Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Rally America Championship Returns to the Northwest for the 2011 Olympus Rally

Dave Mirra will be hoping to keep his streak of podium finishes alive at Olympus Rally this weekend.
Photo Neil McDaid /OLY 2010

April 30, 2011: Ocean Shores WA.  Round #3 of the 2011 Rally America Championship gets underway today in South Bend WA. This is a change over previous years where the southern loops of stages were run on day two of the Rally.
Team Subaru USA will debut their latest car at Olympus, and will as always be on a mission to capture the top step on the podium, getting them there lays firmly on the shoulders of David Higgins.
Off the front in AWD, we expect to see Higgins set the early pace; he cannot let the Canadians Antoine L’Estage or Pat Richard open any gap before the rally turns to the more technical stages in the afternoon and on day two.
The opening stages today, Palix, Smith Creek and of course the infamous Brooklyn stage are all very fast smooth flowing tests, and should suit the more powerfully car of Team Subaru USA. 
As with Higgins, Antoine L’Estage will no doubt be on the early pace, but we expect Antoine may not be at 10 tenth on the opening stages and may make his move later in the day over the more technical twisty Pico stage.  Despite running first on the road we would not rule Antoine out for a stage victory on say, the second pass on Palix or on Brooklyn West. 
Making his annual pilgrimage across the border from Canada Pat Richard is always the wild card at Olympus, and he can never be ruled out as a contender for the overall podium. Running third on the road Richard is in perfect position to be the spoiler for the Championship contenders.

We feel that dispite the introduction of the new car from Subaru, and his gravel clearing duties on day one, we still  give the edge to L’Estage for the overall victory.
The second of the two Team Subaru USA cars will be driven by Dave Mirra, who’s just coming off a few epic rounds at The Global RallyCross Championship; Mirra will need to quickly adjust back to taking instruction from his navigator Marshall Clarke to be in the hunt.  We expect that Mirra will be felling the heat from some of the SP cars running behind him in the top ten.  
In SP Class, look for Ramana Lagemann to charge hard right from the get go, Ramana has some good history at this rally, he took the overall victory at Olympus in 2007.  We expect to see a more conservative run from the current overall Rally America and SP Class point’s leader Travis Hanson as he sets his focused on the 2011 SP championship.
It’s shaping up to be a great 2WD battle, both on the national level and also in the chase for those precious Max Attack dollars.
Point’s leader Dillon Van Way finally gets some more grunt under the hood of his 2011 2WD Ford Fiesta. The Van Way Racing Team added a turbo since their last outing at 100aw. Fitted with a front mounted intercooler, the car will also be popping with the tune of it new  anti lag system.  The Fiesta is now reported to be putting out somewhere in the ballpark of 260 bhp, a lot of power from a  1.6 Motor, let’s hope it holds. In addition the car has been fitted with a new sequential 6 speed box; assuming  everything performs as planned, we expect to see big things from Van Way this weekend.
Canadian Andrew Comrie-Picard makes a return to stage rally in above all things, a 2WD Scion XD. Andrew [ACP] has called on the services of English co-driver Robbie Durant to call the notes, ACP and Durant have teamed up many times in the past, and have seen some great results. The Scion that ACP will drive is the same car that Chris Duplessis drove in 2010 with the addition of few go faster bits, it will be interesting to see what ACP can do with the Scion, if it holds up?.
Last but not least, we expect to see Wyatt Knox in the Team O’ Neil - MazdaSpeed3 running in the front 2WD pack.  Both Dillon Van Way and ACP have past experience at Olympus which will work to their advantage.   For Knox this is his first visit to Olympus, Wyatt will have to put a lot of trust in the experience of his co-driver Ole Holter to stay in the hunt. Wyatt may be best advised to ease into this unfamiliar rally as the reliability of both the Fiesta and the Scion is still in question.
The Rally will move north of Ocean Shores for day two.

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