SECOND ROUND PREVIEW FOR RALLY IN THE 100 ACRE WOOD
Event is pivotal in setting early Rally America National Championship dominance.
The 2012 Rally America National Championship heats up in the second round when the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood commences on February 22-23rd in Salem, Missouri with 60 national and local teams slated to contest the hard-packed dirt roads surrounding the Ozark Forests.
The Rally America season already opened with many surprises at January’s Sno*Drift Rally under wintery Michigan conditions. Now classic battles with Ford, Mitsubishi, Honda, Scion and Subaru’s best drivers in a warmer Missouri climate promises faster racing speeds and more surprises.
Hoonigan Racing’s Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino are back at the very event they have won six times before – the most 100 Acre Wood Rally wins by a Rally America driver. The Rally in the 100 Acre Wood could not have come at a better time for the team as they attempt to bounce back from a disappointing Sno*Drift result. Block fell behind early with electrical problems before reentering Sno*Drift in 11th place overall. He drove furiously to a 6th place finish to salvage valuable Championship points to stay relevant in his quest for his first Rally America title.
"Obviously I'm coming out to 100 Acre Wood looking for my seventh win at the event," said Block. "So far, every time I've entered, I've won, so I plan on trying to keep that streak going."
Standing in Block’s way of a potential seventh Rally in the 100 Acre Wood title is a deep field of national contenders. Canada’s Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team of Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard, fresh off an amazing Sno*Drift victory, will push hard to build on their best season start since winning the 2010 Rally America National Championship.
“It's awesome to start this rally as the series leader!” commented L’Estage, “The Rally in the 100 Acre Wood is an event that I really enjoy, I've always been very competitive here, and our win in 2011 will forever be etched in my memory as one of my great battles with David Higgins. Contrary to Sno*Drift, where the snow and ice evens out the cars' power a little bit, it will be very difficult to compete against the big factory-backed teams of Subaru and Ford here. We'll try our best to make them work for it, though!”
David Higgins and Craig Drew of Subaru Rally Team USA, who lost Sno*Drift to L’Estage on the last stage, will settle for no less than victory at Missouri. Since joining Subaru in 2010, Higgins has not won the 100 Acre Wood Rally despite being Rally America Champion the last two seasons.
Super Production (SP) Class Sno*Drift Rally winners Evan Cline and Jake Blattner from the Exedy Racing Clutches Team will once again race to prove that their early Sno*Drift SP victory was no fluke. Cline is displaying improvement since finishing as last year’s SP Class runners up and surprised many with a Sno*Drift Rally win. However, 2012 SP champions Lauchlin O’Sullivan and Scott Putnam are expected to return this year at the 100 Acre Wood Rally to challenge the Exedy team.
“This is my favorite event and I’ve had good stage times in the past,” explained Cline, “It will be more a hard fought battle, but I the 100 Acre Wood roads remind me of the roads I learned to drive on. I expect to pull off the same win as at Sno*Drift.”
Fresh off a Two-Wheel Drive Class (2WD) victory, the Scion Racing Rally xD team announced that they will add turbocharged power to their Scion xD and give Andrew Comrie-Picard and Jeremy Wimpey the advantage they need to position Scion as the class ruler over the likeminded Ford Fiestas.
“We're off to a great start with our victory at Sno*Drift and we're confident that all the things that led to that strong win will allow us to crush it on gravel too,” said Comrie-Picard, “We're going to a turbo setup now and with new engine management from Greddy we'll have gear-controlled boost. That, combined with the new Tein suspension and the beefier BFGoodrich gravel tires are THE setup, and the team expects to win again!”
Rally fans will also pay close attention to Ford Racing’s Dillon Van Way after his 2nd place 2WD finish at Sno*Drift with a new co-driver, Andrew Edwards, who brings significant international racing experience. Van Way is employing a new notes system with Edwards’ guidance in hopes of giving Van Way the edge to overcome Comrie-Picard and place Ford in a tie with Scion on top of the 2WD Manufacturers’ National Championship, and evening his chances in the 2WD standings.
The Rally in the 100 Acre Wood offers plenty of viewing areas for fans to get close to the drivers and rally action.
The event begins with a Lion’s Park driver meet and greet in Potosi on Friday, February 22 from Noon – 1:30pm. It is a chance to take photos and talk to drivers before teams begin the rally, and receive instructions to the viewing locations. Fans have another meet and greet on Saturday, February 23 on 4th Street in Salem from 8:30am – 10:00am. A printable spectator guide available for download: CLICK HERE
The Lion’s Park Super Special Stage, which allows fans to watch all the rally action from start to finish from a single location, starts at 3:00pm. More information can be found at www.rally-america.com
About Rally America
Based in Williston, VT, Rally America, Inc. sanctions the Rally America National Championship which consists of seven national-level events located at a variety of venues across the country, from Portland, Oregon to Newry, Maine. Top competitors can reach speeds of well over 100 mph in modified street cars such as Mitsubishi Evolutions, Subaru WRX STI’s, Ford Fiestas and Scion xD’s on natural-terrain courses consisting of gravel, dirt, ice or snow. For more information regarding Rally America’s National Championship or the sport of performance rally, visit www.rally-america.com
PHOTOS: SCOTT RAINS