The national championship is already over, but while the stars got to play for the cameras at the X Games 16, the real men and women of Rally America’s Central Regional Championship have just crossed the halfway point of their season.

Racers return to the Nemadji Trail complex for the third and final time this season, many teams are using the opportunity to test their cars for the final six rallies of the year. The Nemadji Trail Rally stages are run in a twin-sprint format, where each pass through the stages is scored as a separate race with a brief service break between each rally. The drivers tackled four special stages today, making up a fast flowing course nearly 17 miles long for each sprint. Dry and dusty conditions made it difficult to keep out of the loose gravel that lurks off of the racing line.

The cars thundered away from Duquette General Store at 2:00 sharp for Nemadji 3a – the first sprint of the day. Jim Scray and Colin Vickman took a slim lead in their Datsun 510 after Stage 1, leading rookie hotshot Brent Carlson’s GTI by 12 seconds. Bonnie Stoehr and Amanda Ingle’s Ford Mustang held third place after a hard landing cracked the transmission case on Derek McCorison’s Hyundai. Bonnie kept pace with the Open Light cars on Stage 2 to hold on to third place in class. Brent Carlson and Mark Utecht pushed hard but Scray slipped away in the Gravel-Spec Rallysport Datsun to take his first Group 2 victory, finishing in third place overall.

After a 45 minute service in downtown Duquette, the racers headed back to the forest for a second sprint through the stages. Running light on fuel both Scray and Carlson found a few seconds on the road, but the Datsun squeaked out a nine second advantage on Stage 3. Jim Scray and Colin Vickman held off the charging GTI to finish Stage 4 with an 18 second lead, but they paid the price for running light, sputtering to a halt on the final transit. A gracious tow from Brent Carlson and Mark Utecht got the Datsun back to the finish in time to secure the win, taking 4th overall. Bonnie Stoehr put together a solid drive to take the final podium spot for Nemadji 3b.

Adding another pair of 2nd place finishes to his resume, navigator turned driver Brent Carlson takes the top rookie honors in his Volkswagen GTI.

With the summer sprint rallies wrapped up the Central Region Championship continues with the Paul Bunyan’s Ride and Headwaters rallies on August 20 -21st in Bemidji Minnesota. With six rallies to go Chris Greenhouse holds a 112 point lead in the Group 2 drivers championship, not enough to shut the door on Matt Bushore.

Photos by Jerry Winker

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