The sixth round of the Rally America National Championship, the Ojibwe Forests Rally held in Detroit Lakes, MN, sun and strong winds greeted 46 teams ready to tackle the narrow, sandy and extremely technical forest roads.
Hoonigan Racing’s Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino dominated from start to finish at the Ojibwe Forests Rally in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota on August 23-24th, finishing first overall. This is the first career Ojibwe Forests Rally victory for Block and his third straight overall win in the Rally America National Championship. Block drove a relatively uneventful race and enjoyed being first on the road, not having to deal with dust ahead of him. The other teams were not as lucky as dust was at times so thick that many competitors stated they were “just driving the notes”. Block pushed hard from the moment he began the rally, quickly establishing his lead and finishing 5:33.2 over second place Subaru Rally Team USA.
Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins and Craig Drew had a chance to lock up the Rally America title, but battled through blinding dust on the first day. A very scary moment occurred on the second day when Higgins lost power steering and injured his hand, which painfully prevented him from shifting the car smoothly. While attempting to fix the steering issue along the route a vehicle rolled over Higgin’s ankle, Higgins was in noticeable pain as he walked around service with a noticeable limp. Even after injuring his hand and being run over Higgins jumped right back into the driver’s seat and pressed on to a hard fought second place podium spot.
As usual the top two Ojibwe finishers were powerful all-wheel-drive Open Class rally cars, however a surprising Two-Wheel Drive (2WD) Ford Fiesta R2 took the third podium position. Australian’s Brendan Reeves and Rhianon Smyth drove a prefect race and capitalized on the misfortunes of other competitors to land on the overall podium in addition to winning the 2WD class in the process. This is Reeves and Smyth’s fourth consecutive 2WD victory. “We came here to win; we don’t want to settle for second best,” said Reeves.
The 2WD podium was a mix of manufactures with the Dodge Neon SRT4 of Chris Greenhouse and co-driver Peter Watt taking second place, and the Scion Racing Rally xD’s Andrew Comrie-Picard and Jeremy Wimpey finishing third. Greenhouse and Comrie-Picard traded positions multiple times throughout the event; however Greenhouse was able to drive a clean race whereas Comrie-Picard dealt with flat tires and a rollover.
In the Super Production (SP) Class, local Minnesota resident Nick Roberts took his first ever class win in his rookie season with new co-driver, Steve Quin. Roberts is a candidate for Rally America’s Rookie of the Year and this class win only strengthens his bid. “It’s pretty cool and surreal to win Super Production,” added Robert, “I went into the rally only expecting to battle for third place. But the team kept me going and I just hung in there. I keep pinching myself.” Longtime 2WD driver Dillon Van Way with co-driver Andrew Edwards surprised the spectators with a move to the SP Class at Ojibwe, this would be the first time VanWay competed in an AWD car and finished only 19.7 seconds behind Roberts. The youngest driver in the event, Mason Moyle with co-driver Ryan Scott, took SP third place for his fourth podium finish this season, Moyle continues to hold a second place position in the SP standings.
Numerous well known national competitors had misfortunes this past weekend, the Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team’s Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard entered with a new Subaru rally car and held third overall until an electrical failure prevented the car from starting at stage 9. Indonesian driver Rifat Sungkar with co-driver Steve Lancaster suffered a head gasket problem on the second day that put them out of sixth place overall. Attrition struck the SP Class when current SP points leaders David Sterckx and Karen Jankowski blew their engine on stage 1. After replacing the engine an overnight, the team reentered the second day and finished tenth overall and 4th in SP. 2012.
Michigan drivers Henry and Cynthia Krolikowski won the Paul Bunyan’s Ride and 10,000 Lakes Regional Rallies. Michigan drivers seemed to have a rather good weekend as Samir and Rachelle Kaltak took home the Open Light class win for both the Paul Bunyan’s Ride and 10,000 Lakes Regional Rallies. Team Honda Research engineer James Robinson with co-driver James Guitar took a sixth consecutive B-Spec Championship win in their 2009 Honda Fit. Group 5 saw the GMC Sonoma of Steve Brockelman and Dustin Master take the win for both events, while fan favorite Volkswagen Beetle of Mark and John Huebbe took home the Group 2 win for the regionals.
Like many of the national teams a number of regional teams had their weekend cut short by mechanical failures, the Poor Boy Racing #661 Impreza of Kevin Young and James Dallman held a strong third place position in class throughout Friday, however at the start of the second day Kevin noticed the car was not producing the power nor running as smoothly as it should, in order to prevent further damage, the team decided to withdraw thus ending their push to podium. The fan favorite #789 Ford Festiva of Zach and Kyle Williams had some misfortunes as well, from their service vehicle overheating due to a blown head gasket, to a mechanical failure on Stage1 of the event, the Williams brothers rally did not go as planned.