The American Rally Association, Presented by AMSOIL takes a look back the 2019 season and sits down with its five national champions to discuss their title run. First up, the overall championship team of David Higgins and Craig Drew.
Those simple words were used by Subaru Motorsports USA’s David Higgins and Craig Drew, respectively, when asked to wrap-up their 2019 American Rally Association, Presented by AMSOIL championship season.
The long-time partnership between the two men helped rewrite the history books on the United States rally scene. The duo has now won eight U.S. championships, with Higgins picking his tenth individual title this season.
Getting the latest notch on their belts wasn’t as smooth years past, and if the question of how their season was going were asked mid-season, the answers wouldn’t have been so, let’s say, cheerful.
The team raced in the final eight ARA National events in 2019, skipping the opening round of Sno-Drift in January, won by Piotr Fetela. Higgins and Drew would find podium success at 100 Acre Wood (third/Barry Mckenna won) and Olympus (second/Oliver Solberg won) but after four rounds they were still searching for their first win.
The break-through would come at the Oregon Trail Rally, where Higgins and Drew executed a near-flawless eight stages on Sunday to turn a 16-second lead into a 59-second victory over teammate Travis Pastrana. It marked the tenth win in 11 tries for Higgins at OTR.
“I feel really relieved,” said Higgins said in Oregon. “It was a tough few rallies going back to midway last year, even though we won the championship last year. Not winning (100 Acre Wood) was a bit of a wake-up call that we got to get back to business. We fought really, really hard to get this win and to make it my tenth, and ten out of 11 is amazing.”
Round five in Idaho stopped any chances of a winning streak for the Subaru team as issues on day one put him behind Jeff Seehorn and then an uncharacteristic mistake by Higgins push his Subaru off-the stage road just two miles to the finish, leaving them off the podium for the first time all season.
With four rounds remaining, Higgins and Drew went to work, knowing wins would be important in the championship chase that including Fetela, McKenna and Solberg. They notched back-to-back wins at NEFR and Ojibwe, enough to set them up for their second straight championship.
“Very glad to have win number three in the books,” Higgins said after the win at Ojibwe. “We built a good lead and kept the car clean, so really a great rally. From here we’ve got a solid lead going into the last two events of the year, so we’ll stay focused and try to get the job done next month in Pennsylvania.”
With two rounds left, Higgins and Drew were able to lock into championship mode, keeping the car under them while still running fast. Solberg proved fastest at STPR in September, but Higgins and Drew finished second for their sixth podium of the season, and in the process, gained enough points to clinch the title.
“This weekend was very much a championship drive for us,” said Higgins. “Oliver had good pace and we knew we had a chance to lock up enough points to secure the title this weekend so made the choice to drive safely and get the job done. Now we can relax and go flat out at the last event next month, try to end the season on a high note.”
At the ARA finale, Higgins and Drew ditched all thoughts of being conservative as they looked for their fourth win of the season. LSPR didn’t go as planned, as a win eluded the newly crowned champions, and mechanical issues forced the number one car to an early retirement.
“It’s disappointing not to end the season with the performance we wanted, especially here at LSPR where we’ve won in the past, but I’m very proud to have earned my tenth title,” said Higgins after the event on Subaru.com. “We put together strong events when we needed to, and lots of credit to Craig and the rest of the team for all their hard work this year as well.
Higgins tenth U.S. championship wasn’t his easiest, in large part to the competition in his rear-view mirror. McKenna capitalized on a strong second half of the season to finish second overall and Solberg picked up three wins in his rookie season to finish third overall. Fetela led the field for much of the season before finishing fourth and Cameron Steely made his mark in the Open class by coming in fifth.
The 2020 American Rally Association, Presented by AMSOIL season begins January 24-25 in Atlanta, Mich. at the historical Sno-Drift rally.