DirtFish Olympus Rally: Class Reviews
Shelton Washington (May 1, 2019)
DirtFish Olympus Rally saw great drives throughout the running order. We’ve already talked about how the top overall teams finished, now let’s take a look at how the weekend developed for each of the class podium finishers.
Based in the logging town of Shelton on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula, DirtFish Olympus Rally is one of the most widely recognized American rallies in the world. A former World Rally Championship stop, Olympus is among the most technically challenging events on the ARA calendar. The rally, held April 27-28, covered 134 miles over 12 stages, most of which were greater than 10 miles in length. The event’s longest test, Nahwatzel, is among the longest tests in the U.S. at 20.75 miles.
Full results from DirtFish Olympus Rally can be found here.
Cameron Steely and Preston Osborn drove a strong rally in their 2007 Subaru WRX STI to win the L4 class and finish fifth overall. The pair finished 3 minutes 33 seconds ahead of second in class Matthew Dickinson and Daniel Piker of the El Diablo Rally Team in a newly built 2018 Subaru WRX STI. The L4 class win marks the 2nd in 3 rallies for O.D.D. Racing and it gives the team a strong points lead in the championship.
Steely and Osborn took the rally lead after a close battle with Dickinson and Piker on Saturday, Olympus Rally’s first day of competition. Through 5 stages and 53 miles the two teams duked it out before broken motor mounts and front axles forced the El Diablo drivers to slow, yielding the position to Steely and Osborn.
Tony and Chantelle Torchia finished third in the L4 class while driving a Subaru Impreza WRX, 7 minutes 35 seconds behind Dickinson and Piker. A consistent drive saw them outlast several strong competitors in the class and take the podium spot.
The AMSOIL Seehorn Rally Team of Jeff Seehorn and Karen Jankowski had a tough start to DirtFish Olympus Rally; an early off on Stage 1 forced them to retire for the day due to damaged suspension components and body work. They later reentered the event in their 2015 Subaru WRX STI with a large time penalty under the Rally Restart Rule to salvage a fourth place finish.
Not so lucky were DirtFish Motorsports drivers Travis Nease and Rebecca Ruston. The pair suffered a rally ending engine failure on Stage 1 of the event.
Naturally Aspirated 4WD:
2018 NA4 class champions Blake and Tricia Lind of Primitive Racing won the NA4 class this weekend and finished the rally in eighth overall after a strong drive with minimal issues barring an axle that needed replacement late in the event and some minor brake tweaks. They were the only nationally entered NA4 team at Olympus to finish the event.
Erik Potts and Claudia Barbera, driving a Subaru BRZ, won the O2 class at Olympus Rally by 2 minutes 45 seconds over the M-Sport Ford Fiesta R2 of Keanna Erickson-Chang and Alex Gelsomino.
Potts and Barbera had a tough road to Olympus. Potts suffered an engine failure in pre-rally shakedown at DirtFish and did not have a spare on hand. Fortunately, the rally school had a replacement motor and it was installed in Pott’s Subaru BRZ before the rally’s start. But the team wouldn't have time to properly tune the new motor, and later struggled with power delivery issues during the rally. Despite the troubles and several check engine lights, Potts and Barbera battled at the front throughout the weekend and ultimately won the class.
A switch to a new team and the upgrade to a new car brought a lot of changes for Erickson-Chang and Gelsomino. Now with McKenna Motorsport, the pair spent much of Olympus getting comfortable in their Fiesta R2. Their pace increased stage after stage, evidenced by the pair’s improvement through both runs of the Nahwatzel stage. Erickson-Chang and Gelsomino cut 1 minute from their time over the second pass of 20.75 test; that’s an improvement of 3 seconds per mile.
Third position on the O2 class was highly contested this past weekend at DirtFish Olympus Rally. 4 teams laid claim to the position throughout the weekend before Jordan Guitar and John Sharps of the Maxxis Honda HPD took the final podium step on the last stage of the event. A flying run through Nahwatzel in their 2017 Honda Civic earned them the position by a mere 2 seconds over the 2003 Ford Focus ZX3 Chris and Michelle Miller. Mitsubishi Lancer drivers Brad Morris and Doug Nagy, who were in third position heading into the Nahwatzel stage, finished fifth in class a further 20 seconds back.
The “Press On Regardless” rally spirit was imbued into Larry Clark and Robert Gobright this past weekend. While holding third in class midway through Sunday, the team missed a corner on Stage 10, the first pass through Nahwatzel, and crashed their 1995 BMW M3 into a tree. The incident cost them 40 minutes and several body panels, but the car was still driveable, so the pair went back out. They crossed the rally’s finish with no hood and missing headlights to finish sixth in the class.
Larry Clark and Jamie Willets, also in a 1995 BMW M3, were leading the O2 class by over a minute before engine issues forced them to retire on Stage 9.
Chase Hovinga and Glen Ray won the L2 class by 3 minutes 48 seconds thanks to a strong drive in their Ford Fiesta ST. The pair drove a quick and mostly consistent rally, but almost lost it all late on Stage 10 after a major boost leak and sudden tire blowout compounded to drop them by 10 minutes in the standings. Second in class with two stages to go and 1 minute behind Robert Sanders and John Dillon, Hovinga and Ray put on a stellar drive through the remaining 30 miles to take the lead back.
Raw Quotes from the class winners:
Cameron Steely (O.D.D. Racing) – “I feel really good. We put in some great times and I’m pretty happy with the rally. To be here and to finish where we did overall is awesome – shows how much better I’ve become as a driver. It’s a rough rally and we did the right thing and stayed on the road and yeah, here we are and I’m pretty happy about it!”
“The car runs amazing [with the engine issues solved]. Nobody believes me, but it only has like 208 horsepower and it was awesome all weekend long. No issues, no cut out. It was great having a car that worked the entire event. And it started building my confidence up too, which helped out.”
Erik Potts (Erik Potts Racing) – “This win actually feels really good. At DirtFish, testing before the event we blew, and we were able to put another motor in. So thanks to the guys at DirtFish: Chad, Tony, Sean, and Allen. It’s too bad that Dave Clark couldn’t finish, he was great competition for us. We enjoy racing against him, but yeah, two wins in a row at Olympus feels great.”
Blake Lind (Primitive Racing) – “I feel like just making it to the end of this rally is a success because it’s so rough, so many varied surfaces. Every time you go through a junction its like a new road – it’s like you’re at a different rally every corner on some of the stages.
Chase Hovinga (All Fours Rally Team) – “Beyond excited finally take a podium after all the DNFs of last year! Had my share of small problems but we made it! Couldn't have done it without my crew. Also thanks to all the volunteers for making this event happen!”
Photo Credit: Tedrick Mealy