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Gondyke Goes Two-for-Two at STPR



The 2024 running of the Waste Management Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally has come to an end after two days and 108 miles of excitement-packed stage rally action.


The 47th running of STPR would see a total of 28 teams entered across four classes, all battling through a stage itinerary fit for a National Championship round on stage roads with decades of history on them.


This year also marked the return of STPR to its traditional June date after a few years of being run in the fall, as well as the first time the rally has offered Rallysafe as a Super Regional event.


The two-day rally would see teams contesting 14 stages, eight stages totaling 58 miles on Friday, and six more totaling 50 miles on Saturday.


While the rally started nice and dry on Friday, Saturday brought rain and fog to the Pennsylvania stage roads causing a lack of grip, and a decrease in visibility.


The conditions mixed with the tight, fast, and sometimes rough Pennsylvania stage roads made for a high-attrition rally that pushed competitors and cars alike to press on in the face of adversity.


The rally started with a Parc Exposé near the service park in Galeton before teams departed and took on two loops of four stages each to complete day one of the rally.


Immediately Dylan Gondyke and Dan Downey’s 1995 Subaru Impreza took the lead over Ryan Pryzbylkowski and Stefan Trajkov’s 2001 Impreza on the 8.85-mile “Mill” stage, putting a gap of 12.3 seconds over the competition.


On the similar-in-length SS2, Phasa, the L2WD entry of Chris Cyr and Glen Ray impressed by pulling into second place, and finishing the stage just one second slower than Gondyke and Downey. Pryzbylkowski and Trajkov fell into third, where they remained until the final stage of the day when Tom and Karl Mayer overtook them to move into podium contention.


Day one was particularly difficult for the O2WD class, which suffered three retirements by the end of SS2, including the 1971 Escort of Derek James and KJ Miller, the 1969 AMC AMX of Tim O’Neil and Kate Hansen, and the Dodge Dart GTS of Edward Newcombe and Gavin Davie.


While all three competitors would return, the 2004 Mini Cooper of Adam Noyes and Kelsey Stone would suffer a brake-related retirement of SS5 and have to retire permanently.


Going into day two, the BMW M3 of Mike Cessna and Jamie Lambert led the O2WD class, while Cyr and Ray led L2WD, Tom and Karl Mayer led L4WD, and Gondyke and Downey led NA4WD and the rally overall.


With Day two’s weather, the remaining 50 miles were guaranteed to be difficult, but things were made worse for Gondyke and Downey when they got to the first stage check-in and their comms system failed. With no other option, they ran the first stage blind, and the next using hand signals before repairing the system.


Despite this, hardly a dent was made in the team's 90-second lead, and the duo held the lead after the first three stages going into the final service.


The L4WD runners-up Sumit Panjabi and Stephan Kurey retired after the first stage on Saturday when they admitted defeat against a windshield they could not get to defog.


However, arguably the most surprising retirement of the rally came a few stages later. On SS11, Wilson, Cyr and Ray suffered a transmission failure leaving them with just first and second gear remaining on their Fiesta ST, and after getting the car back to service, they were able to complete repairs in time to rejoin the rally for the final loop, but a hard push on a slick section of stage caused an off for the team, and they had to retire.


The retirement meant Tom and Karl Mayer moved into second, and after starting the day in seventh, the “War Weasel” Subaru Impreza Wagon of Dan Shirley and Nathan Lybarger found themselves in third place overall.


The team of Shirley and Lybarger entered this weekend with a new, custom-designed wing attached to the back of their Impreza. Despite being their first outing with the added aero, it seems to have played into their hand, helping them to win a stage overall, and fight back from 10th place on SS1 to podium contention by the end of the first loop Saturday.


In the final loop, the most impressive performance came from Tim O’Neil who managed two overall stage wins in his rear-drive AMX and second overall in another. In fact, O’Neil and Hansen were the fastest across all six stages on Saturday, but due to their retirement earlier in the rally, they were unable to land on a podium.


Coming out on top on the NA4WD class and the overall rally would be Gondyke and Downey after holding the lead for the whole rally, and finishing on top by a margin of just over two and a half minutes.


“It was a tough day for us,” Gondyke admitted. “We lost our comms at the start line of the first stage and did it blind, then managed to figure out a system of hand signals for the second stage, but struggled all day with grip and confidence thereafter. It was all we could do to keep that buffer and bring it home!”


While the final loop went smoothly for most competitors, the final stage spelled disaster for the car of Tom and Karl Mayer, when an issue on stage lost them 40 minutes, and their podium position. In the end, the pair placed 15th overall, but second in the L4WD class, less than 30 seconds ahead of third-place newcomers Lucas and Emanuel Mozes.


The Mayers’ retirement meant Dan Shirley and Nick Lybarger’s War Weasel moved into second overall and in the NA4WD class. The comeback from 10th on the first stage made for an incredible push to watch across the whole rally, and the performance shown by the duo is promising for their future.


Third place went to yet another NA4WD team, this time the pair of Andrew Williamson and Julia Stewart, also improving on their previous best overall finish of eighth at STPR last year.


Limited 4WD was won by James Pryzbylkowski and Ethan Curtis, who finished fourth overall.


“We had a great time battling the conditions and fellow competitors this weekend in Pennsylvania,” said Curtis. “Jamie took another massive jump in speed factor and is showing great consistency by gaining confidence and slowly building his ability behind the wheel.”


“We had zero offs, punctures, or major mechanical issues to speak of, and are so happy to have earned our first class victory together! This is Jamie’s highest overall finish as a driver as well.”


The Limited 2WD class managed to come out on top of the Open 2WD class this time out, as the husband and wife team of Chris and Sara Nonack known as Any% Racing took their 2013 Subaru BRZ to the top of the class podium, as well as sixth overall. Sara has been competing in the ARA National Championship this year with Roberto Yglesias of the Pura Vida Rally team but was able to step back in with Chris for STPR.


“I hate to win by attrition,” Chris said, “but since my body was trying to DNF (or DNS) I'll take the win and the Big Nutz overall Rear Wheel Drive trophy! A fun tradition started by Charli Tameris."


“It’s such a great feeling to be on the top step back with Chris,” Sara said. “He hasn't raced since Sno*Drift, and one day before recce we didn't know who would even be racing the BRZ, as due to a Lyme disease flare, Chris couldn't even see.”


“We wrote great, safe notes and did the thing the best we could, press-on-regardless style. Then after seeing Cyr off on Day 2, Alan [Edwards] just had to spice it up and make us work super hard!”


Speaking of Edwards, he and co-driver Daniel Baker pushed their 2003 Dodge Neon to second in class, finishing just 21 seconds behind the Nonack’s BRZ, while Phillip Gilliver and Liz Cordara finished third in the class.


Another notable finisher in L2WD was Imogen Thompson, who turned 15 just days before the rally began! Her Thomspon Racing Fabrication-prepped Ford Fiesta carried her and Bryce Proseus to a fifth-place class finish in her first-ever rally, an impressive feat considering only 19 of the 28 entries finished.


Finally, in the Open 2WD class, Mike Cessna and Jamie Lambert’s BMW M3 managed to hold on and take the class win despite massive air on the Waste Management Jump Friday.


Cessna and Lambert earned their second gold medal after a class win at Sno*Drift this year.


“Day one we had our biggest jump to date,” Cessna said, “but cut a coolant hose after that we were dealing with overheating the whole time.”


“We had another competitor tow us into service and got it fixed, but started to overheat. We made it to the Waste Management Jump with the temperature pegged in the red. We finished stage seven and finished stage eight and made it back to the end of the day the whole time with the temperature pegged In the red. I was pretty confident we blew the head gasket at that point.”

 

“There is no reason this engine should be running, only by the grace of God.”

 

“The crew went ahead and ran Blue Devil Head Gasket Repair in the engine and flushed out the coolant.”


“Day two it was fixed! No overheating, nothing. With Tim O'Neil and Derek James out due to issues, we were sitting three minutes ahead so we cruised the last eight stages.”


“After 4 years of trying we got it.”


Second in class was the 2008 Volkswagen Golf GTI of Gavin James and Jamie Beliveau, while the VW Beetle of Timothy Thomas and Ethan Chuong placed third in class despite a 10-minute penalty on Friday for taking an alternate transit route between stages.


Photos by: Erik Sils, Andrew Wolbert & Michael Bodor

The next round of the East Region Championship will take place July 27th-28th at the Boone Forest Rally in McKee, Kentucky, which will mark the penultimate round of the championship, currently led by Gondyke.


For more from the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally, check out their FaceBook and Instagram pages to see photos and videos from the event!


2024 STPR Top 10 Classification

  1. Gondyke/Downey (Subaru) 2h05m14.3s

  2. Shirley/Lybarger (Subaru) +2m36.2s

  3. Williamson/Stewart (Subaru) +2m54.0s

  4. Pryzbylkowski/Curtis (Subaru) +3m27.4s

  5. Healey/Krolikowski (Subaru) +7m55.1s

  6. Nonack/Nonack (Subaru) +13m56.3s

  7. Edwards/Baker (Dodge) +14m17.3s

  8. Cessna/Lambert (BMW) +17m11.3s

  9. James/Beliveau (Volkswagen) +20m25.3s

  10. Giliver/Cordara (Toyota) +25m59.4s


For more information about the American Rally Association, and to get involved, visit our

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