Rally is back! After months without rally due to the Covid pandemic, the American Rally Association Southern Ohio Forest Rally was the first national event since Sno*Drift way back in January. Well we’ve talked about the National competition over in part 1, so let’s jump right into the Regional competition which featured a healthy field of 29 entries.
Hello and welcome back! It’s been awhile and we’ve missed you all. Rally is back and what a welcome back it was at the American Rally Association Southern Ohio Forest Rally. Initially set to run in early June, the event was postponed until this last weekend, the middle of July, right as the heat and humidity of the midwestern summer hit its peak. With the high temperatures in mind a decision was made to not start the event until dark was setting in and run it well into the early hours of the morning, harkening back to the older days of rally. Running the event in the middle of the night also helped to enforce that no spectators were allowed in order to comply with social distancing regulations put in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was going to be a test of both human and machine on the extra long stages through the forests of Ohio in the sweltering darkness. To add to the challenge, a rain storm popped up just as the event was about to start, greatly cutting down the amount of dust, but making the twisty roads slippery and treacherous.
Alex and Rhianon Gelsomino are arguably the most experienced co-driver couple in the world. They both have competed in rallies all over the globe, with over 50 WRC and more than 450 total rally events between them. They have competed alongside a host of great drivers over the years, including Ken Block, Brendan Reeves (who is also Rhianon’s brother), Ryan Millen, Will Hudson, Gus Greensmith, Bucky Lasek, Nick Roberts and many many others. A few years ago they started OZ Rally Pro offering rally training to drivers and co-drivers and just recently began offering online training. They also recently joined the Open Paddock Rally Podcast for a fun chat, make sure to check that as well.
This spot was supposed to be reserved for a recap of the 2020 American Rally Association Rally in the 100 Acre Wood, but with the coronavirus, COVID-19, running rampant through our communities, events are being cancelled all over the globe, including this one. The news came just a week before the event was to take place, at a time that the NBA, NHL, WRC, NASCAR, and even Formula 1 were also cancelling and postponing events. While it’s definitely disappointing, it’s the right call, the socially responsible call and hopefully this will all blow over soon. In the meantime, let’s take the opportunity to look back on the last ten years. 100 Acre Wood was my first rally experience and one I’ve attended every year since, so it holds a special place for me, filled with many memories.
Once again, the American Rally Association National Championship season begins on the snow and ice covered roads around Atlanta, MI at the appropriately named Sno*Drift Rally. Last year the temperatures dipped well below zero, adding another element to the challenge of the event. Conversely this year, nature decided to show some compassion and provided much milder weather, with temperatures even rising above the freezing point for much of Saturday. However, snow was still on the menu as the first stages got underway Friday night.
The new year brought with it the start of a new decade, a new rally season and a big announcement from last year’s ARA champions. With the first event of the season, Sno*Drift, just a few weeks away, Craig Drew released a huge announcement. David Higgins and himself would not be returning with Subaru to defend their crown in 2020. The announcement marked the end of an era for the duo with Subaru Motorsports USA. An era that resulted in 10 championships for Higgins and 8 for Drew. With Oliver Solberg most likely heading to the WRC for the season, this leaves both Subaru seats open for 2020. As of this time, there has been no official announcement as to who will be behind the wheel for Subaru Motorsports USA. However, I am fairly confident we will be seeing a rather large dose of a familiar face (Travis Pastrana) behind the wheel of one of the Subaru cars.
Michael Hooper is the driver of the always exciting Lexus IS350 rally car, Beverly, part of the River City Rally Team. Michael was the NASA 2015 Atlantic Cup 2WD Champion, the 2016 Rally America East Coast Champion and the 2018 Rally America 2WD National Champion. He is a family man and engineer looking to balance rallying as fast and competitively as possible within the boundaries and responsibilities of day to day life.
The 2019 American Rally Association National Championship season would come to a close amidst the colorful autumn foliage of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at the Lake Superior Performance Rally. David Higgins and Craig Drew had already wrapped up another championship for Subaru Motorsports USA at the previous event, STPR, so the focus shifts to the battle for second place. Barry McKenna and Piotr Fetela enter LSPR tied for 2nd, while the rookie phenom, Oliver Solberg, was well within striking distance and should things go awry for those 3, Cameron Steely was mathematically still in the hunt.
Al Dantes Jr. is the driver of the #50 car, an RX-7 named Rexine, with the Tower City Race Team. He has been involved in rally for over 20 years as a volunteer, driver and even taking on the role as the on-camera talent for American Rally Association. Al will be competing in his home rally at Lake Superior Performance Rally based in Houghton in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in just over a week.