Officials with RallyCar, the premier sanctioning body for performance rally in North America, celebrated the closing of the 2011 Rally America National Championship with a festive awards ceremony at the beautiful Sunday River Resort. It was a fitting ending where fans, teams and organizers enjoyed food and music while the sun set over the looming ski trails.
It was a dramatic season that returned the Championship crown to Subaru after a dramatic battle all year with Mitsubishi Rockstar’s Antoine L’Estage, the Super Production Class made rally history with the inspired campaign of Travis Hanson, and another Team O’Neil Rally School instructor, Wyatt Knox, dominated the 2WD Class.
RallyCar honored the season’s accomplishments by presenting the year-end trophies to the new recipients in front of a physical and online streaming audience.
2011 Jeff Moyle Cup “Rookie of the Year”
The Jeff Moyle Cup is named after a successful driver who made a huge impact from the very first year he competed and eventually found himself competing at ESPN’s X Games. Moyle touched every driver he met with his pure enthusiasm and zest for excitement. Today his name continues with his family campaigning a rally team and as the top award in the Super Production category.
This year “Rookie of the Year” was awarded to Adam Yeoman from Houghton, MI who consistently piloted his Open class 2002 Subaru Impreza WRX into the top ten overall on the first four events of the season, finishing within the top five in class each time. Yeoman and co-driver Jordan Schulze had their best result at the Oregon Trail Rally where they placed sixth overall and fourth in class, and finished the year 5th overall.
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“I am super stoked about winning the 2011 rookie of the year award,” said Yeoman, “From the start of the season it has been our main goal, and the team has worked amazingly hard to make it all happen…. I couldn’t haven’t of done without them.”
2011 John Woolf Cup and Grant Whittaker Cup
These two prestigious awards are given to the overall Rally America Champion driver and co-driver each year. The team the award is named after made a huge impact when John Woolf and Grant Whittaker won the 1980 Golden West Rally (featured in the BFGoodrich film “Race Against Time”) in their very first competition appearance.
For this year the Woolf and Whittaker Cups went to Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins from Trefeglwys, England and Craig Drew from Forest of Dean, England. Higgins returned to American rally after an 8 year hiatus and found his form after struggling early in the season. He strung three wins in a row beginning at the Olympus Rally and took over the top spot in the standings netting enough points to protected his position from a hard charging Antoine L’Estage, who dogged him all year, to secure his third U.S. Championship.
“The level of competition was really fierce all year,” said Higgins, “and it was a big challenge for me to come back to the USA after seven years away and adjust to new events, a co-driver I had never worked with before as well as new car.”
The Roy Donison Cup
The Roy Donison Cup was originally awarded to the Production Class winner before the category was replaced in 2009 with the Super Production Class. In its’ third year of competition, the Roy Donison Cup and Super Production Class honors was awarded to Travis Hanson from Littleton, NH who made rally history by becoming the first SP team to outright win a national event and the highest finishing SP team in the overall standings.
Hanson’s overall win at the Sno*Drift Rally and top 5 finishes quickly cemented the SP title with the New England Forest Rally still left on the calendar. Remarkably this feat was achieved without having to replace a single body panel. At the New England Forest Rally Hanson had a mathematical shot at stealing the overall National Championship from the Subaru Rally Team USA, but finished the season 3rd place overall… a feat that will be difficult to replicate into the far future.
The Jon Woodner Cup
The Jon Woodner Cup is presented annually to the Rally America National Two-Wheel-Drive (2WD) Champion and is named after a dedicated and influential rallyist, Jon Woodner. Eleven-time U.S. Rally Champion John Buffum remembers Woodner as, “… a sportsman in the truest sense. He raced for the pure joy of doing it.”
After a dominating 2011 performance, Wyatt Knox from Franconia, NH won the Jon Woodner Cup taking 4th place or better in 2WD excluding a DNF at the New England Forest Rally. The Jon Woodner Cup won’t travel far from last year’s winner Chris Duplessis of Mason Township, ME. The last two Cup winners are both experienced Team O’Neil Rally School instructors, however, the difference is this is the first time Knox has competed the entire season and never ran the two West Coast events.
Overcoming funding, logistical, and competitions challenges makes this award all the more sweeter for this dynamic and popular driver.
“I still find it a little hard to believe that it’s over,” exclaimed Knox, “Competing in the Rally America national series has been a crazy adventure, and easily one of the best times I have ever had. Winning the Jon Woodner cup my first year out is still a little bit of a surprise, but a huge honor and it is really great to have something to show all the people that have helped us out all year.”
The Rally of the Year award recognizing RallyCar’s best-organized and exciting event will be announced at a later date.
Photos: Pete Kuncis/www.onalimbracing.com