Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team’s Antoine L’Estage from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec and co-driver Nathalie Richard from Halifax, Nova Scotia won the 36th running of the Susquehannock Performance Trail Rally held in Wellsboro, PA on June 1-2.
L’Estage and Richard in their 2011 Mitsubishi EVO X led the rally from the start after his chief rival Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins and Craig Drew suffered a gearbox problem in their 2012 Subaru Impreza WRX STI that pushed the team down as far as 13th overall.
It then became a battle to the finish between the Rockstar team and Can-Jam Motorsports’ Leonid “Crazy Leo” Urlichich from Thornhill, Ontario and Carl Williamson from Ammanford, UK. L’Estage amazingly survived major overheating problems through the first day and managed to stay ahead of Crazy Leo by a mere 8.8 seconds.
L’Estage changed his engine overnight and both teams battled hard the next day to stay within a minute of each other until stage 12 when L’Estage started placing time over Urlichich. L’Estage finished 1:15.1 ahead of Urlichich.
“It’s a great win. We changed the engine, so it was a team win” said L’Estage, “Mathematically, I have a shot at the Rally America title, so it’s not over yet.”
L’Estage is having a great run lately since failing to finish the past two Rally America events. He won the Canadian Rally Championship’s Rocky Mountain Rally in Calgary, Alberta last week and followed up with an STPR Rally win a week later. This is L’Estage’s third STPR Rally win having taken the top spot in 2008 and 2010.
Higgins and Drew mounted a furious comeback targeting Urlichich sitting in second overall and winning 6 of 10 stages on the second day. Higgins overtook Urlichich on stage 13 to finish 2nd overall 1:11.8 over Urlichich, who secured third overall for a consecutive podium finish in America.
Higgins retains his 2012 Rally America National Championship lead with 78 points. L’Estage moves into second place overall with 41 points, one point over Urlichich who assumes third place overall with 40 points.
Lauchlin O’Sullivan from San Francisco, CA and co-driver Scott Putnam from Minneapolis, MN took an impressive win in the Super Production (SP) Class by only 14.1 seconds over last year’s SP Class STPR Rally winner, Ramana Lagemann and Chrissie Beavis. This is O’Sullivan’s second SP Class win this year having won the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood in Salem, MO.
Ramana Lagemann from Somerville, MA and Chrissie Beavis from San Diego, CA took 2nd place in the SP Class followed by 2011 SP Class winner, Travis Hanson from Woodsville, NH and co-driver Terry Hanson from Williamsburg, MI running 4:46.6 behind.
O’Sullivan builds a larger SP Class lead in the standings with this win with 62 points over Hanson with 53 points.
The much-anticipated battle between Two-Wheel-Drive (2WD) American driver, Chris Duplessis from Bethlehem, NH and co-driver Alex Kihurani from Philadelphia, PA and the Summit Rally Team ‘s top drivers, Will Orders from Melbourne, Australia and co-driver Toni Feaver from Perth, Australia finally occurred at the STPR Rally.
This was the first meeting between the top 2WD teams and Orders immediately placed time on Duplessis. It appeared that Orders was going to walk away with a win, but his 1989 Nissan Silvia began losing oil on the first leg of day two before retiring at the second service with electrical misfires.
“Because Orders had issues with the motor, we took over the lead, happily, and held on,” Duplessis said. He added they only finished the car on Thursday, arriving too late to run the course reconnaissance prior to the event start.
Duplessis assumed the 2WD Class win by 4:18.1 over Summit Rally Team’s second team drivers, brothers Ross Allan and Scott Allan both from Australia. This is the Allan’s first American podium.
Chris Greenhouse from Cincinnati, OH with co-driver Brian Johnson from Bethel, CT returned to the 2WD Class podium in a newly acquired 2003 Dodge Neon SRT4. They won the STPR 2WD Class last year and took third in class at this year’s running.
Notably, two 2WD favorites suffered mechanical mishaps that forced them out of competition.
Ford Racing’s Dillon Van Way from Carencro, LA with co-driver Jake Blattner from Salem, OR in a borrowed Ford Fiesta R2 from Team O’Neil Rally School suffered a minor fuel fire at the end of stage 6 to retire. In addition, Scion Racing’s Andrew Comrie-Picard from Hermosa Beach, CA with Jeremy Wimpey from State College, PA broke their rear suspension in their 2011 Scion xD that knocked them out from the race.
Andrew Comrie-Picard gives up the 2WD Class top spot to Duplessis by not finishing STPR. Duplessis has 66 points in the 2WD standings, followed by Comrie-Picard with 52 points.
A scary crash occurred on stage 10 with FY Racing’s Adam Yeoman and Jordan Schulze, both from Hancock, MI, in their 2002 Subaru Impreza when they crashed into a tree. The stage was halted as emergency services took the team to Wellsboro Hospital where they were later released. Yeoman reported a concussion and Schulze received minor cuts to the face.
The competition continues on July 13-14 when round five of the Rally America National Championship heads to Newry, Maine, for the New England Forest Rally. Visit www.rally-america.com for details.
Full STPR results: http://www.rally-america.com/events/2012/STPR/results/
Video and photo gallery: http://www.rally-america.com/events/2012/STPR/gallery/
The 2012 Rally America National Championship is proudly supported by TeleBlend, VP Racing Fuels – the Official Fuel of Rally America, ParkNBlend, Subaru of America, Ford Racing, Exedy Racing Clutches, Hawk Performance Brakes, DMack Tyres USA, GrimmSpeed and RECARO seats.
About Rally America:
Based in Williston, VT, Rally America, Inc. sanctions the Rally America National Championship, the premier performance rally series in the United States. In 2012, Rally America will be conducting six National Championship events at venues across the country, from Seattle, Washington to Newry, Maine. Rally America competitors reach speeds of well over 100 mph in modified street cars on natural-terrain courses consisting of http://www.rally-america.com.
Photos by Neil McDaid:
Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard Overall Winners.
Lauchlin O’Sullivan and Scott Putnam Super Production Class Winners.
Chris Duplessis and Alex Kihurani 2WD Class Winners.