HOUGHTON, Mich. – Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins and Craig Drew won the Lake Superior Performance Rally (LSPR) to secure their third consecutive Rally America National Championship title.
LSPR was the concluding seventh round of the championship held in Houghton, Mich., on Oct. 18-19.
Higgins and Drew arrived at LSPR in an anticipated winner-take-all showdown against Hoonigan Racing’s Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino with the Rally America title on the line. Block and Gelsomino needed to outright win LSPR to complete an amazing come-from-behind effort to overtake the Subaru team in the points standings.
Block came out strong at LSPR and built a slight lead over Higgins, but Higgins gained back the lead once the nighttime stages approached and finished the first day with a 13.4 second gap. On the second day both Block and Higgins pushed hard with nothing to lose, but it was Block who blinked first when he dramatically rolled his car a mile short of the finish of stage 12. That effectively handed the Rally America National Championship to Higgins and Drew.
“The pace Block and I were both going made it entirely possible to happen to any one of us,” said Higgins. “It was the fastest that we have ever gone. I’m just delighted that we were leading at the time. The car has just been brilliant again. We’ve enjoyed this weekend. That was really the biggest, most important factor. Sure there was a lot of pressure, but we really went out there to have fun.”
Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team’s Antoine L’Estage and Marshall Clarke finished second place overall. It was L’Estage’s second podium since winning the season opener Sno*Drift Rally held last January and his second finish in six attempts this year.
Super Production’s (SP) Dillon Van Way and co-driver Andrew Edwards took third overall for Van Way’s first ever overall podium finish in his six year rally career. The finish also gave him his first SP Class finish in his only second event in an SP Class rally car.
“This is amazing, this is an unreal feeling,” added Van Way. “I never thought this would happen this year. These events were about getting seat time in an SP car, it’s just crazy that winning has happened so fast.”
The biggest SP news was the fourth place finish of David Sterckx and Karen Jankowski who locked up the SP national championship by just finishing the event. Sterckx and Jankowski were competing for the class win, but lost time when they went off the road and experienced traction problems from worn tires. In time the team turned their focus towards finishing in order to secure their first SP title.
“I’m super happy because last year we worked really hard to build a car,” said Sterckx. “I knew that this year was going to be better than last year, but I did not expect it to be as good as this. We finished six rallies and Karen (Jankowski) did a great job as co-driver.”
Nick Roberts and Steve Lancaster finished on the SP podium in second place, and Lauchlin O’Sullivan and Scott Putnam took the third position. This is Roberts’ third consecutive SP podium, which will also gives him the Jeff Moyle Rookie of the Year award for the top finishing first year Rally America national driver.
The Two-Wheel Drive (2WD) Championship was also decided at LSPR with Scion Racing Rally xD’s Andrew Comrie-Picard (ACP) and Jeremy Wimpey leading the 2WD points and trying to stop Australian newcomers, Brendan Reeves and Rhianon Gelsomino, from snatching the 2WD title from behind.
Reeves and Gelsomino had already won the previous four 2WD rounds to force ACP and Wimpey into winning 2WD outright at LSPR. The two teams pushed extremely hard and traded the 2WD lead five times before Reeves persevered by only 6.3 seconds over ACP. Reeves and Gelsomino have won all five rounds they entered in their very first year with Rally America.
“Such a close finish. I ran out of counting fingers, five is just the perfect number for us,” exclaimed Reeves. “That last stage was basically trophy or trees, and we just went for it. I was pretty nervous, but I committed to the notes and took a lot of risk. It was a great win.”
Andrew Comrie-Picard and Jeremy Wimpey’s second place LSPR podium also gives them second place in the 2WD standings. In third place is Chris Greenhouse and Billy Mann. Greenhouse will finish third on the 2WD standings.
Higgins and Drew’s LSPR victory helped seal Subaru as the Overall and Super Production winners in the Manufacturers’ Championship. Ford is the winning make for Two-Wheel Drive and Honda will take the B-SPEC Class.
For the first time this season the LSPR overall podium consisted of all Subaru WRX STI’s, and each team was backed by Vermont SportsCar.