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 is the final part in a three part series as I look back on the last ten years of experiences at Rally in the 100 Acre Wood.
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.
Craig Drew is the reigning American Rally Association champion and one of the most successful co-drivers in U.S. rally history. Sitting alongside David Higgins for Subaru Motorsports USA, he has captured eight championships and many rally wins, including an unprecedented fourteen consecutive wins and a perfect season in 2015. Craig has recently launched a series of online co-driver training courses on his website craigdrew.com.
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 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.
The 2019 American Rally Association New England Forest Rally would be one for the record books. Record heat swept across Maine and on Saturday, the all-time hottest temperature for that day was set at 3 AM. It got hotter from there and the longest day of the rally, felt even longer. Rally teams took measures to combat the heat, buying up all the dryer venting they could, in an attempt to route more air into the cabin of the cars and cool down the driver and co-driver. The insects sure didn’t mind the heat, in fact they seemed to thrive in it. Even after multiple applications of bug spray containing high doses of DEET, they swarmed all around me. I have to say, Maine has one of the largest varieties of insects I have ever seen. Mosquitos, many types of flies, bees, ticks, beetles (including a strange white and black water beetle), a fuzzy spider that was at least 4 inches wide hanging out half on a rock and half in the river and many others, too numerous to count were all spotted. It was so hot that I didn’t mind when I slipped on a rock and splashed into a river and, I may have even contemplated wading out into the river just to cool down.
Mike Lovejoy is a Delivery Specialist at Baxter Subaru and the co-driver for the RedFogo Racing Team. Along with driver Jovan Kelsey, they completed their first-ever rally at the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood earlier this year. I sat down with Mike, as they get Bender The Rally Car ready for their next event to talk a bit how he got into rally, his experiences competing in his first rally, his love for Subaru, and what’s next.
Karen Jankowski is an accomplished co-driver and has competed in over 100 rallies. Karen’s career to date has included 5 national championships and 5 overall wins. In 2018, Karen and Jeff Seehorn were American Rally Association Class Champions and challenged for the overall championship. Karen alongside Joseph Burke also won the 2018 Rally America Lake Superior Performance Rally. For the 2019 ARA Oregon Trail Rally, Karen switched seats and took on the role of driver, where she and co-driver Matt James, were able to get their Dodge Caliber SRT across the finish line, which is no small feat. Karen took the time to sit down with iheartfast and answer some questions about her rally experiences.