2019 ARA Year in Review
Speedway, Ind. ~ Happy New Year! From big jumps, to big wins, the 2019 version of American Rally Association, Presented by AMSOIL has had its fair share of success. As we close out the decade, the ARA looks back at what (and who) made an impact on our sport. In no particular order, (and open to debate), here are our top stories from 2019:
Fetela Snags Sno-Drift
Piotr Fetela started his tenth year of rally racing in style in 2019 by winning the opening round at Sno-Drift. Fetela and Co-Driver Dominik Jozwiak took advantage of fellow Ford driver Barry McKenna’s exit after seven stages, and held off Limited 4wd champions Cameron Steely and Preston Osborn for the overall victory. The win set up a strong season that saw Fetela finish fourth overall and held the overall points lead through most of the year.
Oliver Solberg Arrives in America
In February, Subaru Motorsports USA announced a new addition to their driver roster, a developing rally phenom named Oliver Solberg. The then 17-year-old racing talent is the son of Subaru World Rally Team legend Petter Solberg. The attendance of both Oliver and Petter in America was a big boost for fans of stage rally in the U.S. While Solberg’s stay in the ARA is expected to be short-lived, he made the most of the experience picking up three wins in the six events he entered in 2019.
When Seamus Burke breaks out the MK2 Escort, he (and the car) become instant fan favorites. When he breaks the MK2 Escort and still finishes the rally, he just adds to the Legend of Seamus Burke. On the final stage at the 100 Acre Wood, Burke damaged his front-left suspension sending his front left wheel to a 45-degree positive camber. He finished the last two miles of stage road and transited more than 15-miles to the podium, finishing second in O2 and eighth overall.
McKenna Holds Off VSC
Speaking of 100 Acre Wood, it marked the rally that Barry McKenna picked up his first career ARA win. Thirty-five of the 75 cars that entered 100 AW wouldn’t see the finish, and when the dust settled, McKenna and Co-Driver Leon Jordan had successfully held off the Vermont Sports Car Subaru’s of David Higgins and Oliver Solberg. In fact, despite spinning on the fi
nal stage, McKenna crossed the flying finish with a scant 6.8-second win over Solberg.
Women of the Century
With the number of teams steadily on the rise (see below), it’s of importance that we take notice in the growing number of women racers entering our sport. The involvement of women as competitors in ARA events jumped 62% in 2019, with more than 100 women registered as a driver or co-driver. Take a look at the next two items on our list to see their impact on the sport.
Jimmy Pelizzari won the ARA East Overall Driver Championship thanks to his win at Sno-Drift and podium finishes at Summer Sno-Drift and LSPR. His navigator Kate Stevens won the ARA East Overall Co-Driver title.
Dave and Mike Brown took home the ARA West Overall Driver and Co-Driver titles thanks to their wins in Idaho and Rally Colorado.
Con O’Sullivan and Mark Williams East L4 Driver
Aileen Kelly East L4 Co-Driver
Amanda Skelly East NA4 Driver
Marianna Usher East NA4 Co-Driver
Calvin Cooper East O2 Driver
Kelsey Stephens East O2 Co-driver
Santiago Iglesias East L2 Driver
Robert Kassel East L2 Co-Driver
Matthew Brassfield West L4 Driver
Kristi Berg West L4 Co-Driver
Jacob Fowlkes West NA4 Driver
Colin Katagiri West NA4 Co-Driver
Andrew Rossiter West O2 Driver
Jason Baird West O2 Co-driver
Chase Hovinga West L2 Driver
Alison Laroza West L2 Co-Driver
Subaru Motorsports USA’s David Higgins and Craig Drew rewrotethe history books this past season. The duo won their eighth U.S. championships together, with Higgins picking up his tenth individual title this season.
David Higgins Overall Driver
Craig Drew Overall Co-Driver
Cameron Steely L4 Driver
Preston Osborn L4 Co-Driver
Blake Lind NA4 Driver
Tricia Lind NA4 Co-Driver
Erik Potts O2 Driver
Claudia Barbera O2 Co-driver
Robert Sanders L2 Driver
Mike Mettetal L2 Co-Driver
Subaru Turns Back the Clock
In January, Subaru of America unveiled its 2019 motorsports livery. It was a return to the brand’s signature blue and gold colors with a modern, visually striking star cluster inspired by the world-beating Subaru World Rally Team cars of the 1990’s and 2000’s.
The brand also announced a revision to the structure of its U.S. racing activities, which combined stage rally, rallycross, record attempts, off-road racing, and circuit racing under the banner of Subaru Motorsports.
Continued Expansion on National Schedule
Three new national events on the 2019 schedule helped place the ARA as the formidable stage rally series in the United States. The additions of Sno-Drift, 100 Acre Wood and Lake Superior Performance Rally brought the national schedule to nine total events. The additions of Southern Ohio Forest Rally, Empire State Performance Rally and Rally Colorado as Super Regionals also enhanced the ARA schedule and played into the national points championship’s final standings.
Pastrana’s Jump at OTR
Travis Pastrana only took part in two ARA events in 2019, but he officially left his mark in the record books. He and co-driver Robbie Durant let it all hang out as they tried to chase down David Higgins at Oregon Trail. In doing so, they broke were flat out heading over the famed Boyd Loop jump, landing with a distance of 134 feet. That was 21-feet farther than the next car.
McKenna’s M-Sport Program Launched
McKenna Motorsport unleashed an arrive-and-drive program featuring rental packages featuring their M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5’s. Seven drivers, including McKenna at Sno-Drift, took part in the program in 2019. The team and ARA are working to expand the program in 2020.
The state of rally is in good standing as the number of cars entering ARA events continued to rise in 2019. With nine national events on the ARA schedule, the average car count for those rallies was 62 entries. Several events, including 100 AW, NEFR, Oregon Trail and STPR all seeing more than 70 teams. That number is expected to increase with the inclusion of Southern Ohio Forest Rally as an ARA National in 2020. SOFR had 75 entries this year as a Super Regional.
Seehorn Wins in Idaho
Five rounds into the 2019 American Rally Association, presented by AMSOIL series saw five different overall winners. The fifth was thanks to a clean and steady race from Jeff Seehorn and Cody Crawford.
Seehorn, who won both the Overall and the Limited 4WD class, was textbook in his approach to the weekend. He ran consistently fast times on Saturday and was the beneficiary of mistakes and mechanical issues that plagued the top Subaru Motorsports USA. It was Seehorn’s first career Overall win.
Stage rally racing needs everything from drivers, events, sponsors and fans. It also needs volunteers to drive safe and successful events. In 2019, volunteerism was on a steep rise, up 63 percent over 2018. A combined 1,727 volunteers registered with the ARA to work a national, super national or regional event last year. Thank you!
Launch Control Lands on Amazon Prime
Subaru of America’s award-winning Launch Control entered its seventh season in 2019, which include a revolutionary partnership with Amazon that brought the series to the Prime Video streaming platform for the first time. Season 7 kicked off in late August on both Prime Video and YouTube.
The two-part season finale will air on New Years Day.
Higgins Enters Hall of Fame
In July, it was announced that Subaru Motorsports USA’s David Higgins would become just the second rally driver to be inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, joining John Buffum. Higgins was formally inducted in the HOF in November in Las Vegas alongside Robby Gordon, Steve Morris, Lynn Chenowth, Bobby Ferro and Frank Arciero, Jr.