St. Patricks’ Day in the 100AW

Salem, MO (March 19, 2017) Round 2 of the Rally America Championship kicked off on St Patricks Day, and it was not a blustery day at all. It was a perfect blue sky day for Seamus Burke to debut his Shamrock Green 1977 Ford Escort Mk2. The race started off with a park expose at Lions Park in Potosi followed by a quick gravel spewing, crowd cheering blast around the spectator stage before the teams headed out to the stages in the 100 Acre Wood.

OVERALL – ORANGE like Tigger
The expected battle for the overall win was close, but the competitors were a surprise. Gruszka/Wronski held an early lead but it was over Surdyke/Conte with Moro/Holter in 3rd. Four stages into the race Moro would take back the 2nd position from Surdyke by 3 seconds. Gruszka built a 41 second lead over Moro but ran into trouble and received a 2 minute 10 second penalty for leaving service late, dropping him to 13th. Now Moro and Surdyke were scrambling for the lead like Pooh climbing the honey tree. Moro’s more powerful turbo eventually pulled away but the fight for the lead was a long way from over. Gruszka had the bit in his teeth and was charging hard. The teams continued to battle and trade times with Gruszka slowly making up small slivers of time. Could he overcome the penalty? With 4 stages left Gruszka cut the lead to only 28 seconds. The question was answered late in the race when Moro/Holter slid wide damaging the rear of the car. Gruszka/Wronski drove one of their best races and won their second straight race in their Mitsubishi Mirage RS.

The battle for the 3rd overall podium spot was every bit as rough and tumble as the first 2 places. Surdyke/Conte were having a great run and staying ahead of Bis/McCarty. Late in the race Bis surged into the lead and was able to hold off Surdyke despite Matthew Conte’s cheerleading and encouragement to “Stay flat - Don’t lift - Don’t lift.”

2WD – Will it be GREEN for St Patrick?
The 2wd race featured two cars that couldn’t be more different - Millen/Gelsomino in the Toyota Rav4 SE and Burke/Brady in the Ford Escort MK2. Burke took the early lead with Millen staying close and fighting back to take the lead on stage 5 with Hill/Vickman in a Ford Focus only 3 seconds behind Burke with Wallingford/Scott another 1.8 seconds back. Steely/Osborn started slow and by stage 4 had dropped to 16th overall and 6th in class. After service he found Tigger’s bounce and was able to jump all the way back to 3rd only 5 seconds out of first. Then a loose bolt in the front control arm dropped him way back and out of the running.  By the end of the first night Millen had opened a 50 second lead over Burke with Wallingford and Hill only seconds behind and looking for a shamrock.

Even though it was the day after St. Patrick’s day, would it be Seamus’s day or Millen’s? Burke over took Millen on stage 15. Millen/Gelsomino fought back and won stage 17 but came up 9.7 seconds short. Burke/Brady held on to win the 2WD class with Wallingford/Scott 3rd. Hill/Vickman ended their bid on stage 14 with a broken axle. Steely/Osborn were able to overcome and finish 4th in class.

SP/OL – Turbo or No-Turbo? That is the Question.
The SP/OL race featured 18 buzzing OL entries chasing the turbos of Moro/Holter and Rooney/Kaltak.
On the fast roads of the 100 Acre Wood would the SP turbos overpower the light and nimble OL cars?
At the first service Moro held a 3.7 second lead over Surdyke/Conte with Rooney sniffing his tail pipe only 0.6 seconds back. Bis/McCarty was another 25 seconds beyond. By the end of the first night Moro had pulled out a 49 second lead over Surdyke with Bis 22 seconds back. Rooney was further back in 4th.

Moro was still lead at the service after Stage 14. Surdyke was in 2nd now 1:40 behind but Bis had closed up and was only 10 seconds back in 3rd.  The Piglet was out of the bag in the overall section of this article so there is no sense trying to build any intrigue. Bis/McCarty over took Surdyke/Conte and Rooney/Kaltak were close but finished 20 seconds behind Surdyke. Moro/Holter hung on to win SP/OL despite sliding off road and limping to the finish in their best Kris Meeke imitation. 

The top 4 SP/OL cars were divided evenly between SP and OL. Evidently these two classes are more evenly matched than previously believed. They were close on the slow slippery stages of Snow Drift and they were close at the high speed stages of 100AW. One could argue that car prep and driver ability have been the deciding factors so far. Isn’t that what is supposed to happen? I think we need more data and I can’t wait to see what happens at SOFR.

NLO – Those are the Brakes!
With only 2 teams entered in NLO you would think the race wouldn’t be interesting. You would be wrong.  Both teams are fast, very experienced and learning new cars. After the first night Bugaj/Dziubanski held a 49 second lead over LaRoza/LaRoza. Both teams were battling various issues including an overheating engine and brake problems.  As the 2nd day progressed Bugaj was feeling ill and the car wasn’t handling very good but he was able to hold off LaRoza and entered the last stage with a 31 second lead. It wouldn’t be enough? No it wouldn’t. LaRoza/LaRoza would overtake them for the NLO win. Bugaj/Dziubanski had to slow dramatically when their brakes failed completely. They were forced to limp through the stage and back to service with no brakes at all.

B Spec – It’s all in a Name!
After the first night the Honda Team of McCarron/Blake had pulled out a 1:10 second lead over Erickson-Chang/Barbera-Pullen in their Ford Fiesta with Gardiner/Hall in 3rd in their Toyota Yaris. Gardniner/Hall broke and axle and limped through the final stages so they were out of it. Erickson-Chang/Barbera-Pullen were chasing hard but unable to close the gap and McCarron/Blake finished in 1st with Erickson-Chang/Barbera-Pullen in 2nd and Gardiner/Hall in 3rd.  A new rule regarding names was suggested - only one team member can have a hyphenated name from now on because it screws up the start order sheet.

Ogre Race - Old Age and Treachery always beats Youth and Exuberance
Seamus Burke obviously won the OGRE (Old Guys Rally) Race.
Mike Halley drove so fast that he ruined a perfectly good Co-Driver and had to have another OGRE replace him. Mal Swann from Canada jumped in and they had a great time on the 2nd day.
Kim “POOH” Demotte was having an equally fun time showing that he could still do it while beating about half the field at the same time. That was until the engine decided it wanted to come apart like Eyore’s tail and sent a rod out the side of the block on a transit. Kim, you showed the rally community that 70 is the new 30.

Misc Stories - The Little Engine That Could
The little 1992 Ford Festiva of Williams/Williams towed the huge Audi Quattro of Johansen/Little to the last MTC. The rumor is that Johansen/Little will be buying a new clutch for the Festiva.