Story and Photos by Thomas Barker

Josh Wimpey (Volkswagen Golf GTI, 2WD Limited class), Eric Vlasic (Honda Civic, 2WD Super), and David Sterckx (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, 4WD Limited) won the three classes of Rally America’s “JSC Speed Rallycross Presented by Tony Carbajal” at New Jersey Motorsport Park. The event, on a warm, sunny May 19, marked Rally America’s return to sanctioning rallycross racing after a year’s absence.

Background
Rally America’s first rallycross series, in 2010, consisted of four race days at New Jersey Motorsport Park (NJMP) in Milville, NJ. We can consider it successful for a first-year series, based on the presence of star drivers on the 4WD side (Tanner Foust, Travis Pastrana, Dave Mirra, and some visiting Europeans), and spectators numbered in the thousands — rather than the hundreds seen at most U.S. national rallies.

Josh Wimpey (VW Golf) was the inaugural champion of the 2WD class. No title was awarded on the 4WD side, but Tanner Foust (Ford Fiesta) was the unofficial champ.

In 2011, Rally America lost NJMP as a venue. Rally America’s managers looked like they had reached an agreement on a tie-in with the new Global Rallycross Series (which, despite the name, is U.S.-only), but that association fell apart, and Rally America finished the year without sanctioning any track events.

This year, NJMP returns to rallycrossing, hosting four Rally America events. (Rally America management is seeking additional tracks, but there have been no announcements to date.) Unfortunately, so far the 4WD-mounted stars have remained loyal to the Global series, the opening round of which fell one week after NJMP. Instead, the New Jersey event attracted a mixed group of clubman-level special stage rallyists, some amateur racers, and solo-type rallycross exponents. Many of the drivers were veterans of the last RA rallycross series. Nearly everyone, whether veteran or first-timer, spoken with enthusiasm about this type of competition.

The cars at NJMP were a collection of rally cars (two 4WD, the rest 2WD) and slightly-adapted road racing machines (entirely 2WD). The single AWD class of two years ago is now divided into 4WD Super (for international-style rallycross cars) and 4WD Limited (Open and SP stage rally cars). Please note that both all wheel drive cars entered in New Jersey were 4WD-L. Similarly, 2WD is split into 2WD Super (for turbo and large-bore cars) and 2WD Limited (under 3 liters).

Heat Races
Rally America’s race day format is familiar to fans of either Euro-rallycrossing or sprint/midget cars: a series of “heat” (preliminary) races which set the field for the “main” (feature) race. (No “B Main” or “last chance qualifier on this occasion; not enough cars.)

Josh Wimpey (Volks) was the clear winner in his two 2WD Limited heats, having lost none of the form that he showed in 2010. On both occasions the runner-up was Rich Bodmer (Dodge Neon), a former football player (Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles) and stunt driver (The Bourne Ultimatum, Indiana Jones). Bodmer’s car was in road race spec, apart from a skid plate and treaded tires.

Race driver Collin Wooding also won a pair of 2WD Limited heat races. Wooding’s vehicle was a BMW 318i which was originally used for Lemons races (which explains the odd paint scheme, drab green with wood grain contact paper).

But THE races of the day were the two 2WD Super heat races. In the first, Eric Vlassic (supercharged Honda Civic) got the jump on Dillon Vay Way (Ford Focus turbo) on the first lap, and the two of them remained generally nose-to-tail to the checkered flag. It was interesting that the solo car entered by Honda Canada engineer Vlassic (part of a small fleet that Honda technical types race or rally on weekends) was evenly matched to Van Way’s rally-spec Ford, despite their very different origins, and the drivers seemed pretty even as well.

In the 2WD Super rematch, Vlassic again got away first with Van Way again in pursuit. Vlassic admitted after the race to “driving defensively,” (“but I’ve driven a lot more defensively than that”), and Van Way couldn’t find a way to get by. Alas, Van Way had to drop back before the finish, with a punctured radiator and engine damage, which would cause the team to scratch from the final.

David Sterckx (fresh from his SP class win in Oregon, this time in a Mitsubishi) dominated both 4WD Limited heat races over Sebastian Kokoszka (Subaru Impreza WRX). Late in the second heat, Kokoszka’s car broke a rear strut, putting him out for the remainder of the day. And with only the two of them, that eliminated the need for a 4WD final.

Finals
Josh Wimpey put several car-lengths between his VW and Collin Wooding’s BMW early in the 2WD Limited final, and they finished in those positions. Rich Bodmer couldn’t catch either of them, but was well ahead of young Duane Lewis (Mitsubishi Eclipse, in his first-ever race).

Eric Vlassic took command of the 2WD Super final, and with Van Way missing he was was unchallenged. Kyle Gagliardi (Ford Mustang) was a solid second – the V-8-powered car got some serious wheelspin at times, and one wonders what will be the result when he gets enough traction to put the power down. Rafal Listopad (Dodge Neon SRT-4) completed the podium.

Conclusions
Rallycross still has a future in the U.S., for the same reason that it has a present in Europe: one can get much of the action and excitement of rallying in a form that is easy to watch. And if Rally America continues to build on what they (and NJMP) have accomplished so far, it will be an important part of that future. Some cross-over and even cooperation between Rally America and Global would be welcome.

Several competitors put it much more simply: if you have a sunny, warm summer day when you can go racing, it’s a pretty good day.

Results:
2WD Limited
1. Josh Wimpey (Volkswagen Golf GTI)
2. Collin Wooding (BMW 318i)
3. Rich Bodmer (Dodge Neon)
4. Duane Lewis (Mitsubishi Eclipse)
5. John Duran (Acura Integra)
6. Anthony Concha (Ford Focus ZX3), DNF
7. Terdsuk Srisook (Ford Focus ZX3), DNS

2WD Super
1. Eric Vlasik (Honda Civic)
2. Kyle Gagliardi (Ford Mustang)
3. Rafal Listopad (Dodge Neon SRT4)
4. Dillon Van Way (Ford Fiesta turbo), DNF
5. Randy Zimmer (Mazda Miata), DNF

4WD Limited
1. David Sterckx (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX)
2. Sebastian Kokoszka (Subaru Impreza WRX)

Comments

comments

Powered by Facebook Comments

Tags