Remember last season where every major class came down to the final event to decide the championship? Two of those titles came down to the final day, and one wasn’t sealed until the final stage. It was simply epic. There were some great battles between Ken Block and David Higgins all season long. David Sterckx overcame his mechanical issues from the previous year to take the championship in Super Production and Mason Moyle had his best season yet finishing second in the class. In 2wd Brendan Reeves showed us American’s how an Aussie slings a FWD Fiesta around the dirt and dominated the class, and his compatriot Will Orders debuted the amazing Nameless Performance GT-86 Toyobaru rally car that was in testing for a full 2014 season. Throw in added interest in rally cars with the Global Rallycross Championship being televised, and it seemed like things were going in the right direction for rally in the USA. Remember all that?
Unfortunately, something appears to be seriously going wrong in Rally America for 2014. Nothing has been made public, but there have been multiple teams stating that they will not be competing in the full 2014 Rally America Championship. The first news came from last seasons 2wd Champion, Brendan Reeves stating that he was unable to compete in the USA this year. That made sense as it would be hard to drum up the funds for both his USA and Australian campaigns for a second time. Australia wins out as they televise their rallies and he can probably get some sponsors on board there. Not long after hearing about Reeves’ dropping out Mason Moyle posted on Twitter and Instagram that he is selling his Super Production rally car that he competed in for 4 seasons. Mason wouldn’t say if he had some other plan for the 2014 season, but he is missing from the Sno*Drift entry list.
Will Orders said he was going to be at Sno*Drift which got me all excited, but then said it was only as support for FY Racing’s Adam Yeoman, and not competing. When asked about the previously promised 2014 GT-86 campaign, he simply said “Sorry to disappoint you, but the Nameless Performance 86 won’t be at many if any of the rally America events due to budget and a host of other reasons.”
Next on the Rally America’s no show list was the Hoonigan himself, Ken Block who officially stated today “While I really enjoyed being able to race the entire championship in 2013 and battle for the title, this year my schedule is busier and I’ve got a handful of events that I need to participate in due to sponsor requirements that conflict with Rally America rounds.” Ken said that he hopes to compete in 3 of the 8 planned events. Finally 2013 Super Production champion David Sterckx also posted this on his Facebook page “We are very disappointed to announce that we won’t be participating at the 2014 Rally America championship to defend our title. Rally and Subaru is our first love but we have to take a break and maybe different directions. We still will do one event this year The Oregon Trail Rally …”
So far as I can tell, the only drivers doing the full 2014 schedule right now are probably Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins and FY Racing’s Adam Yeoman in Open class. We may see Antoine L’Estage, but likely it will be on an event by event basis as to whether or not he has the financial means to compete. In Super Production we’ll see Lauchlin O’Sullivan and new to the class Dillon Van Way, but that’s probably it unless Evan Cline or Nick Roberts commit to a full season. In 2wd only Andrew Comrie-Picard’s Scion team looks to be doing the entire championship and likely someone for Team O’Neil.
So what happened? How did Rally America go from such a promising looking future to a series many deserted? We all know that rally is an expensive sport and hard to fund, but has Rally America made it to the point of being completely unattainable? Word on the street is that costs have been steadily increasing, or in fact doubling, for the national championship entries the last few years. My guess is whatever changes they made for 2014, it was the final nail in the coffin for teams that were barely affording it.
Let me finish with this though. It isn’t complete doom and gloom. Don’t think for one second that because all of these drivers and teams leaving the National Championship means rally events will be short of competitors. Oh, no, no, no my friend. The regional rally licenses and entry fees are far cheaper, so expect many drivers not going after a national title to still compete regionally. Here in the Pacific Northwest they’ve even added a new Cascadia International Rally Cup regional championship that combines regional events, Canadian Rally Championship events, and Rally America’s Oregon Trail. Expect some great battles at individual events, but its looking like the National Championship might be a bust.