Idaho City, Idaho (September 17, 2018)
Patrik Sandell and Per Almkvist of Subaru Rally Team USA have won Idaho Rally International, their second win in two appearances this season. Sandell bested teammates David Higgins and Craig Drew by 24 seconds on the twisty and narrow Idaho stage roads. Jeff Seehorn and Karen Jankowski earned their fifth overall podium of the season with a third place finish.
“Absolutely perfect,” said Sandell of the weekend. “This one was a pure fight, a clean fight from the very first stage. I really enjoyed the first loop; from the very first stage we had a really good rhythm. We found a good setup for the car quickly and were able to drive the car from the rear, meaning I could slide quite a lot into every corner adjusting it with the handbrake. Very grateful to Subaru who gives me this opportunity between the rallycross events and I'm looking forward to Tour de Forest.”
Sunday at Idaho Rally saw competitors tackle 54 miles of tight and twisting stage roads. With no break of fast stages like on Saturday, Day 2 of Idaho was a slow, technical, and dusty trek over ridge lines and through gullies.
The tightest road on the ARA calendar, Sunday's challenging Meadow Creek stage was barely wider than the cars at points and contained more hairpin turns over its 9.6 mile length than many rallies have in total. Rotating the car around corners in such challenging conditions gave handbrakes a proper workout, and engines worked hard to climb to the rally's nearly 5000 ft peak elevation. Many vehicles overheated in the conditions and several more competitors suffered rally ending offs.
A thick dust caused by a lack of rain in the region played a key role in battles throughout the running order. The 5 minute gaps for the front runners on Saturday were reduced back to 3 for Sunday, meaning less time for dust to settle between drivers. A slight wind at mountain peaks helped move dust away from the racing surface at higher elevations. But down in the valleys, where the breeze was minimal, dust became trapped near the road and obscured vision on several stages
A note on Stage 8. The reverse run of Grimes Pass was still under a fire watch this morning after the previous day's incident. As a result, the stage could not be opened for its first running and was transited by competitors. Later in the afternoon, the watch was lifted and Grimes Pass South was run as Stage 11 for its scheduled second pass.
The reduced dust windows would give an advantage to Sandell who, having finished Day 1 with an 8 second lead, was reseeded to be first on the road for Sunday. The road position gave him an unobstructed sight line and Sandell worked throughout the day to maximize that advantage. Striking on the first stage of the day, Sandell tripled his lead to 26 seconds and extended it to 31.7 seconds before Sunday's midday service. Sandell would take one more stage win before a late push, and two stage wins, by Higgins reduced the margin of victory to 24.1 seconds.
Though the battle was lost for Higgins, the war has been won by him and Craig Drew in the #75 Subaru. With their second overall finish at Idaho, David Higgins and Craig Drew mathematically secured the 2018 ARA Championship. The title is their first in the American Rally Association and their seventh together in North American competition.
Seven competitors started in the national Limited 4wd class. Each faced some kind of adversity at Idaho and only two successfully finished the weekend.
Jeff Seehorn and Karen Jankowski earned their fifth overall podium of the season to stand on the third step of the a podium shared with both Subaru teams. Starting Idaho with strength, Seehorn put his newly upgraded Reiger suspension to work and opened a two and a half minute gap by Saturday's end. Starting Sunday morning with the option to back off and maintain the gap, Seehorn instead chose to push in pursuit of a different goal – measuring his new pace against the factory Subaru team. His closest deficit of 30 seconds came on Stage 11 with a dramatic save after Seehorn went wide and put 2 wheels down a ravine. Fortunately, he powered out of the off to finish the stage and the event with a victory in the L4wd class.
Second in the L4wd class were DirtFish Motorsports drivers Sam Albert and Michelle Miller. The pair had a tough Idaho weekend after a Saturday morning spent off the pace. The DirtFish drivers spent much of the day closing the gap to their newly upgraded rivals. But just as the gap started to close, Albert's car suffered a gearbox failure, leaving the team with only rear drive on the tightest stages of the day. Albert compared the car to a overpowered 150 percent scale BRZ during its final stages; large, overpowered, and tail happy. But managed to make it through the tight stuff without further issues to finish the event.
Other entries in L4wd suffered either mechanical issues or offs, showcasing the challenging nature of Idaho Rally. Travis Nease and Dan Norkus broke a ball joint on Stage 9 and pulled a half shaft out of a differential, stranding them. Matt Dickinson and Dan Piker had an off and rolled their car on Stage 12. Krystian Ostrowski and Michael Szewczyk did the same on Stage 10. Cameron Steely and Preston Osborn's rally early on Saturday when their engine failed on Stage 2.
The top 3 in the Open 2wd class started Sunday in a fierce 3 way fight for the lead. At the day's start, Seamus Burke and Martin Brady held a 40 second lead over Oregon Trail Rally winners Jason Bailey and Chris Kremer. While O2wd championship leaders Erik Potts and Claudia Barbera-Pullen held third position, a further 10 seconds back.
Despite fighting reduced power with Idaho's nearly 1 mile altitude, Burke managed steadily pull away from the group, stage after stage. The high-powered JRD V6-powered MKII Ford Escort also avoided digging down into the soft sand on the outside of many of yesterday's corners, a concern of the team heading into the day. With the threats and opposition managed, Burke extended his lead from 40 seconds in the morning, to 3 minutes 24 seconds by the rally's close. The O2wd class win, Burke's fifth in a row, thrusts him into the heart of the championship battle to within striking distance of the championship lead.
Jason Bailey and Chris Kremer began the day ready to fight after battling an overheating engine in their Fiesta R2 on Saturday. While their pace was stronger on Sunday, they just couldn't match the speed of Burke. Bailey's strategy shifted for the afternoon; the new goal, keep as close as possible and hope for a mistake on the end of Burke, but it never came. They maintained their second place position to finish the event while Potts continued to struggle in finding a rhythm, dropping out of the fight to maintain a third place position.
Limited 2wd class winners Jordan Guitar and Brian Penza with the Maxxis Honda HPD Rally Team had a strong performance this weekend in Idaho, finishing first in the class and splitting O2wd podium finishers Jason Bailey and Erik Potts in the overall standings. Guitar began Idaho on a high, earning a single point for the event start that secured his L2wd class championship. He then put on a drive to show that he earned it, matching stage times with Bailey throughout the day on Sunday.
A close battle developed in the Side-By-Side classes this weekend at Idaho. Brandon Semenuk and John Hall traded stage wins with Carl Marcum and Bryant Adams throughout the weekend, often finishing tests within a few seconds of each other. Semenuk claimed three wins on Sunday to Marcum's two and finished the event with a 53 second advantage. More impressively, the Side-by-Sides earned stage times comparable with the top Limited 4wd class rally cars of Jeff Seehorn and Sam Albert. Semenuk took the honor winning the inaugural Side-By-Side rally with ARA while he earned a fourth overall finish with Marcum took fifth.
Blake Lind and Tricia Lind secured the Naturally Aspirated 4wd class championship this weekend with their win at Idaho Rally. The husband and wife team fought a tough battle against Chris Caylor and Jennifer Caylor in the regional class, but managed to steadily increase their lead throughout the day to win the event.
With two championships yet to be decided, ARA readies for its season finale, the newly revived Tour de Forest Rally in Olympia, Washington. The event will feature over 100 miles of stage road not seen in many years. Follow the event on ARA and Tour de Forest social media starting October 6.
Photo Credit: Tedrick Mealy
About American Rally Association (ARA)
A member-driven organization dedicated to the sport of Stage Rally, the American Rally Association provides a transparent, inclusive, and growing sanctioning body to competitors throughout America. A 501 (c)(3) non-profit and wholly owned subsidiary of the United States Auto Club (USAC), ARA is led by seasoned Stage Rally professionals who work hand in hand with an experienced Board of Directors to deliver a framework for safety, competition, promotion, and education for all aspects of the sport. The common goal of our members, volunteers, and organization is a thriving Stage Rally program in America.