Twenty-two teams competed in the twenty-fourth annual Prescott Rally on September 30 through October 1. The rally featured smooth, hard-packed dirt and gravel stages set against a breathtaking northwest Arizona desert backdrop. Finishers travelled almost 100 total stage miles over two days, with attrition playing a significant role on the final standings.

In the open four wheel-drive class, Will Hudson and co-driver Brian Szykowny surprised everyone right out of the gate Friday night when they trounced several well-experienced teams by almost thirty seconds on the first stage. Hudson and Szykowny maintained that thirty second lead through the finish on Friday, where they ended up ahead of local veteran Brian Scott who finished second despite an ailing co-driver. Belgian National Champion David Sterckx took third, pairing up with co-driver Karen Jankowski for only his second rally in the United States.

Saturday morning began a separate CRS event, and Hudson and Szykowny maintained their blistering pace, but without consequences. The team won the first stage on Saturday, but succumbed to multiple flat tires and a damaged skidplate on the next stage, forcing the team to withdraw. Meanwhile, Brian Scott recruited Brent Ellzey to sit in for his motion-sick co-driver on Saturday’s event. Scott and Ellzey drove flawlessly and cruised to the overall win on Saturday, with Sterckx / Jankowski taking second and the Colorado team of Mitch Williams and Alix Hakala taking third. Championship leader Jon Burke drove a cautious and steady rally, placing sixth on Friday and seventh on Saturday, but earning enough points to maintain his position at the top of the standings.

CRS-2, the small-displacement two wheel-drive class was dominated by Michel Hoche-Mong in his VW Golf. He finished first in both Friday and Saturday’s events, despite fuel delivery issues forcing him to sit on the side of the road for nearly ten minutes on the last stage of the rally. The double victory means Hoche-Mong has secured the CRS-2 driver’s championship for 2011. Eddie Fiorelli and co-driver Tom Smith finished second in CRS-2 on Friday, but they put their VW Golf on its side coming into a hard left corner on Saturday. Corner workers in the area helped get the car back on its wheels, and the team continued, only to have a rear wheel come off half a mile down the stage ending their rally. Chuck Wilson drove a steady rally in his Ford Escort, and was rewarded with second place in CRS-2 on Saturday.

Alex Rademacher and co-driver Jeanne Yi won the production-based four wheel-drive class (CRS-GT) in both Friday and Saturday’s events. Their weekend was not without drama, as the car was bouncing around due to some mismatched struts on their Subaru Impreza – a consequence of severely bending one at the last event and not having a comparable spare. With the two victories, the team clinches the CRS-GT championship. Michael Carnes and Reza Yazdani drove their Audi 4000CS to a second place finish in CRS-GT despite a failed intercom that resulting in a lot of shouting in their car. A steady drive allowed Katianna Pihakari to finish fourth on Friday and third on Saturday, and cement her position as runner up in the CRS-GT championship.

The championship battle in the production-based two-wheel-drive class (P-Stock) had centered on two teams all year long, and it came to a head at Prescott. Friday night, John Black and co-driver Lori Stone took top honors in their Ford Ranger over their class rivals Jen Imai and Terry Stonecipher. However, electrical problems forced Black / Stone to retire on Saturday, allowing Imai / Stonecipher to nurse their recently-rolled Suzuki Swift to a class victory, and lock up the P-Stock season championship ahead of the last event.

The final event of the CRS 2011 championship calendar is the Seed 9 rally, taking place in Jean, NV on November 5, 2011. The one day, compact event features forty miles of smooth gravel stages with sandy washes and an after party at a historic saloon. The event will see the return of two very fast CRS-5 (large displacement, two-wheel-drive) teams that have been absent recently. Bill Holmes and Sean Gallagher will be there competing in a new Ford Raptor. The team won this event last year by a margin of over four minutes, and they are hoping the new truck will be just as dominant. However, they should expect a tough fight from Jim Morris and Steve Palmieri in their Chevy Camaro. They also have a strong history here, finishing second overall in 2009.

While Hoche-Mong has the CRS-2 championship locked up, second place is still up for grabs in a close battle that will come down to the wire at Seed 9. Chuck Wilson and Brent Ellzey are the favorites, but a strong finish from Javier Olivares and Brock Heinz in their Mitsubishi Galant could move them into second place. CRS veteran Tony Chavez with co-driver Raquel Salas threatens to play spoiler as he moves from P-Stock to CRS-2 for this event. Tony and Raquel were the fastest two-wheel-drive team at their last event, the Gorman rally this past August.

The 24th Annual Prescott Rally took place on smooth dirt roads outside of Prescott, AZ on September 30 – October 1. The rally is a favorite among CRS competitors for its flowing stages and breathtaking views. For more information on the Prescott Rally, visit http://www.prescottrally.com/.

The 2011 Seed 9 rally is based in Jean, NV and features stages on maintained gravel roads with some rocky areas, sandy washes and exposures. The compact schedule sends competitors over 40 stage miles, finishing at the historic Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings, NV. For more information on the Seed 9 rally, visit: http://www.seed9rally.com/.

The California Rally Series is the premier performance rally championship in the southwestern United States. The Series incorporates events from various sanctioning bodies in order to create a meaningful regional championship for its members. The Series celebrates more than 35 continuous years of performance rally, making it the longest running rally series in the United States. To learn more about the California Rally Series visit www.californiarallyseries.com and follow @crspress on twitter.

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