WILLISTON, Vt. – The 2012 Rally America National Championship heats up in the second round when the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood commences on Feb. 22-23 in Salem, Missouri with 60 national and local teams slated to contest the hard-packed dirt roads surrounding the Ozark Forests.
The Rally America season already opened with many surprises at January’s Sno*Drift Rally under wintery Michigan conditions. Now classic battles with Ford, Mitsubishi, Honda, Scion and Subaru’s best drivers in a warmer Missouri climate promises faster racing speeds and more surprises.
Hoonigan Racing’s Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino are back at the very event they have won six times before – the most 100 Acre Wood Rally wins by a Rally America driver. The Rally in the 100 Acre Wood could not have come at a better time for the team as they attempt to bounce back from a disappointing Sno*Drift result. Block fell behind early with electrical problems before reentering Sno*Drift in 11th place overall. He drove furiously to a 5th
place finish to salvage valuable Championship points to stay relevant in his quest for his first Rally America title.
“Obviously I’m coming out to 100 Acre Wood looking for my seventh win at the event,” said Block. “So far, every time I’ve entered, I’ve won, so I plan on trying to keep that streak going.”
Standing in Block’s way of a potential seventh Rally in the 100 Acre Wood title is a deep field of national contenders. Canada’s Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team of Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard, fresh off an amazing Sno*Drift victory, will push hard to build on their best season start since winning the 2010 Rally America National Championship.
“It’s awesome to start this rally as the series leader!” commented L’Estage, “The Rally in the 100 Acre Wood is an event that I really enjoy, I’ve always been very competitive here, and our win in 2011 will forever be etched in my memory as one of my great battles with David Higgins. Contrary to Sno*Drift, where the snow and ice evens out the cars’ power a little bit, it will be very difficult to compete against the big factory-backed teams of Subaru and Ford here. We’ll try our best to make them work for it, though.”
David Higgins and Craig Drew of Subaru Rally Team USA, who lost Sno*Drift to L’Estage on the last stage, will settle for no less than victory at Missouri. Since joining Subaru in 2010, Higgins has not won the 100 Acre Wood Rally despite being Rally America Champion the last two seasons.
Super Production (SP) Class Sno*Drift Rally winners Evan Cline and Jake Blattner from the Exedy Racing Clutches Team will once again race to prove that their early Sno*Drift SP victory was no fluke. Cline is displaying improvement since finishing as last year’s SP Class runners up and surprised many with a Sno*Drift Rally win. However, 2012 SP champions Lauchlin O’Sullivan and Scott Putnam are expected to return this year at the 100 Acre Wood Rally to challenge the Exedy team.
“This is my favorite event and I’ve had good stage times in the past,” explained Cline, “It will be more a hard fought battle, but I the 100 Acre Wood roads remind me of the roads I learned to drive on. I expect to pull off the same win as at Sno*Drift.”
Fresh off a Two-Wheel Drive Class (2WD) victory, the Scion Racing Rally xD team announced that they will add turbocharged power to their Scion xD and give Andrew Comrie-Picard and Jeremy Wimpey the advantage they need to position Scion as the class ruler over the likeminded Ford Fiestas.
“We’re off to a great start with our victory at Sno*Drift and we’re confident that all the things that led to that strong win will allow us to crush it on gravel too,” said Comrie-Picard, “We’re going to a turbo setup now and with new engine management from Greddy we’ll have gear-controlled boost. That, combined with the new Tein suspension and the beefier BFGoodrich gravel tires are THE setup, and the team expects to win again.”