Wellsboro, PA (June 2, 2018)
Barry McKenna and Leon Jordan lead the Waste Management Susquehannok Trail Performance Rally after a short Day 1 of four stages covering eighteen stage miles. The pair took strongly to yesterday's tests, winning all of the day's stages and opening a 14.3 second gap to David Higgins and Craig Drew of Subaru Rally Team USA, who sit second overall. Rounding out the podium are SRTUSA teammates Chris Atkinson and Stephane Prévot, who overcame an early mistake to finish the day third overall, a further 47.5 seconds back from Higgins.
“We're not going to count our chickens before they hatch, but we're delighted to be here,” said Leon Jordan, “It's only the start of a very long rally, we have a very long day tomorrow.”
Yesterday's stages were open and dusty, with direct sunlight removing all moisture from the road surface at the Waste Management grounds. Teams went flat out in an attempt to create gaps on their competition, a buffer for today's trickier forest stages. The weather changed later in the afternoon as thunderstorms swept through the area, threatening the cancelation of last night's super special before passing the Tioga County Fairgrounds.
The wet weather turned much of the super special to mud, creating a tougher drive for competitors. The rain is also an indication that today's forest stages are likely to be wet as well. When wet, the clay components of today's racing surface becomes exceedingly slick, a danger for those less aware of the conditions.
Yesterday's competition was strong in all classes. Starting with the Limited 4wd class, the six spots below the podium in the overall standings are held by six L4wd class vehicles, all within only a few seconds of each other.
Fourth overall and leading the Limited 4wd class are DirtFish drivers Sam Albert and Michelle Miller. The team had a relatively trouble free day, save for some momentary low speed stalls. Back a mere 6.1 seconds from the class leaders are Cameron Steely and Preston Osborn in their first STPR behind the wheel of a 4wd car. Gary Gill and Chris Kremmer currently hold third in the class after driving on a slow puncture late in the day.
Travis Nease and Danny Norkus are doing their best to preserve the car and earn as many points as possible from STPR. Currently fourth in L4wd, the pair are looking to keep the car in top shape for NEFR next month.
Not having a top shape drive mechanically are Troy Miller and Steven Harrell. The pair limped through the Waste Management stage loop, losing over a minute before their car died on the transit back to service. Fortunately for them, Paddy Brennan and Matt James towed the stricken Subaru back to the Fairgrounds service park. Miller suspects a fueling related issue and was optimistic about fixing the car.
2017 ARA Production 4wd class champion Dennis Romero is back on the ARA circuit this weekend competing alongside Andres Romero. The pair currently sixth in L4wd and ninth overall.
Tenth overall and first in the Open 2wd class are Seamus Burke and Martin Brady in their V6 MKII Ford Escort. The pair had a strong Friday until the evening's super special stages, where Burke missed a corner, causing him to drop time while he found his way back on course. Second in the O2wd class is another MKII Escort, this time driven by Frank Cunningham and Ross Forde. Their I-4 Escort is down on power compared to Burke, but they're close enough to the rally leaders to take advantage of another mistake. Third in O2wd are Keanna Erickson-Chang and Alex Gelsomino, driving a consistent rally.
Jordan Guitar and Chris Sladek lead the Limited 2wd class in their Honda Civic. The pair are on their usual quick and consistent form.
Brian McNamara and Mustafa Samli sit near the back of the standings due to mechanical issues on Stage 2. The pair stopped on stage and effected repairs before finishing their Friday. Also having issues on stage were O2wd championship leaders Erik Potts and Claudia Barbera-Pullen. The pair miss judged a corner on Stage 1 and were forced to stop and effect repairs. Adding to their issues, the Subaru BRZ lost comms on Stage 2, forcing a further reduction in the team's pace.
As the drivers say, today is the real STPR. Over 100 miles of deep forest stage roads, including the newly extended 30 mile Mine Hole and the brand new Deadman stages. The roads are wet owing to last night's rain and today's cloud cover and there were reports of fog rolling in earlier this morning. It's going to be a tough one.