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.
The 2019 edition of the American Rally Association Oregon Trail Rally was scheduled to get underway over a month later than its usual mid-April date. One wouldn’t think that in the span of just one month conditions would change that drastically. Yet, as I set out on recce, it was evident by the almost complete absence of wildflowers which normally line many of the stages in abundance, that something was different.
The 2019 Rally in the 100 Acre Wood marked my tenth trip to the rally held on the fast and flowing roads that intertwine the forests in the heart of Missouri around Salem, Steelville, and Potosi. I’ve witnessed many exciting moments during that time: from Travis Pastrana sliding sideways through the corner at my very first rally stage, to Crazy Leo flying over the cattle guard missing a front tire, Ken Block claiming his record 7th 100 Acre Wood victory and Fetela’s crazy wreck after sending it over the now aptly named Fetela’s Crest and that’s just to name a few. With the American Rally Association taking over the duty of running the event and a stacked entry list of over 80 cars, that included the debut of Petter Solberg’s son Oliver with Subaru Motorsports, last year’s ARA champions David Higgins and Craig Drew, Ken Block’s brand new Cossie V2, an AWD Chevy Sonic with a V8, and a whole cast of other exciting cars and drivers, this year was shaping up to be one of the most exciting years in recent memory.
The 2019 American Rally Association season got off to an early start with the late addition of Sno*Drift Rally in late January to the schedule. The short notice made it difficult for a few teams, including Subaru Motorsports and last year’s champions David Higgins and Craig Drew, to make the event, as they had already set their schedules and budgets for the year. That didn’t stop it from being an eventful one in the snow and ice of Michigan, with the Fetela Rally Team Ford Fiesta EVO taking home the victory.
The 2018 American Rally Association season has been an exciting one and New England Forest Rally was set to be no exception. Known for its jumps, kicks and big orange (painted) rocks, NEFR is almost always filled with drama and excitement. Last year, there was an extra dose of both as Travis Pastrana’s co-driver, Robbie Durant suffered a back injury on the first day and he continued on with a different co-driver on Day 2, stirring up some controversy as Pastrana took the victory after his Subaru Rally Team teammates Higgins and Drew suffered some bad luck.