14 Mar 100 Acre Wood Rally Preview
Article originally written for the American Rally Association here.
Salem, Missouri (March 14, 2019)
The 2019 100 Acre Wood Rally will be one of the biggest US rally events in years. 78 of the best rally teams in the country are set to start Round 2 of the American Rally Association Championship this weekend from March 15-16.
The two day event will see teams tackle 125 miles of competitive stages in Missouri’s Ozark region, a forested mountain range between the mid-west cities of St. Louis and Kansas City. The rally, now entering it’s 25th year, is known for its high speed straights, deep water crossings, extreme elevation changes, and the famous cattle guard jump.
The roads of the 100AW vary from sweeping, well-groomed, mainlines to tight and twisty rough trails. Elevation changes abound, uphill climbs and fast descents give a great sensation of vertical G forces. The gravel racing surface provides competitors with a grippy racing surface too, perfect for the sustained speeds of the traditionally fast event. An extra dangerous obstacle, the rally’s water splashes are likely to be overflowing this year thanks to heavy rains that have soaked central Missouri throughout the week leading up to the event.
This year, 100 Acre is promising to be one of the most competitive US rally events in years; the entry list is full of exciting drivers, teams, and cars. 14 in Open 4WD, 11 in Limited 4WD, 22 in Naturally Aspirated 4WD, 19 in Open 2WD, 12 in Limited 2WD.
Here’s how the championship battles are shaping up:
At the top of the field, Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino, 7 time winners of this event, are back at 100 Acre for the first time since 2014 with a freshly built wide-body Ford Escort Cosworth. Challenging them at the top will be the defending 2018 ARA champions David Higgins and Craig Drew sporting the new Subaru Motorsports USA blue and gold look. Joining them in the Subaru camp for 2019 are Oliver Solberg and Aaron Johnston in their first American rally event. If the Solberg name is familiar, that’s because Oliver is the son of 2003 WRC champion Petter Solberg, the last man not named Sebastien to win a WRC driver’s title.
Sno*Drift Rally winners Piotr Fetela and Domink Jozwiak will be looking for back-to-back wins and their second 100 Acre Wood Rally victory in as many years. The pair are driving their Proto Ford Fiesta, a polish rally car with the driveline and chassis of a Mitsubishi Evo X. Also in a Proto car, this time with a Mitsubishi Mirage body on top, is 2016 100 Acre Wood Rally winner Art Gruszka and Maciej Sawicki.
Running their first 100 Acre Wood Rally are Barry McKenna and Leon Jordan. The pair are back in their WRC M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 Turbo after suffering a DNF at January’s Sno*Drift Rally in their R5-spec car. Speaking of R5s, Dave Wallingford and Leanne Junnila will compete in their first rally together since the pair’s big crash at WRC Rally Mexico last year. Wallingford has spent the past 12 months in recovery and is excited to be back behind the wheel of his Team O’Neil prepared M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5.
Debuting the most unique rally car we’ve seen in a long time are Pat Moro and Ole Holter in the LS3 V8 Chevrolet Sonic. Moro’s PMR Motorsports team has extensive experience with the Sonic platform through its retired rallycross Supercar program and it shows in the development work put into the super-Sonic.
That’s a potential 8 way battle for the overall podium in the top Open 4WD class. But keep in mind, cars in the lower-spec Limited 4WD class often find themselves going home with overall hardware. The fight for the podium could see as many as a dozen challengers involved.
In the Limited 4WD class, 2017 and 2018 champions Jeff Seehorn and Karen Jankowski are kicking off their 2019 championship bid in the 100 Acre Wood. For the team’s quest to make it 3 in a row, they recently brought on a new primary sponsor for their 2018 Subaru WRX STI, AMSOIL.
Facing off against the Seehorn Rally Team will be Sno*Drift class winners and second overall finishers Cameron Steely and Preston Osborn in their 2007 Subaru WRX STI. Always a podium threat, the O.D.D. Racing squad will battle hard against competition like Sno*Drift third overall finisher Travis Nease and former champion co-driver Scott Putnam at the CPD Racing team.
Also challenging for the overall podium this weekend will be Sno*Drift third overall co-driver Matt James. After taking the podium with Travis Nease, James is back in his regular home – a Mitsubishi Evo IX piloted by veteran driver Paddy Brennan. An entry from 2018 100 Acre Wood second overall finishers Tim Rooney and Anthony Vohs of PMR Motorsport will make this a 5 way fight for the class podium.
In Open 2WD, defending champion driver Seamus Burke will make his 2019 start with a new co-driver Darraugh Mullen in the fan favorite JRD Rallysport V6 Ford Escort. His primary challenger will be River City Racing’s Mike Hooper and 2018 runner up O2WD co-driver Claudia Barbera in their Lexus IS350. Both teams have proven to be on equal pace at past events, which should make this fight fun to watch.
The Maxxis Honda Racing HPD of 2018 L2WD champion Jordan Guitar and John Sharps will come to the 100AW having upgraded to the faster O2WD class in their upgraded Honda Civic. 2018 third overall co-driver Michelle Miller will be racing the full ARA season with her husband Chris Miller in their Ford Focus. Making international moves are Keanna Erickson-Chang and Rhianon Gelsomino, who recently announced their entry into the Clio R3T Trophy France in addition to a 2019 ARA championship run. As part of that expanded driving schedule, Erickson-Chang’s car has been freshly upgraded by O.D.D. Racing.
Finally, the Naturally Aspirated 4WD class will see the 2018 Rally America overall champions, Dave Brown and Mike Brown, take on ARA teams for the first time. They’ll have tough local competition from the likes of Ryan Rethy and Rachel Rethy, two Missouri rally regulars with a history of class wins and podiums in the state, and from Amanda Skelly and Sarah Freeze. And after taking a class podium at Sno*Drift, Mike Engle will be driving with veteran co-driver Ryan Scott.
To follow along with the 100 Acre Wood Rally, check out the official ARA Rally App, the series also posts frequent updates to its social media channels, and most competitors and teams post frequent updates online. If you live in St. Louis or Kansas City, come out to the event this and see it live. You can download a free spectator guide to help you plan your trip.
Photo Credit: Subaru Motorsports USA (Top), Hoonigan Racing (1), Shanton Wilson (2), Alex Wong (3)