Idaho City, ID (September 15, 2018)
Patrik Sandell and Per Almkvist lead Idaho Rally International after a dusty first day of competition. The Subaru Rally Team USA drivers took the rally lead before Saturday's first service and held it to finish the day.
Day 1 of Idaho Rally featured three stages, each scheduled to run twice. It started in the town of Horseshoe Bend with the Harris Creek stage, one the only open and fast stage of a rally littered with hairpins. From there, competitors moved onto the tighter, and much more twisty, Grimes Pass North and Spanish Fork East stages. Handbrakes got a workout on these stages, clutch kicks were also a favorite method of getting the back of cars to rotate around the narrow corners.
Stage 2 of the event, Grimes Pass North, was red crossed and shut down after five cars finished the stage. The shutdown was necessary to allow emergency crews to respond to a stage-side brush fire. The cause of this fire is unknown, as no cars crashed on the stage, but it was contained and quickly extinguished without injury.
The resulting delay and cleanup required on scene forced the cancelation of the stage's afternoon running, Stage 4, and the second pass of Spanish Fork, Stage 5. The rally resumed with Stage 6, a reverse pass of Harris Creek, to finish the day at the scheduled time.
David Higgins and Craig Drew started Idaho on even footing with their teammates Sandell and Almkvist. Both crews are new to the event and have equal equipment. The only difference in their situations, car setup and road position.
Winner of last night's seeded draw, Higgins elected to be first on the road after predicting that his teammate would be hampered by the dusty conditions behind. Higgins was right, the conditions were dry as expected, but the dust was so extreme as to force rally organizers to apply 5 minute windows to the top seeded competitors and 4 minute start gaps for the rest of the field. The increased time between cars allowed dust to fully settle between competitors, nullifying Higgins' advantage.
The day was an even split on stage wins for the blue and yellow Subarus. Higgins in blue earned wins on the fast and flowing passes through Harris Creek and Sandell wearing yellow took it in the tight and twisty Grimes Pass and Spanish Fork stages. Sandell finished the day in front and currently sits 8.2 seconds ahead of Higgins.
Third overall and first in the Limited 4wd class are Jeff Seehorn and Karen Jankowski. The pair recently installed a new higher performing suspension on their Subaru and got to test it for the first time on today's stages. The pair pulled an early 30 second lead on championship rivals Sam Albert and Michelle Miller after the day's first stage, the fast Harris Creek. Seehorn continued to pull time on the DirtFish crew throughout the day.
Third in the Limited 4wd class are Matt Dickinson and Daniel Piker, who capitalized on the mechanical troubles of the competition. Cameron Steely and Preston Osborn were the first to show issues; on Stage 2, before it's closure, their car's engine suffered a severe mechanical failure. The O.D.D. Racing drivers were forced to pull over and retire from the event. Travis Nease and Dan Norkus had a promising start to the rally, but lost boost on Stage 3, yielding fourth in L4wd to Krystian Ostrowski.
Brandon Semenuk and John Hall are showing the rally cars just how quick the newly introduced Side-by-Sides can be. The pair have run away with their class and sit fifth overall, splitting the Limited 4wd class cars of Sam Albert and Matt Dickinson in the overall standings.
The top 3 in Open2wd ended Saturday with less than a minute between them. Seamus Burke and Martin Brady of JRD Rallysport currently lead the class by 41.8 seconds. Keeping a tail happy car like the pair's V6 MKII Ford Escort in a tidy line is no small task. But Burke has, thus far, done the job of adapting his driving style to these tight roads.
Sitting second in the class are Oregon Trail Rally O2wd winner Jason Bailey and Chris Kremmer in their Ford Fiesta R2. The pair struggled through many of the long and uphill sections on Saturday, their car overheating slightly from the sustained throttle in low speed sections. Also having some mechanical troubles on Day 1 were Erik Potts and Claudia Barbera Pullen. The O2wd championship leaders suffered issues with their handbrake engaging, a tough situation with so many slow corners today. Despite the handbrake, the pair finished Saturday's stages third in O2wd, 11 seconds behind Bailey.
Positioned just 21.9 seconds back from Potts are Honda Maxxis HPD Rally Team drivers Jordan Guitar and Brian Penza. With his start from Idaho's first stage, Jordan Guitar has mathematically won the Limited 2wd class championship. That isn't stopping him from running a pace on par with the Open2wd classes.
For more information on Idaho Rally, please visit IdahoRally.org or AmericanRallyAssociation.org/IdahoRally.
Photo Credit: Tedrick Mealy