Rally America Round 2: Rally in the 100 Acre Wood
Last weekend the second event of Rally America’s national championship took place. The Rally in the 100 Acre Wood takes place on the smooth, flowing gravel back roads surrounding Salem, Missouri, and is one of the fastest events of the championship. It is a favorite event that is looked forward to by many of the drivers. Last year had ideal conditions with temperatures hovering just below 70 degrees during the day and stages that were dry and grippy. This year was quite the opposite.
Friday’s parc expose was well attended by fans and competitors alike. A mass of rally enthusiasts swarmed the 58 rally cars on display.
Cold weather and mixed precipitation created a treacherous terrain composed of ice, snow, mud, and gravel. Many teams were not expecting the icy and snowy conditions they experienced throughout the event, and had brought along few appropriate tires. Several competitors who had skipped January’s Sno*Drift rally in Michigan in favor of the fast dry gravel stages in Missouri arrived disappointed. Tire choice for Friday’s very mixed terrain was a total lottery.
Open class competition is a bit sparse compared to last year’s event. Antoine L’Estage is focusing solely on the Canadian Rally Championship, Travis Pastrana was nowhere to be seen, and Ken Block pulled out of the event on short notice so as not to damage his Fiesta prior to his upcoming rally in New Zealand. David Higgins and Craig Drew managed to safely finish Friday’s stages, while winning every single one. At the end of the day the newly flared and freshly liveried #75 Subaru STi was leading with a time of 49:29.0. FY Racing and the 2007 STi of Adam Yeoman and Jordan Schulze has set their sights on beating Higgins/Drew, and they had some ground to retake after losing an engine at Sno*Drift. They were hot on the heels of the Subaru Rally Team in second place until dropping to third behind teammate David Sterckx. They seemed to have a lock on third until an oil leak caused an engine fire on Stage 7, ending their event early. Hopefully they can get a reliable engine in place before next month’s Oregon Trail rally. Last year David Sterckx could be found tearing it up in Super Production, but this year he’s aiming for more overall podium finishes in the less restricted Open class. He was on course for that goal during Friday’s racing, holding down second place from stage three until the end of the day. Sterckx and co-driver Stephen Quin were 3:57.4 off of Higgins with a final time of the day at 53:26.4.