2020 Ojibwe Forests Rally – Battle Royale Edition

2020 Ojibwe Forests Rally Review

By Mike Shaw  and David Cosseboom

Minnesota, the home to 10,000 lakes, mosquitoes as big as your head, enough poison ivy to make you itch just thinking about it and the third round of the 2020 American Rally Association National Championship series.  The Ojibwe Forests Rally is typically one of the later events in the schedule, but with the Covid shortened season of 2020, it became just the second two day rally of the year and with only two events remaining it’s importance had never been greater.  Barry McKenna had captured victories at both Sno*Drift and Southern Ohio Forest Rally and with a devastating fire cutting short Travis Pastrana’s day at SOFR, a win is a must if he has any chance of challenging for the title.

The Ojibwe Forests Rally is no stranger to close competition.  In fact it was here in 2017, the inaugural year of the American Rally Association, that one of the closest championship battles in American rallying history took place.  In that dramatic event it came down to the final two street stages to decide which Subaru driver, Pastrana or David Higgins, would be crowned as the first ARA National Champion.  The 2020 edition of Ojibwe continued that trend of close competition, but instead of it being just between two teammates at the front, there were close battles throughout the field of 48 entries in both National and Regional classes.   

As we said in our preview article, the roads are fast, flowing, and very much like Finland with little room for error.  With regular changes from high speed to tight and twisty sections meant teams would need perfect notes and co-drivers constantly on their game.  Although the roads are mainly smooth, there is potential for the stages to rut up quickly because of the soft sandy soil, and as with most events in the dry summer months, blinding dust can be an issue as well.   A rain storm earlier this year had brought 12 inches of rain, all at once, causing wash outs along the sides of many of the roads, making the narrow roads even narrower.  So narrow, in spots, that a car could barely pass.

The morning of the first day greeted competitors with a nice dousing of rain.  Not too much, just enough to bind the soil together and prevent dust issues, meaning the first car on the road would no longer have an advantage.  The role of official “road sweeper” was granted to Subaru Motorsports USA’s young new talent, Brandon Semenuk after the previous day’s seeded draw for the drivers with the top three speed factors.  Championship leader Barry McKenna would start second with Semenuk’s teammate, Travis Pastrana third on the road.  Most teams fell into order based on speed factor from there, but with one interesting alteration.  After completing the shakedown test stage on Wednesday, O.D.D. Racing co-driver Preston Osborn requested that his young driver Andre D’orazio not be started at the very tail end of the field even though this was his first rally.  The organizers agreed after seeing the test stage times moving him up 8 spots to start 40th.

The event began with the famed 10 mile Crossroads stage which is one of the more technical roads in the loop and normally includes the iconic “Red Bull Jump.”  The jump was there, but sadly no Red Bull arch and of course with current restriction, no spectators to watch the teams get serious air either.  Thankfully there were still several photographers on hand to capture the moment, as the rally got off to a flying start.  

So that the spectators, who would normally fill the forests of the rally, could follow along with the action from home, the Ojibwe Forests Rally organizers, with sponsorship help from Cooper Tire, set up a live stream from a point on every stage.  It was an ambitious undertaking that has not been attempted at an ARA event before.  Although not all the cameras functioned as hoped, most of them did, and laid the groundwork for improved live streaming at future events.  

Day 1 National

#199 Subaru Motorsports USA’s Travis Pastrana and Rhianon Gelsomino

With all the pressure on, it was Subaru’s Travis Pastrana with new to the team co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino, that took first blood.  They won the first stage by a whopping 22.9 seconds over Barry McKenna and Leon Jordan who once again opted to put their #2 on the side of their R5 based Skoda Fabia instead of their usual Ford Fiesta WRC to battle the Subarus.  That’s more than two seconds per mile!  Although it was much closer on the second stage, the #199 Subaru came out with another stage win extending their lead to 26.6 second. Despite a puncture, teammates Brandon Semenuk and John Hall in the #180 Subaru were just another 13.8 seconds back.  Barry and Leon responded by winning the remaining 4 stages of the day, but it was tough to gain any significant ground leaving them with a deficit of 19.2 seconds at the end of the first day of competition.  

Pastrana attributed his first day lead to two things, first he ‘took the bait’ from McKenna who told him they should both go flat out from the start, and secondly acknowledged the time he and Rhianon did preparing for the event.  “I’ve never spent so much time going over stages in my life!” The late nights of allowed the new driver / co-driver pair to be able to “come out and do ten tenths” right from the start of the first stage.

#180 Subaru Motorsports USA’s Brandon Semenuk and John Hall

Brandon said that although he lost a fair amount of time on SS2 due to the puncture, he got into a good rhythm and was decently happy with his performance being first car on the road. “Roads are unreal here! So fun! Leg two was a lot better. There were some ruts to throw the car into so we were able to carry a little more speed and get some better stage times.” 

#689 McKenna Motorsport’s Ryan Booth and Nick Dobbs

Ryan Booth and recent co-driver addition Nick Dobbs proved to be the best of the rest in their #689 McKenna Motorsport Fiesta R5.  After their success at Rally Colorado, Nick was keen to fight with the leaders “I came into Friday’s stages feeling prepared and calm and we were able to get into a good rhythm. With Friday’s times, I was holding onto hope of catching Brandon and John.”  And they did beat them on a couple of stages, albeit after Brandon got a puncture near the end of SS2.  By the end of Day 1, Booth and Dobbs had an average speed less than 1 MPH slower than Semenuk and Hall.

#56 Seehorn Rally Team’s Jeff Seehorn and Matt James

Another battle we were keen to follow over the course of the weekend was that of Piotr Fetela and Jeff Seehorn.  The two have been known to trade stages at other events even though they have wildly different machinery. Fetela runs a Polish “Proto” Fiesta which looks a lot like the RC2 class cars, but built more affordably and therefore are a bit slower. Meanwhile Seehorn has upgraded what was his championship winning Limited 4WD Subaru into an Open Class machine by removing weight and adding power. Although stage times between the two were close, the back and forth we were hoping for didn’t quite materialize.  Piotr and co-driver Aris Mantopoulos bested Seehorn on 5 of the day’s 6 stages leaving a gap of 18 seconds for the Amsoil crew to make up going into Day 2.

“Car is more sorted out and handles and feels amazing over last year’s setup, but it’s still running a tad hot and down a little on power. Matt is on queue and the notes are great.  Just going to try and focus on our notes tomorrow and try and nail every corner. Hopefully the changes we made tonight will keep the car cooler on stage.” – Jeff Seehorn

#94 Fetela Rally Team’s Piotr Fetela and Ari Mantopoulos

“We are very pleased with our result today. Our plan is to maintain our pace and rhythm through some of the faster stages tomorrow. We are looking forward to a good fight!” – Piotr Fetela

#25 Seamus Burke and Martin Brady

Open 2WD had several heavy hitters as well, but was missing one key contender.  Unfortunately, at the last minute, Michael Hooper withdrew from competition.  However Seamus Burke, Chris Greenhouse, and Gary Smith in the McKenna Motorsport Fiesta R2 would make for some stiff competition. Seamus’ co-driver, Martin Brady was anxious to get back to their winning ways after a second place at SOFR.  “We will miss Hooper & Claudia here this weekend.  However, coming out of Colorado I know Gary Smith is very fast and getting faster.  When a stage was twisty on day two of Colorado he came into his skills and posted great times, and we expect more of the same here. Greenhouse too was “flying” in Ohio. I hope we can be in his slipstreams or a touch ahead but that won’t be easy!” 

Seamus proved quick as a bunny right out of the gate and gapped Greenhouse and  by 30.1 seconds after just the first loop. Chris Greenhouse and Ryan Scott were able to put in a storming performance on SS4 and claw back 8.8 seconds, but then the Irishmen turned up the wick again winning the next two stages to end the day with a 26.3 second lead.  Gary Smith and Ken Quirke dropped 3 minutes to the class leaders in just the first loop. 

“Yea, I was asleep at the wheel on the 1st loop, got into a rhythm on the 5th stage and was still building in the 6th. I really like tomorrow’s stages, gonna push hard on them!” – Gary Smith

The Limited 4WD class saw the return of El Diablo Racing’s #489 of Matt Dickenson who we haven’t seen since LSPR last year.  It didn’t take him long to get back up to speed with a 9th overall opening stage, but then smoke filled the cockpit near the end of SS2 and they retired for the day to investigate what went wrong. A torn CV boot that splattered grease onto the hot turbo ended up being the culprit and they would return for Saturday’s stages.

#26 GoSpeed Racing’s Robert Sanders and Boyd Smith

Robert Sanders and Boyd Smith in the #26 GoSpeed Racing Subaru continued their improvements on pace setting top 10 times by the end of the day and led the L4WD class. Hammerbeck Racing’s George Hammerbeck was pleased with improvements they made to one of the more unusual cars in the class, a BMW 335xi. 

“We are keeping a safe pace ahead of the 3rd place in class.  The car feels good, and the new brakes are holding up!” – George Hammerbeck

In that L4WD 3rd position was CPD Racing’s Scott Putnam in the #902 Subaru. Usually this car runs with number 90 on the side with Scott as the co-driver. This year however it was Scott himself driving, with his son Spencer Putnam calling the notes. They almost didn’t make the start as Scott was recovering from an accident on his bicycle where he hurt his wrists. 

#884 O.D.D. Racing’s Andre D’Orazio and Preston Osborn

Remember that newcomer Andre D’Orazio we mentioned earlier? He drove the #884 O.D.D. Fiesta to a 13th fastest time…overall…on the very…first…stage! It’s no wonder Preston was concerned about the start order! SOFR class winners Ryan Sanders and Oliver Smith of GoSpeed Racing would have been favorites to win the class, but a critical mistake on recce caused the team serious problems.

“Halfway through Stage 1 [on recce], we made a left instead of a straight and wrote miles of notes on a non-stage road. So our notes for Stage 1 were non-existent. Then on Stage 2 some other mistakes were made on my part, as I got tired I would call lefts and rights backwards, and I missed some things. So we were left running without notes for stages 1&2 and 4&5.” – Ryan Sanders

At the end of Day 1, D’Orazio was leading the class by 46.9 seconds and was sitting an impressive 14th overall in national.

Day 1 Regional

Regionals often get cast aside with most rally coverage, but here at Open Paddock we strive to get as many stories as we can, and some of the best come from the regional classes.  In fact it was the regional overall battle that proved to be the closest and most dramatic of the entire rally weekend. It was so close in fact, that it deserves a bit of a stage by stage play by play. 

#660 Chuck Surdyke and Cameron Carr

SS1:  Chuck Surdyke and Cameron Carr in the #660 NA4WD Subaru win the stage, but only by a mere one second over the father daughter team of #12 NA4WD of Steve and Katie Gingras. Kevin Allen and Elizabeth Cordara in their #330 Subaru follow in 3rd just 0.5 seconds back. So a 1,2,3 for the NA4WD Subarus. Although, just 4.5 seconds behind that was Tower City Race Team’s #50 Al Dantes Jr. in the LS swapped Rexine Open 2WD car. 

SS2:  The lead changes with Gingras taking the stage win and the lead followed by Surdyke +3.2 seconds and Allen +6.4 seconds. Dantes slips to 9.4 seconds back with the #16 classic 1974 Ford Capris of Mike Hurst and Jeremy Wimpy breathing down Dantes’ neck just 7.4 seconds behind.

SS3:  Another lead change, but only just! Going into the first service Surdyke and Gingras are effectively tied. It’s now 0.3 seconds between the two with Allen now just 3.2 seconds back. Hurst gained on Dantes reducing that gap to just 3.7 seconds. The pair of Open 2WD entrants are still just 20 seconds off the overall.

#330 RallyCats Moterspurtz Kevin Allen and Liz Cordara

SS4:  How about another lead change? This time it’s Kevin Allen in the top spot overall with the biggest single stage gain of the top group so far at 13.3 seconds over Steve Gingras. The overall lead is now an even 10 seconds with Surdyke sliding to 3rd overall 18.1 seconds back. And now added to the mix is…what’s this? The L2WD entry of Chase Hovinga and Colin Katagiri jumping up to 4th overall in the #662 Fiesta ST. Hurst overtakes Dantes leading the class by 14.9 seconds.

SS5:  You guessed it, another lead change! Gingras goes back into the front, but hits a big embedded rock on stage and has to drive with the steering wheel nearly upside down! The setting sun also becomes a challenge with some drivers having to come nearly a stop to see. Hovinga takes the stage win, but Gingras holds on to the overall.  It’s now Steve and Katie Gingras followed by Kevin Allen +5.4 seconds and Chuck Surdyke +9.5 seconds. Hovinga is now just 2.9 seconds behind the NA4WD entrants. Hurst extends his lead over Dantes to 20.5 seconds.

#662 Chase Hovinga and Colin Katagiri

SS6:  Day 1 ends without another lead change, but it’s the little Fiesta ST with Hovinga behind the wheel that takes yet another stage win moving them into 2nd overall, just 3.2 seconds behind Gingras. Surdyke is still in spitting distance +6.4 overall and Allen now +19.3 seconds overall. Hurst was second fastest on the stage, now just 8.3 seconds behind Allen. 

In addition to the bent control arm from the rock, Gingras had a bad U-Joint in their driveshaft. In true rally camaraderie fashion, his closest competitor in class Chuck Surdyke lends him his spare driveshaft. Additionally, well known mechanic “Whiskers” from CPD racing dropped by to lend a hand in with the repairs. 

Day 2 National Overall

The famed causeway road on Height O’Land stage

The second day of competition saw the return of two iconic Ojibwe stages, Strawberry Mountain with crest after crest after crest into a section that runs lakeside, and Height of Land, considered by some to be the best rally stage in the United States and features a beautiful section of road that runs between two lakes.  Pastrana picked up right where he left off, now the first car out, adding nearly five seconds to his lead over McKenna on the first stage of the day and he wouldn’t let up on the gas through the first loop of stages, extending their lead to nearly a minute.  Semenuk was still sitting in third, but now had a comfortable lead over Ryan Booth’s R5.

Up close and personal with the #199 Subaru WRX STI

The second loop would be more of the same, until SS12 when Pastrana would give up some ground due to a puncture. This allowed Semenuk to capture his first ever ARA stage win.  The #199 Subaru of Pastrana would go into the final loop of stages with a nearly insurmountable lead of 43 seconds with just two stages remaining. 

At the final service Pastrana said “Through the ruts I’m just not as strong of a driver. I like to make my own lines and get a really good drive off the corner by setting it up. As it gets ruttier and rockier a lot more can happen, but we’re right where like to be right now.”

#2 McKenna Motorsport’s Barry McKenna and Leon Jordan

That wouldn’t stop McKenna from pushing in his Skoda while Pastrana would undoubtedly back off a bit so as to not make any major mistakes.  And McKenna did push, cutting over 20 seconds out of Pastrana’s lead, but it wasn’t enough. Pastrana and Gelsomino would capture a much needed victory to get them finally in the hunt for the Championship.

Travis Pastrana was happy with the weekend’s achievement

“So stoked to get back on the top of the podium…since this race in 2017! It’s going to be a good team going forward. Definitely miss having David Higgins to A chase, but B to help with car setups and all that. Brandon knows a lot more about cars than I do and we’ve been working together.  We’ll do the best we can as a team and are going to build on this. Brandon is definitely quick and we’ll hopefully get our two Subaru’s on top together soon.” — Pastrana.

This was also co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino’s first ever overall win in the ARA.  This adds another notch in the belt for one of America’s most experienced co-drivers who’s achievements include over 150 rally starts, 22 in the WRC, and overall wins in Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, and now the USA with the American Rally Association Championship.   

Co-Driver Rhianon Gelsomino achieved her first ever overall win in the USA

“After spending the last 15 years traveling all over the world rallying, it’s great to finally have the opportunity to work with Subaru Motorsports USA and driver Travis Pastrana to win the Ojibwe Forests Rally. Travis and I worked extremely hard for this win and I am very proud of both of our efforts. Travis was very open to the new ideas I brought to him and willing to learn and progress to develop further. We made a great team and I can’t wait for the next event!”

Barry McKenna and Leon Jordan took home second, extending his lead in the Championship standings with just two rounds remaining.

“Friday morning Travis caught us sleeping and took a huge chunk of time from us on SS1. We fought back for the rest of the day and set 4 fastest times to try and close the gap ahead of Saturday’s stages as we knew ourselves that those stages suited the Subarus more than our Skoda. Travis caught a puncture early on Saturday which dropped the gap a little so we decided to push on a little more but really struggled with the fast stages and reaching the limiter. We had the odd moment thrown in for good measure,and we followed Travis’ line at one point and nearly ended up going for a swim. On the final stages we gave it a go as we knew Travis may pull back a bit but, unfortunately we ran out of stage miles to reel him in. It was a great weekend all in all and hats off to our team once again for a perfect car. We don’t make it easy on them! And of course thanks to Travis, Brandon and crews for some of the best racing in a long time. Already counting down the days to 100 Acre (Show Me).” — Leon Jordan.

Rounding out the podium was Semenuk and Hall, who took their very first ever stage win on Saturday.  

The quick learner, Brandon Semenuk

“Crazy stages, big jumps on the first stage, last stage was probably our best one of the day. Definitely one of the funner rallies I’ve done in a long time.  Such an improvement for me overall from Ohio. Travis is fun to chase down…”  Travis interjected “He won his first ARA stage!” — Semenuk. (Brandon won two stages, both SS11 and SS12).

The Fetela vs. Seehorn battle never quite materialized. Day 2 saw the #94 Proto Fiesta continue it’s dominance over Seehorn’s freshly upgraded Subaru, beating them on every stage of the day. The final result would have Piotr Fetela and co-driver Ari Mantopoulos in a solid 5th overall, with Jeff Seehorn and Matt James 2 minutes and 33 seconds behind in 6th. We asked Piotr if he made any changes to the Proto in the off season, and he said other than an engine rebuild, it’s exactly the same as last year. Hopefully once Seehorn gets his upgrades sorted, we’ll see this battle return.

National RC2

Best of the Rest won’t last long with the performances we keep seeing from Ryan “McLovin’ It” Booth and Nick Dobbs

Ryan Booth and Nick Dobbs showed glimpses of what’s in store for the future and took the win in RC2 over the Ford Fiesta R5 of John Coyne and Ryan Dunham.  Booth showed he could hang with the Subarus besting or tying Semenuk on three stages over the course of the weekend.

“Nick and I were in a great rhythm on Friday and we had better pace than either of us anticipated.  Day 2 was a bit tougher.  Our notes were inconsistent and we had an off as well but we accomplished what we had planned.  We still have some work to do if we’re going to go for overall podiums, but really happy with the progress we made over the weekend.  Unbelievable stage times Brandon, Travis, and Barry were putting down!  We have our work cut out for us for the next one” – Ryan Booth

“After Colorado, I had been itching to get back in the seat at Ojibwe. Shakedown gave me a sense of the speed and difference in visibility compared to Colorado. Recce went incredibly smoother than Colorado’s motion sickness nightmare. With Friday’s times, I was holding onto hope of catching Brandon and John. Saturday’s stages were another story. After an off and a couple other hiccups, my inexperience got the best of us. Overall, Ojibwe was a great learning experience and exposed key areas I need to develop.”

National Open 2WD

#319 Chris Greenhouse and Ryan Scott

Seamus Burke and Martin Brady in the #25 JRD Rallysport MK2 Escort would continue to put distance between them and the second place SRT Neon of Chris Greenhouse and Ryan Scott, tripling their lead from day one in just three stages to 1 minute and 46 seconds after the first loop of stages.  Gary Smith suffered from turbo issues, vaulting the #386 Mitsubishi of Brad Morris and Michael Hordijk into third behind Greenhouse.  On SS11 Greenhouse would suffer a trio of disasters, failed power steering, a puncture and the loss of the Neon’s exhaust, all on the same stage, costing him nearly two more minutes to Burke.  From there, Burke and Brady would cruise to the O2WD victory with Greenhouse and Scott holding onto second, while Morris and Hordijk rounded out the podium.

Experience is everything in rally, and they’ve got it in droves – Seamus Burke and Martin Brady

Martin Brady said of the victory, “We had a great event. First rally in a long time that we had no issues with the car or set up, and because of that our confidence grew as the stages flew by. We knew Greenhouse was going to be right there in the battle with us and we made sure we didn’t give him any easy stages. By Saturday morning’s second stage we had a few seconds in hand before he had a spin and a puncture which gave us the breathing space to drive safely to the finish. This result is good in championship terms for us now.  We look forward to hopefully improving the car, ironing out problems, and having a real good go at the next round in Missouri.”

Greenhouse was a bit frustrated saying “Seamus really turned it up a notch today. He had the speed. I made a lot of driving mistakes all day.  I kept pushing, and kept pushing myself off the road. It finally came to a head in Stage 11. Strawberry Mountain was really fast. Too fast. He beat us there. Height O’Land got really rough, he beatus there too. The car was mostly good, but my driving needs to improve, especially on the big commitment high speed stuff. That’s where we got beat.”

National L4WD

Finding the limit, and sometimes crossing slightly over it – Robert Sanders and Boyd Smith

With the retirement of the El Diablo team of Matt Dickinson and Glen Ray on the first day, GoSpeed Racing’s Robert Sanders and Boyd Smith had clear sailing to class victory.  Dickinson and Ray attempted to restart, but were quickly forced to drop out again after the first loop of stages due to a fuel problem.  The 4WD BMW of George Hammerback and Lewis May kept their margin in second place over the father and son duo of Scott and Spencer Putnam, who finished in third.  

“This weekend was fantastic. We started finding our speed. At one point we started getting faster to the point we were out of pace with our notes and knocked a tree down on stage!  We didn’t realize it until the next car asked if we saw the down tree across the stage. We pushed on and even lost our front differential on the last stage and finished the rally in RWD only! It was a blast! And to see Ryan and Oliver start to mesh was really rewarding too.” — Robert Sanders

National NA4WD

Sometimes it only takes two – #107 Dan Coburn and Cameron Case

One of the standout stories of the weekend was the NA4WD team of Dan Colburn and Cameron Case. And by team, we mean JUST Dan and Cameron. They competed with no crew members, and tagged a tree on SS12 resulting in significant damage to the rear of the vehicle.  Luckily they made it back to the final service and were able to repair the car enough to complete the final loop of stages and hold on to the NA4WD victory!  Michael Engle and Morgan Engle would be forced to retire on the first loop of stages of the day, leaving Josh Armantrout and Dan Kelly to capture second in class.

National L2WD

The new kid in town – #884 Andre D’Orazio and Preston Osborn

The biggest mover of the rally was that of Andre D’Orazio and Preston Osborn in the O.D.D. Racing L2WD Fiesta.  Their impressive pace in the naturally aspirated Fiesta granted them a further move up the start order to 22nd on Saturday.  They continued their speed throughout the day besting the times of much more powerful cars and taking class wins on all but one stage allowing them to cruise to the class win.  GoSpeed Racing’s Ryan Sanders and Oliver Smith were still able to secure 2nd in class even though they had to back off due to a broken motor mount and were also fighting overheating issues.  Nathan Odle and Alex Gelsomino in the River City Rally Lexus that’s usually piloted by Michael Hooper, took the final podium spot despite hitting a massive rock on the first day that took out the front subframe and steering rack.

“The rally was incredible and went better than expected. Focusing on consistency during recce allowed me to push on the stages. For my first rally my main goal was finishing, so taking third place in 2wd was a great surprise. I can’t wait to do more.” — Andre D’Orazio

“I didn’t know what to expect coming into an event with Andre as a first time driver. After a few conversations leading up to the event, I knew he was taking the preparation and race seriously. His natural talent is some of the best I have seen, but it is the work he put in that led him to a podium on his first ever rally. Not many can put that little 1.6L NA Fiesta on a national podium!” – Preston Osborn

Keep on eye on this kid folks. He’s rapid!

Regional Overall

Making up for lost air – #12 Steve and Katie Gingras

With just 6.4 seconds separating the top three cars and less than 30 seconds between the top five heading into Saturday’s competition, anything could happen.  The first stage of the day, SS7, would quickly add some separation with all but the top two falling to over a minute behind while Stephen and Katie Gingras extended their lead to 9.5 seconds over Hovinga and Katagiri. Not to be outdone, Hovinga fought back on SS8 with a stage win of his own causing yet another lead change, this time 9.9 seconds to his favor! SS9 would see Gingras again resume the lead, now 12 seconds ahead, but it was Mike Hurst in the Ford Capris with the stage win and now in the top 3 as they headed into service!  

Kevin Allen and Elizabeth Cordara would quickly fall from fourth to ninth after getting up close and personal with a tree on the opening stage, having to retire before the end of the first loop was complete.  

The second loop began with Hovinga taking stage wins on SS10 and SS11, but the lead was just 5.4 seconds over Gingras. Once again the standings would change with team Gingras recapturing the lead by the largest margin so far, a whopping 23.3 seconds as they headed into the final service. Hovinga and Katagiri had multiple issues to fix, but only enough time to repair some of them. They would go into the final loop with a loss of boost pressure, dashing any hopes of a regional overall victory and knocking them off the podium completely.  Meanwhile, team Gingras kept up the consistency they had shown all weekend and held on for the overall regional win.

All smiles after claiming victory in the closest battle we’ve witnessed in years – #12 Steve and Katie Gingras

“It felt really good. I gave my dad a ton of crap about not getting air and going slow the first day at LSPR and this was the polar opposite right off the bat. Stage 1 felt damn good. We were smooth and fast, got air at the crossroads jump, and it felt really fast and really good.  I was a little nervous for Strawberry Mountain after recce and seeing how easy it is to go stupid fast on that stage. We did really good right out of the gate though, with only 1 near mistake. I called a Right 4+ but it was really a Right 4 Long. Stage 8 I lost my spot in the notes for a bit, but my dad having grown up doing blind rally and really having to read the road did fine without me until I was able to get back in before anything surprised us. We were pretty happy to go back to our first service Saturday without any plans other than to go over the car. The 2nd time through was good but a bit more relaxed. We then realized Hovinga only had a 20 second penalty after checking in late, not the 2 minutes penalty we thought so we had to push a bit harder to keep ahead of them. We did hit something big about half a mile from the end of 11 damaging our back left rim (you could see a big crack), but we got through 12, and that was the only thing we had to change at the 2nd Saturday service. It felt like a regional win ride, and that’s what it ended up being, with some help from generous competitors and high attrition rates.” — Katherine Gingras

“What makes rally so great? Your closest competitor giving you the part that you need to continue racing! Chuck Surdyke you’re the best! We were leading NA4WD by 6 seconds over Chuck and he gave us the drive shaft that we needed! Then Whiskers, the crew chief for Scott Putnam, jumped under the car and helped change it with Sean Hodges, while Mark Lietha changed the bent control arm. Rally is way more than driving ultra fast in the woods, its camaraderie, friendship, teamwork, and lots of beer!” – Steve Gingras

#16 Mike Hurst and Jeremy Wimpey

Mike Hurst and Jeremy Wimpey in the Ford Capri capitalized on Hovinga’s misfortunes moving into second place overall in a 46 year old machine.  Charles Surdyke and Cameron Carr slid into the final regional overall podium spot after Al Dantes suffered issues on the final stage.

“This was our first time rallying with pace notes together, so our plan was to build confidence, have fun and go fast. Things felt great from the first stage and we were happy with our pace on day one. We were a bit slow to get going on day two for SS7 and SS8. Feeling out the pace notes and being more cautious on the long, faster stages. On SS9 we were stuck behind Brad Morris early on after he had a minor off a few corners in. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to pass them and ran behind them most of the stage. Our pace picked up after the first service and we felt very comfortable in the car. We planned to keep it clean and have some fun, as we had quite a bit of time to make up after the first loop. We were very happy to see we had made it back to 3rd place after the last stage! – Sorry Al and Chase!!” – Cameron Carr 

Regional NA4WD

Gingras/Gingras and Surdyke/Carr took the top two NA4WD class positions in addition to their overall podium spots. It was then Jacob Kohler and Zachary Houliston nabbing 3rd in class following the retirements of Allen/Cordora and Colin Gleason/Mason Klimek.  

Regional O2WD

Saturday was setting up to be an exciting day in regional Open 2WD with the V8 powered RX-7 of Al Dantes and Andrew Sims holding just a 3.3 second advantage over Mike Hurst and Jeremy Wimpey.  Hurst and Wimpey would quickly close the small gap and eventually take the lead by the end of the first loop.  The battle got as close as 20.8 seconds until the final stage when Dantes’ RX-7 would get stuck in third gear and they would fall from second all the way to sixth, lucky to finish the day.  The Bearded Ryno Team of Ryan George and Heather Stieber would claim the second place spot with the Cooper Autoworks team of Calvin Cooper and Kelsey Stephens moving up into the final class podium position on the last stage.

Regional L2WD

Who says a FWD can’t battle for the overall win? – #662 Chase Hovinga and Colin Katagiri

Despite the turbo issues on the last stages of the rally, Chase Hovinga and Colin Katagiri would hold on to take the regional victory in Limited 2WD.

“Ojibwe was my first race since last December so I knew I was going to have some warming up to do. Day one we were noticing some squish in the brakes so at service we bled the brakes and found that the front pads were cracking and were clearly overcooked. We didn’t have time to change them so we decided to run them and change them later that night.  

When we went to change all the brake pads, the rear caliper slide pins seized. We managed to get them all free except for one. The remaining slide pin snapped and with no spares we had to clamp the left rear brake line with vice grips and zip tie it to the body. I was pretty surprised that we had no fluid leaks all day. Stage 9, sugarbush, was the toughest of the weekend for us. Our notes weren’t great and it was super twisty. During a fast section we came over a crest on the wrong side and smashed into a berm almost flipping the car but I managed to keep it on the road without doing too much damage. We added a caution in our notes but it wasn’t soon enough. Of course we hit it again on our second pass through, bent a tie rod and got a flat about a mile or so from the finish. After driving through with the flat we somehow went faster by two seconds! When we got to service we were helped out by another crew to get the alignment close to straight and went off to the last two stages. They became rough and rutted and by the third pass we were basically grinding our car like a skateboard through a good chunk of those corners. On stage 13 we lost boost and any chance of an overall podium finish. Luckily we had enough time that we were able to hold our first in class finish. 

Up until we lost boost it was a really close battle back and forth. It was pretty cool actually fighting for an overall win and not just a class win.” — Chase Hovinga

Oops and Outs

“First Out” – #317 Kyle Turner and Kevin Turner

The unenviable title of ‘first out’ went to #317 Kyle and Kevin Turner. Kyle posted on social media “SS1 halfway in the temp gauge pegged, likely head gasket pop, blew out the upper hose and something in the heater core area same time LOL. Kept running to the end with a tired engine that quit right at time control”  That’s okay Kyle and Kevin, iHeartFast still caught you flying over the jump! 

One of the most significant offs of the weekend was that of PMR Motorsport #59 Pat Moro and Ole Holter in the LS swapped Chevy Sonic. We chatted with Pat and he said it looked a lot worse than it was.

“The car really doesn’t have as much damage as you’d think. It needs a new left side and roof panel, front fender, and a hood. The engine actually started right up once sweep got it rolled over and onto the stage. We would have driven out of the stage if not for a broken damper attachment. Huge thanks to the Sweep and E-crew who really took good care of us and made sure we were still okay after coming down off the adrenaline. We won’t be at Show Me, but we will be back!”

#59 PMR Motorsports Pat Moro and Ole Holter
Photo by Carlton McMillan – Heavy Sweep

“First of all, Ole and I don’t have a scratch. We’re okay. We went into the corner, turned the wheel and at some point it stopped turning and we went straight. Since the car was upside down when it came to rest, we actually got a pretty good look under the car and it looks like a u-joint between the steering column and the steering rack that came disconnected. It was a pretty spectacular looking off.

You know how in freestyle that if you’re the first to do a new trick they name it after you? Well, we don’t want to have this named after us, but it was a full pirouette where we went kind of end over end with a roll. After we came to a stop you can hear me say calmly to Ole…’Well that sucks!’…”

The Nomad Rally had an especially rough weekend. First the #686 Jordan Locher and Thomas Addison went wide and rolled into a tree on SS2.

Then on Day 2 teammates #556 Colin Gleason and Mason Kilmek had a close encounter with a tree. Nobody was hurt, although their wallets and pride may be damaged a bit.

Even with the high speeds and technical nature of the Ojibwe roads, just 13 out of the 48 starters retired before the end of the event. And that number would be even lower if you count those that returned for fun runs even though they were technically a DNF and not scored.

#426 Josh Smith and Drake Hughes found a large immovable object among the trees
Photo by Carlton McMillan – Heavy Sweep

In some cases, what could have been disaster was saved by fellow competitors. The #588 BMW of Gabe Jacobsohn and Zach Pfeil found a friend in #161 ‘Hual_N_Ass_Race_Team’ Zombie CRX.

Tow strap to the rescue!
Photo via Gabe Jacobsohn on Facebook

“It was ALMOST heartbreak. Cruising through the second to last stage, passed a car, then oil pressure went to zero. Completely smoked the oil pan. Thought we were done, but then the absolute madmen Bret Hunter and Kubo Kordisch flat towed us through the entire last stage and two transits. Car started and got itself into the last control. FINISHED!!!!!”

BMWs helping BMWs

Things didn’t go so well for Shanti Witt and Bailey Miller in #79 BMW either, but multiple competitors came to their aid in hopes they could keep going. “Well, not the post I want to make but we won’t be finishing Ojibwe Forests Rally. After using all of the cars 9 lives between yesterday and today, we retired after a bad fuel leak was dumping fuel into the car and onto the exhaust. The only way to fix it would be to drop the tank so we are finished.”

The Dead Last but Finished award goes to #211 Andrew Dustman and Jake Ringger who after an off and getting yanked by sweep, then impacting a large rock on another stage, were still able to nursed the car to the final MTC with a total time of 3 hours 17 minutes and 41.3 seconds.

Go to this link here for full results

These may be unusual times, but one thing that wasn’t unusual was the commitment of the organizers and volunteers that continue to make the Ojibwe Forests Rally one of the best in the championship and we can’t wait to be back next year!  The next round on the ARA championship calendar is the Show Me Rally October 2nd and 3rd.

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