Lewiston, MI — Ice-covered roads were the story at the 38th annual running of the Sno*Drift Rally, the kick-off event to the 2012 Rally America National Championship, but it was Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins and Craig Drew who managed the extreme conditions to take the overall win. Higgins and Drew are the reigning 2011 national champions, and they took the first step towards defending their title in the six-round 2012 Rally America National Championship by winning 15 out of 24 stages.
“This is a good win,” said Higgins, “The conditions were the most treacherous I have ever seen.”
Higgins finished the event 1:49.9 ahead of Rockstar Energy Drink’s Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard. The Rockstar team never held the lead but they made considerable time on Higgins on the first leg of day 2 and looked like they would get closer to challenging the Subaru driver.
“We chose to use snow tires at the start of the day,” said L’Estage, “versus Higgins’ ice tires. We just gambled right and were making up good time until after the first service.”
Last year, Sno*Drift winners Travis and Terry Hanson made rally history by becoming the first Super Production (SP) team to win an overall event. This year the son and father duo took third overall for a consecutive Sno*Drift podium and secured the SP Class win in dominant fashion. The finish was all but miraculous as the team didn’t expect to complete the event due to engine problems before the second day began. Due to the sound of their engine, itappeared it could break at anytime. The team fought through the mechanical issues, however, and managed a highly respectable podium spot while continuing to prove the competiveness of the Super Production Class as a viable contender to the more powerful Open Class cars.
The SP battle for second and third place was fairly close considering that the icy Sno*Drift conditions spread the field to greater-than-usual lengths. Lauchlin O’Sullivan and Scott Putnam, piloting an unfamiliar Mitsubishi EVO, held a 45.8 second advantage over newcomer driver David Sterckx and co-driver Karen Jankowski.
The Sno*Drift Rally is David Sterckx’s first Rally America National Championship event. Sterckx is a former 2001 Belgium Rally Group N DR2 Champ and has been preparing for his first national event since last year.
In the 2-Wheel Drive (2WD) Class, Chris Duplessis and Karl Atkinson once again topped the 2WD field in their 2011 Ford Fiesta R2 winning all the stages in class and consistently placed within the top 10 overall. His performance netted him the Sno*Attack title, a championship for 2WD cars run in conjunction with the Sno*Drift Rally.
Even though they didn’t win, it was the inspired drive of Andrew Comrie-Picard with Jeremy Wimpey in a 2011 Scion xD that caused plenty of buzz among the crowd. Comrie-Picard quickly adapted to the new car, having been down as far as 5th in class early in the event to place 2nd in 2WD, narrowly beating Dillon Van Way and Jake Blattner in their 2011 Ford Fiesta by 21 seconds.
A record breaking 65 teams started the Sno*Drift Rally with a slew of new competitors making a big splash. Notably, Canadian Rally Championship regulars Leonid Urlichich and Carl Williamson entered Sno*Drift for their first U.S. event and instantly challenged Travis and Terry Hanson for third place overall, trading times throughout the event. At one point, Hanson passed Urlichich on stage only to give up the spot deep into Day 2. Urlichich did finish third overall in the standings, but the car failed post rally inspection and was penalized three positions to finish sixth overall.
Urlichich protested the Steward’s decision and the Sno*Drift overall results will remain provisional pending the outcome of the protest.
Erik Zenz and Dave Parps successfully swept the top spot at the Sno*Regional and Drift Regional Rallies in their 1988 Mazda 323.
The Sno*Drift Rally was streamed online for the first time in event history. The video stream brought snowy-stage rally action, driver interviews and analysis by Rally America host, Matthew Johnson. Camera crews used night vision technologies to give fans a never-before-seen glimpse of the late evening stages. 41 countries tuned in to view the broadcast on http://www.rally-america.com.
Next in the 2012 Rally America National Championship is the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood on February 24-25th in Salem, MO.
Full Sno*Drift Rally results: http://www.rally-america.com/events/2012/SNODRIFT/results/