the Southern Ohio Forest Rally, and fourth place in the start order this weekend. But if it’s looked like a smooth ride to the top, Whitebread says it’s been anything but.

“With the new car, I’ve had a lot of mechanical problems,” he explained. “we limped our way through the last three out of four rallies, and he fourth one, we DNFed with a blown turbo. We’re really just hoping to get through this race having the car run good and not overheat. It’s been a lot of work just to get to that point.”

The team didn’t run at this event last year, as Whitebread was still searching for a new car after a crash at the inaugural SOFR. After Thursday’s recce, he admitted that the weekend ahead will be one of the more challenging ones on the calendar.

“These stages are different because they’re either very forgiving, because you go straight off into the desert, or very unforgiving because they’re just cliffs,” Whitebread explained. “There’s no in between. You’ve gotta be careful where you’re going, because some of those cliffs—I thought Southern Ohio was tough, but some of these cliffs are just nasty.

“Normally I come into a rally knowing what I want to do, but for this one, I’m hoping that the car runs good and I kind of want to push hard and stick with some of the upper guys. But it’s a tough rally, and I don’t really feel like flying off a cliff! So part of my goal is just to finish, but if we can get top three, I would be very happy with my results.”

“Looking at the way things are right now, looking at the start order, if we can keep it clean and keep our pace that we’ve had, I think we’ll end up pretty well,” added Carr. “I don’t want to say too much right now, but we’ll see where we end up.”