“It’s been tough, to be honest,” said Higgins. “I think the healthy margin that we had doesn’t really reflect how hard the weekend’s been for us. Barry set an amazing pace today — we were going full tilt to get him. We went into the Lebo and Cedar stages knowing that we had to do something pretty special, and we put on some really good times. But unfortunately, Barry went off on the next one. This rally is so hard, it’s almost the length of a full rally on some stage loops. Happy for the win, but definitely looking forward to a bit of a rest.”
Jon Kramer and Jason Smith’s Subaru Impreza finished third in both the Finger Lakes Rally and Sherwood Forest Rally.
Even when conditions are good, STPR’s forest stages are among the toughest to navigate on ARA’s schedule. They’re tree-lined, narrow and fast. Just Saturday’s stages run 110 miles. This year, thundershowers made matters worse, wetting the stages — great for limiting dust, but a soaked clay surface reduced grip significantly in some areas.
Indeed, the resulting slick roads meant several teams crashed, most significantly McKenna and Jordan. They started Saturday with a 14.3-second lead, and their intent was to drive hard and extend it. They battled the Higgins/Drew Subaru on equal terms early, with McKenna taking two of three stages. McKenna crashed on stage 9, though, and his day was over.
Sam Albert and Michelle Miller (Subaru) finished second overall and first in the Limited 4wd class, their best career finish. Subaru factory drivers Chris Atkinson and Stephane Prévot originally finished second, but they were disqualified for working on the car on an illegal part of the stage, trying to fix an issue.
Jesse Whitsell and Mackenzie Cucino’ Volkswagen Golf finished fourth in the Sherwood Forest Rally.
Seamus Burke and Martin Brady (Ford Escort) finished third overall and first in Open 2wd, while local favorites Paddy Brennan and Matt James led the Mitsubishi Evo contingent with a fourth place overall finish, earning second place in the Limited 4wd class. They also showed they were good sports when they towed Troy Miller and Stephen Harrell back to service after stage 2. Travis Nease and Danny Norkus (Subaru) drove conservatively to fifth.
Jordan Guitar and Chris Sladek (Honda) won the Limited 2wd class. The Honda drivers had a battle with Open 2wd class entrants Keanna Erickson-Chang and Alex Gelsomino (Ford) — the two teams traded stage times and positions all weekend. It was the third straight time Erickson-Chang finished on the STPR podium and the first for Gelsomino’s since he won in 2013.
Third in Open 2wd were Frank Cunningham and (the aptly named) Ross Forde in their MKII Ford Escort. Cunningham and Forde started the day second in class behind Seamus Burke and ahead of Erickson-Chang, but issues on the 30-mile Mine Hole stage saw them lose several minutes and drop a step on the podium. Still, classic rally car fans were happy with the result. The Open 2wd podium was all Ford, featuring two MKII Escorts.
ARA is taking a midseason break, resuming July 20-21 at the New England Forest Rally.