Eminence, Missouri (February 3, 2019)
Michael Hooper and first-time co-driver Joe Vitrano won the inaugural Missouri Ozark Rally (MOR) this weekend in Missouri. The new-for-2019 regional event is part of the ARA East Region Championship and also kicked off the Eastern Ozark Rally Cup Series; a Missouri-based challenge organized by the 100 Acre Wood Performance Rally Group for competitors who take on MOR, 100 Acre Wood Rally, and Show-Me Rally.
Echo Bluff State Park in southern Missouri was the home for Saturday’s one-day regional event. Competitors tackled 48 stage miles divided into 4 tests with a single service in between. There was also a short, unscored, super special stage to start the day. An ideal shakedown for 100 Acre Wood, MOR saw competitors drive in similar conditions to next month’s national event - brisk, but not freezing, weather and clear skies.
The 100 Acre similarities extend further than the weather, though. The stage road at MOR was a former 100 Acre Wood Rally road from that event’s first iteration, Camp Zoe Road. Saturday’s event featured high speeds and numerous water crossings. And much like many classic rallies, MOR was run as as a blind event. Competitors did not have a recce session before setting off on the Shannon County Roads.
10 competitors started MOR in three competitive classes, 4 Naturally Aspirated 4WD (NA4), 3 Open 2WD (O2), and 3 Limited 2WD (L2); while 8 finished.
MOR was won by Michael Hooper and Joe Vitrano of River City Racing in Hooper’s O2 class Lexus IS350. Vitrano co-drove for the first time this weekend as the result of a charitable raffle. Hooper and River City Racing offered the co-driver spot at MOR during a raffle to benefit the Fanconi Anemia Research Foundation (FARF). A man named James Stettler won that seat and donated it to Vitrano, whose son is battling Fanconi Anemia. In all, fanconi.org raised over $2,000 to help treat and cure Fanconi anemia.
The team of Travis and Kendal Clark finished second overall and first in NA4 in their venerable Audi 4000. The team ran a fast day, with the exception of some trouble on Stage 4 where they lost about a minute.
Rounding out the podium at MOR were Andrew Ecker and Adam Hardin in an O2 Volkswagen Jetta. A battle between them and Ryan and Rachel Rethy for third overall developed after the Subaru of Rethy lost 3 minutes due to ingesting water at a water crossing on Stage 3. But Ecker and Hardin held them off to take the podium finish.
Full provisional scores for Missouri Ozark Rally can be found here.
The ARA National Rally Championship Presented by AMSOIL picks up on the heels of MOR next month at 100 Acre Wood Rally. There’s a lot to be excited for with that event. See you back in Missouri March 15-16.
Photo Credit: David Cosseboom