The up-and-coming rally team of Joseph Burke and Alex Kihurani (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) outran and outlasted a strong United States Rally Championship field to win Rally New York USA 2012. Their car suffered a brake problem on the first of two days, when a seal failed, and later a spin due to a differential problem. But the team’s mechanics were able to fix both, and with the car in order they rose to the front of the field.

Rally New York USA is one of only two national auto rallies in the United States in which all of the special stages are on paved roads. Other American nationals use dirt and gravel or snow-covered roads. This year’s event used a new 270-mile course in the Catskill Mountains of eastern New York State, in the populated area around Rock Hill and Monticello. Sunday’s leg included four super specials (two in each direction) around the circuit at the Monticello Motor Club, a road racing country club south of Monticello. The route received immediate approval from many of the competitors for its challenge and novelty. All Rally New York events are conducted under the international FIA rules with full reconnaissance of rally route and pace notes.

The rally was hosted by the Rock Hill Fire Department with support from the Rock Hill Business Association and received wide acceptance by residents and business community alike. Local law enforcement, volunteer ambulance corps, fire departments and radio clubs were on hand to assure the excellent safety of this successful event.

The rally ran on time for two days and completed all the special stages in spite of being conducted in a populated area of Sullivan County, New York. There were very few retirements and no serious injuries.

Pre-rally weather reports predicted rain for most of the weekend, heavy at times. In fact, most of Saturday’s leg was conducted in dry, partly sunny and mild conditions. Light sprinkles fell only on the last stage of the day, and heavy rain held off until everyone had reached the end-of-day service. Sunday was entirely overcast, with no precipitation but damp roads in the morning, and light to moderate rain in the afternoon.

The Hungarian team of Robert Martai/Tibor Kertes (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X) placed second, about seven minutes down. This was the best-ever finish in a national for both, after a smooth performance.

The local favorites Matt Gottlieb/Austin Gager (Subaru Impreza) were back after winning last fall’s all-gravel International Rally New York. The driver actually lives on one of the special stages. They finished third after heroic efforts because of failing brakes. The car’s brakes went away on the second special stage, putting them into a ditch. They were able to drive out, after which their service crew diagnosed the problem as damaged hydraulic pipes. The mechanics restored the front brakes for the remainder of the day, then the rears for the second day. They spent the next several hours climbing back up the order. On Sunday the rear brake line failed again, and the mechanics were able to restore stopping to one of the wheels, which got them to the finish in third overall.

Alvin Fong/Amber Stacy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) placed fourth, an excellent result for a driver in his first full season of rallying, and a co-driver who was competing in her first national. They also took home the trophy for best-placed Production AWD car.

The Canadian-Irish team of Donal Crooke/Noel Joyce (Honda Civic) placed first in the two-wheel drive (2WD) category after a clean run, a minute and a half ahead of Erika Detota/Greg Dorman (Subaru Impreza). Sid Sareen/Timothy Oliver (Ford Fiesta) placed third in 2WD, and were the best-placed Production 2WD car. A 2WD entry of note is the experienced team of tarmac specialists Brendan Brosnan/Tommy Commane (Toyota Twin-Cam) who travelled to the event all the way from Ireland to suffer engine problems thoughout the event.

Human error or bad luck dogged many pre-event favorites for the overall win. Cyril Kearney/Mark McAlister (Subaru Impreza) were running in the second place, but then mis-estimated the car’s fuel requirements at a service stop and ran out of gas only one half of a mile from the end of special stage six. They were classified under Super Rally rules, and continued, only to go off the road on the next-to-last stage. Celsus “Charlie” Donnelly/Barry Smith (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX) were holding third overall, but likewise suffered a lack of gas, and then a problem with a crankshaft sensor for the engine management system. Ultimately, they stopped on the final transit zone with a drive train failure (the center differential gave up), which dropped them to tenth under Super Rally rules.

Burke/Kihurani on their way to win Rally New York USA 2012
Photo by Liviu Hrituleac www.LHimages.com

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