Sandblast never fails to disappoint fans with drama, plenty of DNFs, and surprise winners. 2018 would be no different. The one day event on the sandy roads around Cheraw, South Carolina saw 36 cars start the race but only 22 finish. Unfortunately, an expected entry from Amanda Skelly in her rebuilt car named “Stitch” failed to materialize as last minute engine issues prevented the car from being ready in time. A last-minute entry from Barry McKenna in a Ford Escort MK2 energized a list of strong compeitors going for the overall win as he was expected to be one of the fastest. If one fast Escort MK2 wasn’t enough, Seamus Burke entered with his version which is modified with a Mustang V6 and was also expected to be at or near the top. 4WD entries from Patrick Brennan, Eric Wages, Arkadiusz (AKA Art) Gruszka and 2017 ARA Production Champion Denis Romero rounded out the top competitors.
In 2wd, the field was equally diverse. Chris Greenhouse in his SRT Neon, Gary DeMasi in the V8 Rally Ranger, a Porsche 914, a Honda Fit, a 1970s Mercedes 240 and a Can-Am Side By Side would all compete for 2wd trophies in the sand.
Saturday dawned cold and windy, and the recent rains had added some mud to the stages. Right away drama ensued. Chris Greenhouse experienced mechanical issues before SS1 start, and incurred 20 mins of penalties for illegal service to replace a drive shaft and late start. Gary DeMasi overshot the third turn, and hit a tree ending his event early. Bruckmann, Pena, Abero also suffered DNFs. Joeseph Burke would take the first stage win by 30s, with Brennan in 2nd, and Gruszka and Seamus Burke close behind.
Unfortunately, Joe Burke’s lead would last only a single stage, as he went off on Stage 2, ending his day. Patrick Brennan would take the stage and the rally lead, with Gruszka and Wages taking 2nd and 3rd in the stage.
Stage 3 would take out Patrick Brennan, but saw Barry McKenna with his first stage win, putting him in the overall lead where he would remain till SS6. Wages and Gruszka would trade positions till stage 6 as well, however SS3 would be the end for Almon, Felix, the Can-Am, Abt, and Grishin.
Stage 4 would take more competitors out. Seamus Burke, who has been holding 4th position, rolled his car, but impressively started back up and continued, only losing 40 seconds and taking 5th in the stage. But the damaged would slow him down and he dropped to 21st where he would remain till the finish.
Stage 5 would take out 5 more competitors, Stage 6 would take out McKenna and Seamus Burke, the two Escort MK2s, and impressively Chris Greenhouse would climb from a 20 minute penalty into the 2wd lead after fast times and making sure to finish every stage.
After the rally had weeded out half the entries, the final stages would be much more static. In the end, Gruszka/Sawicki would take the overall podium with Wages/Montplaisir +56s, and Romero/Romero 4 mins behind. In 2wd drive, Greenhouse/Norkus finished first, with Peterson/Clute +3:18 in second and Wlodardcysk/Carr in third.
If you missed it, be sure to check out our live streams from Parc Expose with Greenhouse and Stage 6 on our Facebook page
And see the full class results and more at NASA Rally Sport