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  • Writer's pictureARA Staff

Gondyke Finds Rhythm On Way to Five Stage Wins at STPR Opening Day

Photo Courtesy: STPR

Wellsboro, Penn. ~ The history of STPR is anything but brief. The rally traces its roots back to 1965 when several Rochester-based sports car clubs were involved in the M.O.N.Y. (Michigan, Ohio, New York) series, which became the basis of the SCCA ProRally Series. Today, STPR. is the only consecutively run event from the original M.O.N.Y. series, and just like the early days, it offers some of the most demanding roads in the country.

STPR challenges even the most experienced driver with long, fast roads, making competitors grip the wheel like a vice-grip. STPR kicked off on Friday as an ARA Super Regional event, covering 103 stage miles and an additional 300 transit miles over two days of competition. Friday featured eight stages, including two at the Waste Management grounds.

It took ARA East Regional points leaders Dylan Gondyke (driver) and Ben Chuong (co-driver) a few stages to get going on Friday, but once they found their groove, they were able to pull away from the field. Gondyke (NA4WD) took the stage win on SS4 and then swept the second loop, ending the day with a 1m59sec overall lead.

"It was so great to get back to STPR after a year away for us," said the 2021 STPR winner, Gondyke. "The spectators are amazing, and the stages were dry, grippy, and an absolute hoot. We're feeling settled in with the car after a host of recent changes and looking forward to learning and building speed on day two."

Photo Courtesy: Chris Espenshade

The race for second features a pair of Open 2WD frontrunners. Current points leaders Daniel and Samantha Downey have their 1987 BMW 325is in second place, a 30.7sec lead over Mike Cessna and co-driver Jamie Lambert. Downey put together eight solid stages while benefiting from a one-minute penalty by Cessna (Speed Zone) at TC2.

"The roads are great with a nice mix of technical and fast sections," said Daniel Downey. "We've been having a great time at the top of the start order. Looking to pick up some good stage times tomorrow after dealing with a drive shaft issue all afternoon."

Cessna came into the weekend focusing on improving their driving on the tighter turns, and the extra work paid off as they sit third overall and second in class. Cessna pushed their 1998 BMW M3 to stage wins on SS1 and SS2.

"Today, we came out to try and get a podium in our class," said Cessna. "It was a pleasant surprise when we saw that extra work landed us third overall at the end of the day. Jamie and I have been clicking on the notes, and it's been fun chasing the Downey's."

Photo Courtesy: Chris Espenshade

Tom and Karl Mayer are atop the L4WD class while sitting fourth overall. The 2022 East Regional runners-up is stringing together a very consistent 2023 season. They lead the L4WD class out East and have four straight podiums.

"It's so exciting to have a field full of grassroots guys so close together and be up near the front of the pack," said Tom Mayer. "We wanted to come out hard and put up good times early. The roads here are fast, and we wanted to commit a little more than last year. It got a little tougher this afternoon on the second loop. A little bit more dust and some lower sun angles made it hard to see. It's been a great weekend so far."

Ryan Pryzbylkowski (Oliver Smith) is second in NA4WD behind Gondyke and fifth overall. They are in a good battle with Luis Teixeira (Stefan Trajkov) for those positions, leading Teixeira by 25.5secs at the end of day one. Of note in the NA4WD class is the first-day drive by Clarke Simpson (Ryan Scott). An experienced driver in the Porsche series, Simpson is less than 30secs behind Teixeira in fourth (8th overall) in just his second rally.

Photo Courtesy: Chris Espenshade

Sumit Panjabi (Stephen Kurey) is seventh overall (2nd in L4WD). Dan Shirley (Nathan Lybarger) is fifth in NA4WD and ninth overall behind Simpson, and Andrew Williamson (Julia Stewart) rounds out the top ten.

In Limited 2WD action, Nick Bukky and Emmons Hathaway are pacing the field. Bukky has a 1m 33sec lead over Alan Edwards and Daniel Baker. Chris and Sara Nonack were leading the class before blowing a transmission. Nonack is listed as a temporary D.N.F. after pulling off at the end of SS6.

Saturday starts with the annual showcase in downtown Wellsboro, where the event' Parc Expose will take place on The Green before the final six stages and 45 miles are contested. Podium ceremonies will be held at the Tioga County Fairgrounds.



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