WILLISTON, Vt. – The kick-off to the 2013 Rally America National Championship is coming quickly and teams are lining up to take on the snow and ice-covered roads of the Sno*Drift Rally on Jan. 25-26 in Atlanta and Lewiston, Mich.
Event organizers report approximately a foot of snow has fallen in the local area in recent weeks. A year ago, the Sno*Drift Rally was an extremely icy affair and while there are a couple weeks to go the roads are looking much more like roads than an ice skating rink.
With the season just around the corner, the Sno*Drift Rally and Rally America are ready to welcome the return of many of last year’s teams, including the 2012 National Champions and class winners for another year of exciting rally action.
Four-time Rally America National Champions and last year’s overall Sno*Drift Rally winners, David Higgins from Trefeglwys, England and co-driver Craig Drew from Forest of Dean, England are back once again to fly the flag for Subaru Rally Team USA and attempt to continue the team’s winning ways.
“I’m really looking forward to getting the 2013 season started,” said Higgins, “The Sno*Drift Rally is a funny event as when you are doing it you hate every minute because the icy conditions are so tough. You’re always centimeters away from disaster and slipping off-road at any moment.”
To keep his skills and reflexes sharp, Higgins spent much of his Rally America off-season driving for Subaru Rally Team China where he took two wins and their first Chinese rally title.
“The rally events I competed in last year for Subaru China will be a great help for me to run Sno*Drift. The seat time is so important,” added Higgins.
Higgins and Drew will once again be challenged by longtime Mitsubishi Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team rivals, Antoine L’Estage from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec and co-driver Nathalie Richard from Halifax, Nova Scotia. L’Estage and Richard finished second overall in the 2012 Rally America National Championship and later in the year the Rockstar Energy team took home the Canadian Rally Championship as well as the coveted North America Rally Championship.
“I’ve always loved rallying in the snow and ice and once again this year, we’ll be contesting Sno*Drift in the same trusted Mitsubishi EVO X that helped us claim the 2012 Canadian and North American Rally Championships,” said L’Estage recently. “It’s always tough going up against the big factory teams of Subaru and Ford but we’ll be there to fight for the title and hopefully we can improve last year’s Sno*Drift finish by one spot, putting us at the top of the podium.”
Last year’s Super Production (SP) Class Champs, Lauchlin O’Sullivan from San Francisco, CA along with Scott Putnam from Minneapolis, MN, are back to continue their success right where they left off in their 2008 Subaru WRX STI. But David Sterckx from Los Angeles, Calif., and Karen Jankowski from San Marcos, Calif., are expected to challenge O’Sullivan and Putnam’s category supremacy after nearly finishing in a tie with the 2012 SP Champions in just their first full year of national competition.
The always-exciting Two-Wheel (2WD) Drive Class is currently missing the entry of last year’s Champions, Chris Duplessis and Alex Kirhurani, but their runner up competition will be back with a newly improved 2012 Scion xD platform piloted by legendary rallyist Andrew Comrie-Picard from Hermosa Beach, Calif., and Jeremy Wimpey from Stage College, Pa.
“The team has been working very hard all through the off season, really there has been no off-season,” said Comrie-Picard, “The new xD is the best-built 2WD rally car I’ve ever seen – in fact one of the best rally cars I’ve ever seen – with a load of amazing innovations. Lighter, stronger, better suspension, gearbox, harness, ergonomics, lights – every detail has been improved. And the team has upped its professionalism and preparation even further with team-building exercises and an even better service setup. We are going to crush the Championship this year.”
Comrie-Picard and Wimpey will still need to fend off a multitude of furious 2WD talent that includes multi-Central Region Group 2 champ Chris Greenhouse from Cincinnati, OH and 2009 Rally America Rookie of the Year Dillon Van Way from Carencro, LA in his much improved turbo-charged 2011 Ford Fiesta.
Local rally legends will also appear on the icy Sno*Drift roads and fans should instantly recognize Henry and Cynthia Krolikowski, winners of six consecutive Rally America Central Region Championships – the longest winning streak within Rally America. Multi-time Production Class champion, Steve Nowicki from West Bloomfield, Mich., along with co-driver Jimmy Brandt from Lake Odessa, Mich., will enter the 2013 Sno*Drift Rally with their historic 1980 Mitsubishi Fire Arrow, the very make and model that made him the driver to beat of his era.