Shelton, Washington (April 27, 2019)
Oliver Solberg and Denis Giraudet of Subaru Motorsports USA lead DirtFish Olympus Rally after an exciting 8 stages and 74 stage miles. Solberg and Giraudet won an impressive 7 of the day’s 8 stages in a hard charge to solidify a 41.4 second lead over Subaru teammates David Higgins and Craig Drew. Championship leaders Piotr Fetela and Dominik Jozwiak round out the day’s top 3 7:40.4s back from second.
Today’s competition saw competitors tackle 74 miles of technical stage road in forests west of the logging town of Shelton, Washington. The day was broken into 3 stage loops, with service sessions in between. The toughest test of the day, the 18.65 Wildcat stage. The twistiest test of the rally, Wildcat often punishes uncontrolled driving. This year, the stage was ended early with a red cross due to two simultaneous crashes at different locations on the stage - both teams are ok.
But corners weren’t the only hazard on today’s stages, the road surface was a tire eater thanks to the sharply pointed chunks of gravel it was built from. Several of the front running teams felt the need to mount their onboard spare tires in between stages of a single loop to keep a proper pace; spares that are normally only needed to replace punctured tires.
After several big early shake ups in the running order, the Top 5 settled into their rhythms. The gaps between drivers changed throughout the day, but the positions have remained constant since Stage 3 of the rally.
The Top 5:
Oliver Solberg and Denis Giraudet pushed hard throughout Day 1 of DirtFish Olympus Rally. The high-risk drive has so far yielded high reward, as the pair took 7 wins out of the day’s 8 stages; most of those won by 2-3 seconds. But Solberg had some help in solidifying that lead. At the start of stage 7, the infamous Wildcat stage, Higgins only trailed Solberg by 11 seconds. At the finish, that lead increased by a factor of 4 to 38.9 seconds. Higgins lost brakes early on the stage and, in a stunning drive, the defending champion limited the damage to a mere 27 seconds on the most technical stage of the rally.
Current points leaders Piotr Fetela and Dominik Jozwiak hold the third podium step at the day’s close, 7 minutes 40 seconds behind the battle at the front. A spin early in the day put the Fetela Rally Team at an early disadvantage to the rally leaders, but still within contention for the podium spot. Since then, they’ve been managing their pace to maintain position and to keep the car in one piece.
Seamus Burke and Martin Brady are getting up to pace in their M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5. Their main challenge, building confidence in the braking performance of the World Rally Championship machine. The pair ended today’s second stage loop with a 1 minute 14 second deficit to Fetela, in third. But as the day went on, the McKenna Motorsport drivers began to gain time back. They ended the day holding fourth position 53 seconds behind third.
Team O’Neil drivers Dave Wallingford and Leanne Junnila have been driving a consistent rally and find themselves safely in fifth overall position to close out Saturday’s stages. 2 minutes 44 seconds behind fourth and 1 minutes 37 seconds in front of sixth.
The Limited 4WD Battle:
Matt Dickinson and Dan Piker of the El Diablo Rally Team lead the Limited 4WD class and sit seventh overall in a newly built Subaru WRX STI. The 2018 Tour de Forest Rally third overall finishers got up to speed with the new car quickly and found themselves in a tight fight with Cameron Steely and Preston Osborn of O.D.D. Racing.
The two teams fought for position during the day’s first two stages, trading seconds with each other. But the fight was broken up midway through the day due to a penalty against the 2007 Subaru WRX STI of Steely. With the gap opened by several minutes, it seemed as if Dickinson would easily hold the rally lead, but then the team started to suffer new build issues - shattered motor mounts and broken front axles leaving them with only rear drive.
The El Diablo team pressed on with a newly RWD Subaru, a driveline configuration that Dickinson has never driven competitively. Despite the issues, the team maintained their lead in the L4 class to finish the day 2 minutes ahead of the O.D.D. Racing machine.
Naturally Aspirated 4WD:
Blake and Tricia Lind of Primitive Racing own the NA4 class in their Subaru Impreza. The 2018 class champions have shown an impressive pace to punch above their weight and take sixth overall at the end of the day.
Dave Clark and Jamie Willets lead the O2 class by 1 minute 20 seconds at the end of Day 1 in their 1999 BMW M3. The pair took the class lead on Stage 1 and held onto it throughout the day. The pair battled an early challenge from the Maxxis Honda HPD team of Jordan Guitar and John Sharps before the Honda Civic drivers fell off the pace. Later in the day, Clark found himself in a battle against Erik Potts and Claudia Barbera in their supercharged BRZ.
Potts and Barbera had a tough first stage, falling back nearly a minute from the class leaders over the first 12 miles of the rally. The pair struck back on the next stage to take 6 seconds back from Clark. The two teams battled for the rest of the day, trading times through the rally’s second and third loops.
Holding third in O2 1 minute 15 seconds behind Potts are McKenna Motorsports drivers Keanna Erickson-Chang and Alex Gelsomino. The switch to a new team and the upgrade to a new car in the M-Sport Ford Fiesta R2 have brought a lot of changes, but the pair quickly found their pace.
Chase Hovinga and Glen Ray hold a 4 minute lead in the class in their Fiesta ST at the end of Day 1’s competition over Robert Sanders and John Dillon.
After taking a 1 second lead on Stage 1, Dayton, Barry McKenna and Leon Jordan suffered a big off on the day’s second stage. The pair are reported be OK, but are being examined by medical teams as a precaution. They will retire from the event, due to the damage their M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 Turbo has suffered.
Jeff Seehorn and Karen Jankowski of the AMSOIL Seehorn Rally Team started the day with an off on Stage 1. The impact damaged their rear suspension on their 2016 Subaru WRX STI and forced them to skip Stage 2, Stillwater. The team repaired the damage in time for today’s third stage loop unscored. They will official renter the rally tomorrow with a time penalty.
Another shakeup in the Limited 4WD class, Travis Nease and Rebecca Ruston suffered an engine failure on Stage 1 and were forced to retire. Likewise, Sam Albert and Krista Skucas were also forced to retire due to an engine issue.
DirtFish Olympus Rally will continue tomorrow morning at 9am Pacific. Tomorrow will be a day of endurance, as teams will take on 62 stage miles split into only 4 stages. The rally’s famous 20 mile Nahwatzel stage will be seen twice by teams on their way to the rally’s finish.
For full unofficial results from Day 1 of DirtFish Olympus Rally, go to americanrallyassociation.org/olympus-rally-results. And the ARA video recap from today is already live on FloRacing.com.
Photo Credit: Tedrick Mealy