Barry McKenna has won the 100 Acre Wood Rally, the second event of the American Rally Association national championship, beating the favourites from the factory Subaru team in the two-day event.
The Irish driver ended the first day second overall, but won three stages and moved to the fore after reigning series champion David Higgins hit trouble on Saturday.
Higgins, who has won eight of the last 10 US national titles, lost five minutes on the 14th stage of the rally after his WRX STI suffered an electrical issue which cost him five minutes. The problem cost him an almost certain win – he’d won half of the rally’s stages up to that point and held a commanding lead.
Pre-event favourite David Higgins hit trouble late on Saturday – Credit: Matt Stryker/Subaru Motorsports USA
Such was Higgins’ advantage before his stoppage that despite the sizeable delay, he still managed to retain a podium spot. His Subaru team mate Oliver Solberg, making his US rally debut, move back up to second place at Higgins’ expense.
The young Swede won the fifth stage of the event but suffered a setback of his own after hitting a rock on SS7 which resulted in a puncture. The puncture cost him a minute, which dropped him out of the top two. The combined misfortune of both Subaru drivers allowed Ford Fiesta S2000 driver McKenna to assume the lead late on, and despite Solberg’s delay, he went on to win five more stages, finishing the event just 6.8 seconds off McKenna.
Elsewhere in the premier four-wheel-drive open class, the eagerly-anticipated debut for Ken Block’s new ‘Cossie V2’ Ford Escort RS Cosworth ended in disaster after the engine failed on just the third stage. The fan favourite had been running comfortably in the top four until that point.
Pat Moro, competing for the first time in his V8-powered Chevrolet Sonic also didn’t make it to the end of the rally after breaking both front tie rods.
With Subaru sitting out the opening round of the season in Michigan, McKenna’s win marks the first time since 2013 that Subaru Motorsports USA has gone two consecutive events without a victory. Block’s back-to-back at the Susquehannock Trail Rally and the New England Forest Rally that year being the last time Subaru went winless for consecutive rounds.
The ARA national championship continues on April 27-28 with the Olympus Rally in Washington.
100 Acre Wood Rally results (overall top five)
1. #97 Barry McKenna/Leon Jordan – Ford Fiesta S2000 (O4WD) – 98:37.9
2. #70 Oliver Solberg/Aaron Johnston – Subaru WRX STI (O4WD) – 98:44.7
3. #75 David Higgins/Craig Drew – Subaru WRX STI (O4WD) – 102:28.6
4. #94 Piotr Fetela/Dominik Jozwiak – Ford Fiesta Proto (O4WD) – 108:33.6
5. #19 Paddy Brennan/Matthew James – Mitsubishi Evo IX (L4WD) – 112:08.3
Source: Dominik Wilde/com