Rally America Round 2 – 100 Acre Wood
by Connor Harrison
The second event in the 2014 Rally America series took place last weekend in the foothills of Missouri’s Ozark Mountains, with stages spread amongst the towns of Salem, Steelville, and Potosi. The scenic backdrop named after the fabled home of Winnie the Pooh is a favorite for spectators, with drivers enjoying the fast, flowing, and dusty gravel roads. The weather seems to be dramatically different every year, fortunately last year’s snow and ice wasn’t repeated for this event, although passing heavy rains on Thursday would leave some stages rather slippery throughout the weekend.
After spending the previous three years in NASCAR, four time Rally America champion Travis Pastrana has made a return to Subaru Rally Team USA as team mate to David Higgins. Pastrana’s 2014 series debut was delayed slightly after a dislocated ankle and broken leg that forced him to skip last month’s Sno*Drift Rally in Michigan. Still recovering from his injuries, and faced with a new car, new competition, and new co-driver (veteran Chrissie Beavis) Travis wasn’t going to be taking any risks while he got a feel for the Subaru and worked on developing good communication with Chrissie.
Hoonigan Racing’s Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino made their 2014 debut as well, with new “digital zebra print” livery on the open class Ford Fiesta. Block made a strong push for the 2013 championship and nearly had it, until a bad wreck at the Lake Superior Performance Rally last fall put him out of the running. This year the angry little Fiesta won’t be contesting the championship as Block will only be competing in three out of the eight event series due to scheduling conflicts and sponsor requirements.
Early on Friday was the optional shakedown stage where competitors could get a feel for the terrain and make sure their cars were functioning as they should. This was ACP’s second time competing in the Fiesta R2 after vacating the Scion xD that he ran last year, which is now occupied by Matt Johnson. He showed a great pace and was definitely in his element with the new car, I’m sure he was eager to show his merit after a lackluster finish at Sno*Drift.
The Super Production winner at Sno*Drift, Lauchlin O’Sullivan, was also making some runs on the shakedown stage that morning. Only a couple of corners into the stage the rear end got loose and put him into a tree sideways, resulting in significant damage to the front of the Subaru. It’s terribly unfortunate when your weekend is over before it even starts, but crashing is part of the sport and the team is confident that the car will be repaired and ready to run at the Oregon Trail Rally in early May.
Parc Expose on Friday was busy with spectators as usual, with everyone enjoying the clear skies and warm weather. The nearly 70 degree temps on Saturday felt unreal to me and were a great relief after the consistently negative temperatures we’ve had here in Wisconsin this winter! (Its -5 degrees outside as I write this, I need summer to hurry up and get here…)