19 May Olympus Rally Preview
Article originally written for American Rally Association website here.
Shelton, Washington May 19, 2018
Stage rally is returning to the forests of Olympic Peninsula this weekend for the 28th Olympus Rally. The historic event, first run in 1973, has a past rich with fast cars and legendary drivers. This year, 44 teams will challenge the internationally famous long and twisting stage roads to make their mark on the Olympus Rally story.
The weekend’s event features 127 competition miles split over 13 stage roads and two days. The famously long tests of Olympus Rally return, the lengthiest of which, Wildcat, twists through the Olympic forests for 18.7 miles. Other driver favorite stages, like the 10.2 mile Cougar and the 14.1 miles Nahwatzel return to test team’s mettle and push them to the limits of endurance. Road conditions this year are favorable to the event, with light rain coming down the night before. Conditions are clear under the cover of trees but, in more open sections that bake under the sun, dust may become an issue.
Coming off a win at the season’s opening round, David Higgins and Craig Drew are in a strong position coming into Olympus. The pair will be looking to take their fifth win on the Olympic Peninsula, and their fourth in as many years. A win this weekend would break the current three way tie between Higgins, John Buffum, and Rod Millen for most-ever wins at Olympus Rally. Last year, the pair dominated this event, winning the wet weekend by over two minutes. This year the weather is looking much dryer, will they be able to stay on top?
Barry McKenna and Leon Jordan come into the weekend looking to improve over their performance last month at OTR. After fighting for a podium spot throughout the weekend and taking a pair of stage wins, the pair rolled their turbo Ford Fiesta S2000. The roll didn’t end their rally, but it took them out of contention for the overall podium. Last year at Olympus, the pair earned their first-ever ARA podium finish. They’ll be looking to not only match that performance, but to improve upon it.
The second factory Subaru, left vacant by Travis Pastrana this season, will be filled by SRTUSA driver Patrik Sandell and co-driver Per Almkvist. Sandell is an accomplished driver on the rallycross track, taking several wins and podiums in his career. But he is an even more talented stage rallyist, having won the Junior WRC Championship in 2006; an accomplishment he shares with legendary drivers such as Sebastian Loeb and Sebastian Ogier. Sandell and Almkvist have many year’s experience working together, most recently taking a class win at Rally Sørland in Norway.
Competing at his first-ever stage rally event is the host of Shifting Gears with Aaron Kaufman on the Discovery Channel. The entry is for a brand new set of episodes on the show, where Kaufman chronicles the trials and successes involved in outfitting cars for various races and series around the country. Joining him in the Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS is highly experienced co-driver Krista Skucas. How the pair will perform this weekend is anyone’s guess, but we’re expecting some fun television to be produced.
Hometown rallycross lites driver James Rimmer will be competing at Olympus Rally alongside sitting O2wd champion Rhianon Gelsomino this weekend. The DirtFish Motorsports driver is returning to stage rally for the first time since the 2017 Oregon Trail Rally, where he battled hard for a class win before an engine failure ended his event. For his first event since 2017 and his first Olympus Rally since 2015, Rimmer will be driving a Rocket Rally-prepared O4wd class Subaru STi hatch. The match of naturally quick Rimmer and the highly experienced Gelsomino should be a fun one to watch.
Returning to Olympus Rally is Rocket Rally driver and freeride mountain biker Brandon Semenuk with co-driver John Hall. The X-Games medalist has been driving for several years in the Rocket Rally Subaru Crosstrek and, last year, finished second in a highly contested CRC championship battle against Antione L’Estage. At Olympus 2017, he only finished tenth overall due to crash damage. Semenuk has a whole season’s worth of experience since his last outing here and can prove to be a dark horse at the top of the standings this weekend.
After earning their best-ever finish together last time out at OTR, 2017 RO4wd champions Jeff Seehorn and Karen Jankowski come into Olympus looking to extend their lead even further. Last year, Seehorn competed strongly until an mechanical issue forced their retirement. In 2018, the pair will be looking for their first class win at Olympus Rally while also hoping to earn another overall podium spot and those coveted overall championship points.
2017 RO4wd class winner at Olympus Rally Travis Nease is back, but this time with a new co-driver, Caron Tomlinson. How quickly the two acclimate to each other is always the question with a new co-driver, but don’t count them out for a podium. The steady-driving Nease is a bit of a dark horse, always driving fast enough to be competitive, but slow enough to not cause mechanical issues.
DirtFish drivers Sam Albert and Michelle Miller made a big impression at last month at Oregon Trail, though not for the most positive reason. Last time out, the pair’s rally ended early with an engine failure that coincided with a CV boot catching fire. With the car repaired, the pair are eager to fight for the class win in their home event and finally show their true pace.
Local favorites Dave Clark and Jamie Willets are back with their Merkur XR4Ti, now branded as a Ford. The Pacific Northwest competitors compete both in the US and Canada and despite the age of their car, the pair is always quick. At Oregon the pair were entered regionally, but competed the whole weekend. The pair traded stage times with the top national teams all weekend, and placed second in O2wd in the Trail’s End regional rally, ahead of national rally winners Jason Bailey and Leanne Junnila. Expect them to be a threat for the podium again this weekend.
Another podium favorite in O2wd are Erik Potts and Claudia Barbera-Pullen. The supercharged Subaru BRZ. Last month at OTR, the pair competed hard for the win, trading stage wins with Bailey and Junnila throughout the weekend. Since then, the pair have spent time co-driver and notes training under Rhianon Gelsomino at the OZ Rally Pro school before getting some seat time with the driving instructors at DirtFish. They’re ready to fight hard for the O2wd rally win.
Photo Credit: Chris Daley
About American Rally Association
A member-driven organization dedicated to the sport of Stage Rally, the American Rally Association provides a transparent, inclusive, and growing sanctioning body to competitors throughout America. A 501 (c)(3) non-profit and wholly owned subsidiary of the United States Auto Club (USAC), ARA is led by seasoned Stage Rally professionals who work hand in hand with an experienced Board of Directors to deliver a framework for safety, competition, promotion, and education for all aspects of the sport. The common goal of our members, volunteers, and organization is a thriving Stage Rally program in America.