The best description I’ve heard of the 2015 Rally in the 100 Acre Wood with its varying conditions and grip levels was a gravel version of Rally Monte Carlo. Monte Carlo is well known for on a single stage for drives to go from dry pavement to ice to snow and back to try pavement again. At the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood it isn’t much different. Tire choice was critical as up and down the paddock teams were saying that at some points they would have really good grip from frozen gravel, but then hit some glare ice that sends the car flying.
Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew unsurprisingly led the entire event. It wasn’t without their own challenges though as they were just as worried about their tires as everyone else. As you may recall, studded tires are not allowed on Rally America events, so even though ice tires are typically the safest choice, once you get on the icy and chunky gravel the soft compound starts to shred apart. Other teams complained of melted mud caking up inside their wheels and re-freezing causing all kinds of issues.
The day began on the short Super Special in Potosi. This is probably the most iconic Super Special on the calendar as it has the notable “Pastrana Culvert” where Travis ripped off the suspension of his Subaru after leading the event years ago. As we’ve said many times before, you can’t win a rally on a Super Special, but you can always lose one! Fans can see the entire course from various vantage points and did there best to stay warm in the frigid conditions.
8 more stages covering 50 stage miles followed the Super Special and the order of the day was survival. Unfortunately not many achieved that goal. On the second stage both Super Production front runners, Lauchlin O’Sullivan and Nick Roberts were out. Both had to take massive time penalties to super-rally again today. Nick ran into an electrical issue with his new car and lost throttle control (I bet he wished for the old days of a throttle cable!). O’Sullivan apparently slipped on an icy patch and hit a tree breaking his radiator and wasn’t able to continue without seriously damaging the engine.
2014 2wd Rally America Champion and Team O’Neil driver Andrew Comrie-Picard also ran into issues on the second stage, breaking a tie rod on his 2014 Fiesta ST. He was able to repair it on stage, but lost almost 20 minutes. He was the favorite to win the 2wd class, but now will be fighting just to make it onto the podium.
FY Racing’s Brenten Kelly told Rally America Radio that on the second pass with the night stages, he was hoping that his headlights would help him see better where the glare ice was which worked on some of the stages, but not on others. Some of the corners that previously gave great grip had become slippery, and others that on the first pass were slippery had re-froze and become grippy again.
David Sterckx said he skipped the Sno*Drift rally because he doesn’t like racing in the snow. Although he was unable to avoid the weather, Sterckx currently sits in 2nd overall after FY Racing’s Adam Yeoman had an oil fire that took him out of the event completely.
Below are the standings after day one’s nine stages.
As you can see, 2wd is where the closest battle remains with Troy Miller and Steven Harrell leading Cameron Steely and Preston Osborn by a mere 1.4 seconds! Today the event continues with another 75 miles in stages, and snow is falling! Remember to follow today’s action on Twitter via @Rally_America, @openpaddock, @oregonwings, @100aw, @Official_iRally and hashtags #100aw, #usrally, #ra2. Also make sure to tune into Rally America Radio for driver interviews.