Thursday, April 26, 2018

DAVID HIGGINS TAKES OVERALL VICTORY AT 2018 OREGON TRAIL RALLY


























Portland, Oregon April 22, 2018  Subaru Rally Team USA driver David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew continued their dominance of the Oregon Trail Rally, winning the 2018 edition for the seventh time in the last eight years at the wheel of their Vermont SportsCar-prepared 2018 Subaru WRX STI rally car.  The Oregon Trail Rally, regarded as one of the most scenic and fastest rallies in the USA represented round one of the 2018 American Rally Association series. 


“I’m happy to get the win and it was great to be back in my Subaru again,” explained Higgins at the podium. “Today was a proper Sunday drive just trying to manage our lead! We stayed clear of any problems and our Subaru STI was perfect. This rally is a joy to drive, it has a little bit of everything and the fans are fantastic.”

The victory did not come easy for the British team, David would get the short straw at the seeded draw, putting him out first on the road, om very loose and  fast gravel stages. The three-day event got underway Friday evening at Portland International Raceway, with four super special stage on mixed surfaces, gravel, grass, and asphalt.  
Higgins would take 3 of the four-super special stages with his team mater Chris Atkinson taking victory on SS 3. Irish Driver Barry McKenna had a strong showing early in his Ford Fiesta but was slowed with coil pack issues on SS3 and 4. Barry’s team worked into the night making repairs to the Fiesta, to put him on the start line for day two.
The rally HQ moved 80 miles east to the Dalles for day two and three, crews would cross the Columbia river into Washington State for day two.
Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew would charge into the first stage battling the very loose gravel, on “Dalles Mountain Uphill”

With a very slim margin over Atkinson of only 2 second, we had expected to see the Aussie power ahead and better Higgins but running second on the road was really not much better as there was so much gravel there was barely any track of a line from Higgins.

At the end of the 10.6 mile stage, Higgins somehow managed to ekk out the  stage win by a single second over McKenna with Atkinson just a second off the Irish Team rounding out the top three.

Ss6, the first pass over Badger Gulch would see the start of a recurring issue on these very fast Washington State stages, the top three drivers all broke the bogie time for the stage. McKenna would step up the pace on the first pass of SS 7 “Oak Flat” taking the stage victory over Higgins, the same stage would see Atkinsons hopes for his first US rally victory come to a fiery end. His Subaru would burst into flames half way through SS7, Atkinson and longtime co-driver Stéphane Prévot managed to get the small fire under control, but had to retire on stage.


Again, on the second pass of Badger Gulch, the first 6 drivers broke the bogie time, resulting in them all been awarded the bogie time.
Higgins would answer McKenna’s pace on the second pass on Oak Flat, taking the stage victory with a 4 second gap.  With the departure of Atkinson, Ken Block would move to third behind McKenna.
Higgins would take the victory on both passes of the short and twisty Tarmac twisty ‘Maryhill” stages.























The last big test of day-one would be SS12, “Dalles Mountain downhill” again total dominance from Higgins and Craig gapping McKenna by 10 seconds. Conner Martell would round out the top three. As the teams returned to Dalles for the overnight break, David Higgins had a one minute lead over McKenna, despite some mechanical issues with his 25 year old Cosworth Escort during day two,Ken’s Hoonigan Racing team kept him in the game, ending the day-two in third.  
Keeping their Rocket rally supported Ford Fiesta R2 “flat to the mat” throughout the day, the Canadian duo of Jason Bailey and Leanne Junnila were holding first overall in 2WD.

Taking full advantage of an off-season rules change that now allows Super Rally, Subaru mechanics worked their magic to get Chis Atkinson back on the road for the final day.
After a meet and greet with fans at the Park Expose in Dufur teams headed out to tackle the 8 special stages of day-three. With his overnight lead in hand, Higgins and his trusty sidekick Craig Drew would again take up their road sweeping duties, running first on the road.  
SS 13 the first pass of “Boyd Loop”, with its infamous jump, which I should note is the only jump in the entire rally, again, we would see the top four cars hit the bogie time, as noted earlier this was a significant issue at Oregon Trial Rally. Despite being some of the most scenic stages on the calendar, these roads are too fast and lack technical features. It’s also very challenging for the organizers to set up chicanes without encroaching onto precision private farm land.





















Having nothing to win or lose, Chris Atkinson put on a master class in flat out driving, leaving us all wondering could he have mastered Higgins on these unfamiliar stages.
Despite a mechanical issue or a rare mistake from Higgins it was all but an impossible task for anyone to catch him, but apparently the hard charging McKenna did not get the memo staying within a second of Higgins time on the first pass on the morning stages. Ken Block would fall to forth due to a wheel issue, moving Jeff Seehorn to third at the mid day service.



McKenna’s magnificent drive would be slowed with a soft roll on SS18 “Starveout 2” losing around 11 minutes, fortunately Barry and co-driver Leone Jordon were uninjured and were able to get back on the road and limp back to service for some quick repairs, his overall podium finish was all but gone, but he was still in the hunt for points and the 4WO podium.  

Closing out the final stages of the rally, David Higgins would back off a little giving stage victories to Atkinson and McKenna. In the end it was yet another magnificent victory for the Manxman, and more so a great start to his 2018 championship bid.

Starting the day fourth overall with a four minute lead in their class, the Seehorn Rally Team elected to emulate David Higgins and Craig Drew – working to maintain the gap and score as many championship points as possible. Despite a puncture setting them back early in the day, the strategy paid off; Seehorn and Jankowski earned a class win and their spot on the overall podium.



Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino surprised with their surprise Oregon Trail Rally entry last week. The team, competing in a 25 year old World Rally Championship spec Ford Escort RS Cosworth, wasn't in it to win the rally; they were just looking to have a fun weekend. Block and Gelsomino went home with a third overall finish at the event.
Starting the day holding their podium position, Block and Gelsomino quickly came under threat due to suspension damage. The team passed through 2 stages in the morning loop with a vibrating right rear. Block lost nearly three minutes and was passed by Jeff Seehorn. Despite the mechanical troubles, Block and Gelsomino overcame attrition and took back their podium spot late in the day after McKenna's roll.

Winning the Open 2WD class and placing seventh overall were Jason Bailey and Leanne Junnila. The pair, normally rivals in the CRC, quickly fell into sync as teammates in Bailey's R2 Fiesta. The rally veterans quickly showed their pace and experience, opening an early lead on the competition and maintaining it to win the class. Dodging mechanical issues and keeping a hard charging Erick Potts and Claudia Barbera-Pullen at bay to win the Open 2WD by just over a minute.
Speaking of, Erick Potts and Claudia Barbera-Pullen took second in the Open 2WD class and ninth overall in their newly upgraded supercharged Subaru BRZ. The pair pushed hard in their first event together since NEFR in 2017, taking two stage wins and keeping their loses to a minimum. An impressive drive considering 2018 was Potts' first Oregon Trail Rally.
Lucy Block and Krista Skucas took third in Open 2WD and twelfth overall in their first rally together since NEFR 2015. The pair drove a steady rally and finished without troubles, though they did lose the front bumper from their R2 Fiesta on the final pass through Deere Run. The bumper was signed by sweep crews and returned after podium celebrations.

For more info on the series click here

    













Friday, April 20, 2018

2018 OREGON TRAIL RALLY PREVIEW




Portland, Oregon April 19, 2018; American Rally Championship [ARA]  opens with a bang this weekend as drivers set out to tackle round one the Oregon Trail Rally. 

Subaru Rally Team are expected to continue their dominance in American stage really, fielding two cars in the very capable hands David Higgins and Chris Atkinson, we are hoping for a good solid hard fought battle over the three day event, but its hard to think that team orders will not play a part in the final outcome, 

Subaru claims as always there are no team orders in place, I guess we will see. Although Subaru will field two cars throughout the championship Higgins and co driver Craig Drew are the only crew that will contend the entire series, so I would expect the team to want max points for their lead driver. The second car will be a shared drive in 2018 between Chris Atkinson, Travis Pastrana, and Patrick Sandell.

Chris Atkinson ‘aka” Atko and his long time co-driver Stéphane Prévot come in with a wealth of experience in stage Rally, the crew drove for Subaru World Rally Team between 2005 and 2008, resulting in multiple stage victory’s and several WRC podiums. In more resent times Chris has competed in the Global Rallycross Championship and also doing stints  in the Asia pacific championship.

 “Obviously when the team suggested it, I wasn't gonna say no to running OTR. It'll be great to do some rallies in the US and especially up in the Pacific Northwest region where there's such a huge Subaru fanbase. It's gonna be really cool.” 

I think its a given that we should expect to see both Subarus on the podium this weekend. 

Going up against an establishment like Vermont Sports Car and Subaru is no easy feat for a privateer, looking at the entry list I would have to think that privateer, Irish driver Barry McKenna, who’s based out of New York would get my bet for a podium finish. McKenna is coming into Oregon fresh off a 2nd place finish in the hotly contested  Moonraker Forest Rally in Ireland, just last weekend. Barry and co driver Leone Jordon now lead the 2018 Irish Forest  Rally Championship. Although Barry has completed in various forms of racing, drift, carts etc. this is only his second year in stage rally. Barry will again drive his Ford Fiesta in Oregon, with the support of Buckley Motorsport out of Ireland on the wrenches. 

Coming out of stage Rally hibernation for a select number of events in 2018, Ken Block has entered the rally in a 1991 Ford Escort Cosworth, yes, a 25 year old car, with a lot of 25 year old bits, well some new bits, Ken added a new Hoonigan handbrake grip, and some dampers. 

Back in the day this was a world championship winning machine, but compared to modern cars like the Subaru and McKenna’s Fiesta, the Cosworth would best be described as “lumpy” travel on the suspension is short, its requires to be driven on the cam, all the time which could make for some big Scandinavian set ups from Block. That said, it sure does make sweet music, the sound of the anti lag on this machine would waken the dead. 

Of all the rally’s in the Championship, I think Oregon Trails maybe the best opportunity to see the Cossie at its finest, the fast flowing wide open stages should suit this car, suspension travel is not so much of an issue.  Alex Gelsomino, Block’s long time co driver will have his work cut out for him keeping the HHIC in check,  should Ken find himself within a sniff of the podium he will be hard to contain.. 

As with any rally, so many factors can and will come into play, in the end its all speculation on my part, should Subaru really unleash  Higgins and Atkinson any number of drivers could find themselves in contention for the podium should the battle go a stray.  Cars get underway Friday at Portland Internation Raceway at 7:07pm with 4 Super Special stages, two tarmac and two gravel stages. 


Monday, April 16, 2018

KEN BLOCK RETURNS TO U.S. STAGE RALLY, IN A HISTORIC FORD ESCORT! [AND OTHER STUFF]







PARK CITY, UT, APRIL 16, 2018Today, Hoonigan Racing Division’s Ken Block is pleased to announce his plans for the 2018 race season. When he removed himself from full-time World RX racing at the end of last season, many wondered what the Head Hoonigan In Charge would get into. The answer? An over-the-top mix of racing that’s comprised of four stage rally events (three domestic in the United States, one international) with two different vehicles, as well as two rounds of the newly formed Americas Rallycross Championship (ARX) and one round of the World RX Championship as well.

This is in addition to a return of Gymkhana GRID in the U.S., another larger format Gymkhana GRID event with Monster Energy on the other side of the Atlantic and the launch of an 8-part documentary series titled The Gymkhana Files as well as GymkhanaTEN this fall!



To start with, Block will campaign his 90s Ford Escort Cosworth Group A racecar at three U.S. stage rally races. He’ll be sending his vintage machinery through the woods at the Oregon Trail Rally (April 20-22), New England Forest Rally (July 20-21) and the Idaho Rally International (September 15-16).


Continuing the stage rally theme, Block will also campaign in a 2017 Ford Fiesta RS WRC prepared by M-Sport, for WRC Spain (October 25-28). “It takes a huge amount of effort and training to race in the WRC,” said Block. “but I’ll be cramming that into a short period of testing beforehand. It’s not really enough time in the car to properly prepare for a WRC attack, but I’ll take what I can get!" WRC Spain will be Ken’s first WRC race since he race WRC Spain back in 2014.


Returning to rallycross via select ARX rounds (COTA, July TBD and Canada August 4-5) as well as one World RX round at Circuit of the Americas (September 29-30), Block will be forming a three-way technical and marketing partnership between himself, Canadian rallycross star Steve Arpin and Hoonigan. The partnership will see Arpin become a Hoonigan driver and his racecar will feature a similar livery to Block’s. Arpin's Loenbro team will continue to develop the Focus RS RX in addition to running the two cars, while Block and Hoonigan will be contributing their marketing prowess to Arpin’s RX program.

“I’m excited about partnering with Steve [Arpin] on my 2018 rallycross plans,” said Block. “Steve and his team have offered to continue with development of the Focus and I think they’re a great partner for myself and my team when it comes to ARX. I’m also looking forward to racing in rallycross once again in front of crowds in North America!”

In addition to getting back into rally and continuing with rallycross, Block will also be competing in more Gymkhana GRID events in 2018.

“Plans aren’t final yet, but we intend on doing a GRID event or two back in America this year,” said Block “Hoonigan Racing Division will be fielding as many as three racecars for the events. And, we’re still partnering with Monster Energy once more to do another big Gymkhana GRID event in Europe or South Africa.”

“I’m legitimately excited about my calendar for this season,” Block continues. “I’ve really enjoyed the past few years of rallycross, but I started my race career with rally and my heart has always been with it, so to be able to get back into doing events like these while still doing some rallycross makes me very happy! I love my old Cossie and I’m looking forward to going and pushing that a bit here in America during some events, but then I’m going to the opposite end of the spectrum with the current 2017 WRC Fiesta, which I think is going to be a lot of fun for WRC Spain. Plus, I am excited to see the further developments that Steve Arpin and Loenbro will make on the Focus RS RX.”



Also back for 2018 is Block’s ongoing partnership with artist Death Spray Custom. DSC was tapped once again for livery design duties for Block’s cars as well as his driving suit. The overall graphics package is an evolution of last season's 3D lightning bolt theme, but given a slight retro feel given the application to Block's classic Cossie. Block's 2018 suit, however, is a new, more intricate and detailed take on a concept by Death Spray done previously. A vascular system design that features hidden Hoonigan sayings like "Tire Slayer," "Kill All Tires" and "Ain't Care."



“David [Death Spray Custom] really has a great sense of what works and what doesn't work for myself and my programs,” said Block. “He’s been great to collaborate with on these designs and I think that my fans enjoy the work too. It’s also stuff that translates well to Hoonigan apparel, which is always a nice bonus for me!”



Finally, Block will be staying very busy in 2018 amongst his calendar of events with his continued video production efforts. Both The Gymkhana Files (8-part documentary series launching on Amazon Prime) as well as the next installment of Block’s 500+ million view viral Gymkhana franchise, GymkhanaTEN (created, shot and produced by Hoonigan Media Machine) drop during Q4 of 2018. Block also has a handful of original content projects for Hoonigan’s YouTube channel (youtube.com/TheHoonigans) in production for 2018 as well.



Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Red Bull Global Rallycross Launches Gold Class to Debut in 2018


Los Angeles, CA (February 27, 2018) – Red Bull Global Rallycross announced today the 2018 season launch of the Red Bull GRC Gold class. An evolution of the series’ GRC Lites class from previous seasons, the new Gold class cars will debut aggressive bodywork and strategic mechanical updates designed to tighten up the field, highlight the skills of the drivers, and make for an incredible show for on-site spectators and broadcast viewers alike.
“We are giving the sport of rallycross back to the drivers with the Gold class,” says Colin Dyne, CEO Red Bull Global Rallycross. “By creating a more closely matched generation of top-tier rallycross vehicles, the Gold class will provide a platform where our drivers can highlight their driving skills and create even more dynamic racing for the fans.”
For the 2018 season, the Gold class will replace the Supercars, and will join recently announced Polaris GRC to produce even closer racing, a hallmark of the series. The Gold class platform will include seven (7) events with twelve (12) rounds of racing, and the best overall media package in motorsports with all rounds of racing airing on the NBC network, as well as streaming on a soon-to-be-announced Turner Broadcasting digital platform.
The growth and evolution of the series continues to attract top tier drivers, teams and partners, including premier, multi-year partnerships with TOTAL as its Official Lubricant Partner, and Continental Tire as its Official Tire Partner for all classes, beginning in 2018.
Red Bull GRC will continue to revolutionize the motorsport landscape by introducing in 2019 a new purpose-built rallycross car known as the Platinum class. The Platinum class will serve as the premier series to complement both the Gold and Polaris classes already competing. More information on the Platinum class vehicle will be announced later this week.