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

It’s all over now but the racing, as recce, the press stage, and parc exposé are all wrapped up from Rally Colorado. The fifth round of the 2018 Rally America National Championship rolls off Friday morning with the first day of the national event and the regional Prospectors Run Rally. While you’re waiting for a new day, here are some of our top stories from prior to the event:

Colorado Contingent Ready to Roll in Rangely

If there’s one state perfectly suited to hosting a Rally America National Championship event, it’s Colorado. Four of the top six teams in the start order call the state home, led by defending event winners Dave and Mike Brown, the first starters in the Open Light class and third on the roads tomorrow.

“This race is so incredible all around and I've really been looking forward to it!” said Dave Brown. “These are the best roads I've raced on so far. They are so technical, there is so much variety on every stage, and you really have to focus and trust your notes every second. Even the co-drivers have to work really hard because the timing of the turns is constantly changing. It's really amazing when it all comes together and we can really fly through the stages.

“But I don't really feel any pressure because of our win last year. An overall win in an Open Light car is such an extraordinary thing that it's not something I ever expected would happen again, which made our second overall win at Sno*Drift even more crazy. We're just going to run our own pace like we always do and see what happens.”

Cameron Steely/Preston Osborn of O.D.D. Racing will start second overall and first of the Super Production cars. Fifth on the road will be Steve Bis/Scott McCarty, who were third overall last year, while Tasso Koch/Abby French will hit the road sixth overall.

Bis/McCarty Return to Action as Podium Threat

Speaking of Bis/McCarty, they’ll return to the Rally America ranks for the first time this year after strong performances here and at Rally in the 100 Acre Wood last year. Rejoining the Open Light field, they actually led this event overall for part of last year’s running; as such, they’ll be a solid pick to better last year’s two stage victories and third place overall finish. But as fast as they were here last year, they’re not overly pressuring themselves for the top spot in the overall classification.

“I think that we can have fun pushing ourselves, and where we end up overall is where we end up,” Bis explained. “We do this as a passion, not as a paid spot, so we want to bring the car home and ourselves home. But we do have expectations of biting at the heels of other top teams.

“I’m interested to see what (Piotr) Fetela can do. I think everyone might be, because he didn’t have his car ready for this event this year. I also am interested in seeing what (Stephan) Verdier and (Rhys) Millen can do—they might get a road advantage with the way the roads are set up for them, but it’d be nice to see what a UTV can do on roads that probably suit those quite well, and it’s nice to see some big names out there. The only other one is Dave Brown, because he’s in our class, he’s local in Denver, he’s had a really decent season, and typically, when we race together, it’s close.”

“It’s amazing,” added McCarty. “When we lost Rally Colorado outside of Steamboat in 2009, I wasn’t sure if we would ever have an event here again. We’re kind of in a rally desert, where every event was 800-plus miles away, so it’s amazing to have something close again. I honestly never thought I would be in a car where we would be competing for overall positions—it’s just been amazing.”

More to Watch For

Thursday night Parc Exposé returned to downtown Rangely and was a hit once again. Fans flocked around the vehicles at the Rangely Auto Museum and drivers and co-drivers signed countless autographs for the sport’s youngest followers along the way. The event culminated in a parade through the city, where the event’s 39 entries showed off for the fans before many returned to the Auto Museum parking lot for more conversation.

As was announced in May, Rally America will implement UTV Turbo racing for the first time this Friday and Saturday in Rangely. The class requires a number of logistical differences from normal rally to make it work: because vehicles are transited in the back of trailers, the class rolls out at the end of the Rally Colorado start order. An extra sweep vehicle will run between the last cars to run each stage and Stephan Verdier/Hudson Hall, who will start Friday as the first UTV crew on the road. Rhys Millen/JR Hartley will take off right behind them.

The two-point difference between Dave Brown/Mike Brown and Piotr Fetela/Dominik Jozwiak for the overall championship lead isn’t the only close battle coming into Colorado. Cameron Steely can join his co-driver Preston Osborn as Super Production class leader with a strong result, while Chris Sladek can take the B-spec lead by simply finishing the event and picking up nine points. The 2-Wheel Drive points lead is also wide open, with either Adam VanDamme/Jacob Carlson or Mike Erickson/Jacob Good likely to take it on Saturday.