USA News: Pastrana & Higgins 1-2 in Subarus in New England
- 27th July 2017, 11:20pm
He needed two co-drivers, some luck, and patience to do it, but Travis Pastrana (Subaru WRX STI) won the New England Forest Rally for the fourth time.
Co-driving chores were split between Robbie Durant and Grzegorz “Greg” Dorman, as we shall explain in a moment. Subaru Rally Team USA teammates David Higgins/Craig Drew (WRX STI) placed second, retaining a lead in the national series of the new American Rally Association (ARA) with one round remaining.
The New England Forest Rally takes place in the states of Maine and New Hampshire, which you will find in the northeastern U.S. on your map. The roads are dirt (and often rock) surfaced, occasionally rough, and are primarily owned by the local wood and paper industry.
Higgins/Drew left the start in Newry, Maine first on the road, needing “only” a win to take the series championship. However, Pastrana/Durant were determined to keep the matter open, and posted fastest times on the first two special stages by about two seconds in each.
Higgins/Drew responded by setting an equal time on the third stage, and they were almost four seconds quicker on the fourth and final stage of the day, for a 1.3-second lead.
Fortunes changed on stage 4: Pastrana landed hard from a jump, renewing an old injury to Durant’s back. Durant declined first aid at the finish control, but he was given first aid by an ambulance crew when they reached the service area back in Newry at the end of the leg. The injury was not severe, but Robbie was done rallying for the weekend.
At this point, Pastrana and team manager John Buffum turned to Dorman, working as part of the Subaru Rally Team USA service crew, but an experienced driver and co-driver in his own right.
SRT USA consulted with the New England Forest Rally and ARA officials, who in turned consulted with the competitors, and gave them the green light. Durant gave Dorman a “crash course” in the use of his pace notes, and Higgins (who is about the same size) loaned a suit.
On the second day, Higgins/Drew, still first on the road, were generally the quickest. But Pastrana/Dorman began to give a good account of themselves, including one fastest stage time. Not bad for their first rally together.
On the twelfth of thirteen stages, fortunes changed again: Going all-out, Higgins’ Subaru struck one of Maine’s many rocks, breaking the right rear wheel and suspension. The team finished the stage and the following transit on three wheels and the underside of the car.
Pastrana said later that his car hit a rock on that stage, maybe the same rock, but he was going slower at the time. Thus Pastrana suffered only a bent suspension, so his car arrived at service on four wheels. At this point the difference in total time was one second.
The SRT USA service crew performed heroic work to have Higgins’ car on four wheels, but even the professionals can’t work miracles. “Diggins” would have to do the last stage with only front wheel drive. On the final test, Pastrana was about 43 seconds quicker, and that was the rally.
Jeffrey Seehorn/Karen Jankowski (Subaru WRX) were a solid third, also taking home the trophy for the best-placed car in the Restricted Open 4wd class. Barry McKenna/Leon Jordan (Ford Fiesta Mk. 7) placed fourth overall and third in the Open 4wd class.
McKenna was third fastest in the early stages, shadowing the Subarus, until ECU issues slowed dropped him to about 38th. From there McKenna charged back, at times even outpacing Higgins and Pastrana on individual stages.
Andrew Comrie-Picard/Jeremy Wimpey (Ford Focus RS entered by Team O’Neil) finished fifth, and best Production 4wd entry. The only glitch was a brief loss of the drive to the back wheels on the last transit of the first day – apparently an issue with the control system, and quickly righted by the team.
This was the first rally for the Focus, in which car owner (and ARA President) Tim O’Neil had placed second overall in the Mount Washington Hillclimb. The car was developed by Tim and his staff, with technical advice but no sponsorship from Ford, and Tim is planning to sell replicas when development is completed.
Alvin Fong/William Machin (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) followed them home overall and in class, with the car displaying a bit of rear quarter damage. Fong explained that at one point he was trying to avoid a rock…”and hit an even bigger rock.”
Ryan Millen/Rhianon Gelsomino (Toyota RAV4 SE) went to New England needing only a start to claim the Open 2wd class championship for the season. But after starting, they ran a smooth, smart rally to finish eleventh overall and best-placed two-wheel-drive. The car (truck?) was well prepared, but very nearly stock, including front wheel drive and automatic transmission.
As for the overall national championship, that will have to wait until the next and final event, the Ojibwe Forests Rally, in the state of Minnesota (over in the middle of the country) on August 25-26.
- Thomas Barker
1. Travis Pastrana/Robbie Durant/ Grzegorz Dorman (Subaru WRX, Open 4wd class) 89 m 36.0 s
2. David Higgins/Craig Drew (Subaru WRX, Open 4wd) 90 m 17.8 s
3. Jeffrey Seehorn /Karen Jankowski (Subaru WRX STI, Restricted Open 4wd) 97:25.8
4. Barry McKenna /Leon Jordan (Ford Fiesta, Open 4wd) 97:51.2
5. Andrew Comrie-Picard/Jeremy Wimpey (Ford Focus RS, Production 4wd) 100:45.9
Speaking of the American Rally Association
If you haven’t heard of the ARA before, that’s because it’s new. It was formed by organizers of five U.S. rallies which broke away from the existing Rally America group, plus one event in Canada.
The chairman is Tim O’Neil, seven-time New England Forest Rally chairman, rally school and rally team owner, and former national series front-runner.
According to O’Neil, the event organizers who formed ARA are concerned that the structure of sanctioning organizations in the U.S., which tend to follow a promotion business model, do not sufficiently address the needs of rallyists.
For example, he points to the financial pressures on event organizers, which he does not feel that existing sanctioning bodies have addressed, and to the need to reach a better balance between the needs of large and small teams. To this end, ARA is structured as a member-owned, non-profit organization, not a privately-owned business.
O’Neil points to the competition among Rally America, ARA, and the National Auto Sports Association as being good for the sport, since all must take care of their event promoters and competitors, and all three groups are seeing healthy starting fields this season.
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