Wellsboro, PA — Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew win the 2011 Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally (STPR) by a narrow margin of 1.3 seconds over rivals Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard. Higgins had a 37 second deficit halfway through day two after losing intercom at the start of Stage 8 and puncturing a tire on Stage 9, but came back to lead the rally by 2.5 seconds going into the final stage. This is the third time Higgins has taken the outright STPR win in his career, having won the event back in 2002 and 2003.
The Rockstar Mitsubishi crew of Antoine L’Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard finished in a close second place after controlling the rally lead up until the second to last stage. The privateer driver set a blistering pace from the start despite being down on power and went on to win six of the event’s fourteen stages including both passes of the Super Special at the Tioga Fairgrounds.
The Susquehannock Trail Rally is round five of the six-round Rally America Championship and is based in Wellsboro, PA. STPR features some of the fastest, roughest gravel stages in the Series with technical sections and ‘gotcha’s’ scattered throughout. Severe dust caused visibility issues until about Stage 8, when heavy rains in the area challenged teams with slippery roads. The changing weather conditions contributed to an already heavy rate of attrition, putting several of the top crews and many regional competitors out of the event or out of contention.
The podium was rounded out by Ramana Lagemann and co-driver Chrissie Beavis, who once again placed third overall and first in the Super Production (SP) class. Lagemann nearly retired from the rally early on day two after running out of fuel on Stage 7 only three miles from the finish. Lagemann’s Subaru sputtered to a stop on the following transit, but rival SP class driver Travis Hanson displayed excellent sportsmanship by towing him back to Service. Travis Hanson and co-driver Terry Hanson placed fourth overall and second in class, clinching the 2011 Super Production title at STPR. The remainder of the Super Production field fell victim to attrition, leaving Lagemann and Hanson as the only crews in the class to finish the event.
In Two-Wheel-Drive (2WD) competition, Chris Greenhouse piloted his 1995 Plymouth Neon to his first-ever National class victory. Greenhouse and co-driver Billy Mann finished sixth overall with a 38 second lead over the second fastest team in their class and were the quickest 2WD crew on both passes of the Super Special. Brian Gottlieb and co-driver Pat Darrow placed second in class in their 1989 Honda Civic with a comfortable cushion of over one minute on Dillon Van Way. Van Way and co-driver Jake Blattner placed third in 2WD despite losing time on Stage 7 after rolling their 2011 Ford Fiesta.
2010 Two-Wheel-Drive champion Chris Duplessis is the first in North America to build and field a Ford Fiesta R2, which made its U.S. debut at STPR. Duplessis and co-driver Catherine Woods’ rally came to a disappointing end after breaking a control arm tie rod near the finish of Stage 12. Duplessis was sitting sixth overall and was well over 8 minutes ahead of his 2WD rivals when he retired.
The 2011 Rally America National Championship comes down to the wire at the sixth and final round, the New England Forest Rally based in Newry, Maine this July 15-16.
Photo Credit: http://WorldRallySport.com | Mike Proulx