Williston, VT — Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins and Craig Drew won their second straight Rally America National Championship title at the New England Forest Rally on July 13-14th with an event left on the Championship calendar. Needing just sixth place or better the team battled though blinding dust and hot humid weather to take the national title with a second place overall podium finish.
“It feels great winning my fourth Championship in America,” exclaimed Higgins, “It was a team effort and we had a big job to do here. It’s a big relief to put this Championship in the bag.”
The Championship came just in time as Higgins closest rival, the Rockstar Energy Drink Team of Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard, began massing a string of Rally America event wins and staging a mathematically possible come from behind victory.
The Rockstar team fell behind early in the Rally America season not finishing the second and third rounds due to mechanical failures, and Higgins and Drew took advantage by consistently finishing first or second overall at each event that gave them all the points needed to take home national title honors.
The New England Forest Rally was not easy for the Subaru Rally Team USA, however, as Higgins and Drew always push for an overall win. At the seeded draw the team received an undesirable starting position being second on the road behind L’Estage and just ahead of Canadian Rally Championship regulars, Leonid Urlichich and Carl Williamson.
Subaru would immediately be contending with thick dust from L’Estage obscuring their vision on stage while dealing with a lack of traction being second on the road and helping to sweep the gravel clean off the stage. Higgins couldn’t get close enough to L’Estage through the dust and knew Urlichich had better grip to keep him in the podium hunt.
“The first day was horrible, but it got better the next day. The organizers did a brilliant job rescheduling the event to give us a bigger window,” added Higgins. “These new roads here are some of the best I’ve ever driven.”
In the end, Higgins knew that a second place finish would give him the Championship and kept that position to the end finishing 21 seconds behind L’Estage.
Now the Subaru Rally Team USA is looking forward to a rematch with Ken Block and the Monster World Rally Team, who is expected to show at the Olympus Rally on September 22-23rd in Olympia, Washington.
Earlier in the Rally America season Block took his sixth Rally in the 100 Acre Wood overall win handedly beating both Higgins and L’Estage in a powerful 4WD Ford Fiesta. It was the first time that Higgins faced Block and only lost the lead by 29.3 seconds. Afterwards, Higgins desired a rematch and began looking forward to competing against Block again.
It remains to be seen if L’Estage will show up at Olympus having being eliminated from the pursuit of the Championship title, but L’Estage may not want to miss the show while continuing his quest for the North America Championship.
The Subaru Rally Team USA racing year has been particularly difficult in part to fielding two teams in both Rally America and Global RallyCross making the performance rally accomplishment even sweeter.
“There’s much to be proud of from our team’s performance at this rally and on each previous Rally America round this season,” said James Han, motorsports marketing manager for Subaru of America, Inc. “Frustrating as it may have been for both David and Craig to run behind Antoine and Nathalie in such dusty conditions, our drivers took the prudent approach within the context of our goal in retaining the championship title, and what a great job doing so at the penultimate round.”
Rally America congratulates the Subaru Rally Team USA’s drivers and crew for a job well done, and being the top team in the Rally America National Championship.
Be sure to catch the last round of the Rally America National Championship as the Series concludes at the Olympus Rally on September 22-23rd.