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Long Beach, Calif. (Jan. 17, 2013) — The 2012 Bilstein Southwest RallyCup Series (SWRC) awards banquet set sail aboard the Pacific Spirit last Saturday. Attendees were treated to a buffet of Mexican fare and margaritas while the yacht toured Long Beach Harbor.

United States Auto Club (USAC) president, Kevin Miller was on hand to discuss the recently announced alliance between Rally America and USAC for the 2013 season. This year, Rally America members may also hold USAC memberships, in addition to their Rally America licenses, affording them numerous benefits of being a part of one of America’s oldest racing clubs. The partnership will also afford Rally America a $50,000 savings in insurance fees that it will be able to reinvest into the series.

High on Miller’s agenda is building relationships with other sanctioning bodies to encourage new media and sponsorship opportunities while promoting cross-over participation by other USAC members as well as the creation of hybrid events that showcase multiple racing series. Miller will also be traveling to Italy to explore opportunities for the engagement of global rally fans in America’s premier rally sanctioning body. Miller added that he is participating in the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile’s Off-Road Commission (FIA ORC) as a representative from the U.S.

“I want the U.S. to be the leader in rally,” Miller said to the banquet attendees.

In an interview with motorsports journalist Bill Wood for his “Tech, House and Speed” online radio show (www.bybillwood.com), Miller said USAC is looking for ways to diversify and to support an affordable, more grassroots mode of motorsports to attract a younger demographic.

“Rally is very interesting as it’s to a core what we’re looking at. It aligns very well with what current OEMs are producing and we always have to look out for that,” Miller told Wood. “So rally car racing is dirt, it’s fast and it aligns with what USAC is—passion, racing, dirt—and we’re very happy to be entering this new era.”

Also present were Dirk Welk and Chelsea Bell of ThyssenKrupp Bilstein of America and pledged Bilstein’s continued support of the series. They also discussed the launch of the Bilstein Universal Motorsports, a strut designed with rallying in mind and is customizable to fit most McPherson setups. Rounding out the guest speakers were Brian McGuire and Kendall Beymer of StageTrack with a talk on the addition of GPS tracking to their product line, allowing for a much more accurate and versatile data set to be recorded.

A new accolade at this year’s banquet was the Gibeault Award, in honor of Mike and Paula Gibeault. The distinction is to honor an individual who has, over the years, has offered exceptional contributions to the SWRC.

Top awardees are listed below by category and a complete list of honorees can be found on the SWRC website.

The evening finished off with care packages compliments of long-time sponsor Lucas Oil.

Following is the list of awards presented and the recipients. The full list is available on the SWRC’s website at www.southwestrallyseries.com.

Special Awards:

Team O’Neil Award: Andy Kingsley
Most Inspiring Competitor Team: Sarkis and Michael Mazmanian
Rookie Team of the Year: Ray Piloto & Cory Grunwald
Above and Beyond Volunteerism: Jessica Colton
Volunteer of the Year/Stage Controls: Carl & Victoria Schmidt
Volunteer of the Year/Communications: Jim Albright & Tom Turner
Volunteer of the Year/Rally Operations: Marni & Doug Nagy
Gibeault Award: Dave Belcher
Most Supportive: Lucas Oil/ Tom Bogner; Mad Media Productions/Matt Martnelli;
Down and Dirty Radio Show/Jim Beaver
Best Crash: Leelyn Prichard & Logan Mineer

Class Winners:

Position (Place), Driver, Co-driver

Production GT:
1st, Jesse Babbitz, John Dillon

1st, Will Hudson, Brian Szykowny

Group 5:
1st, Bill Holmes, Sean Gallagher
2nd, Jim Morris, Steve Palmeri

1st, John Black, Lori Stone
2nd, Chris Rosner, Marra Esteep
3rd, N/A, Victoria Roser

Open Light:
1st, Ray Pilato, Logan Mineer
2nd, Leelyn Prichard, Mike Arfuso
3rd, Alex Rademacher, Yang Tan

Group 2:
1st, Andrew Lockhart, Robin Lockhart
2nd, Chuck Wilson, Brent Ellzey
3rd, Alex Helton, Patrick Lobban

SWRC Darlin Cup:
1st, Andrew Lockhart, Robin Lockhart
2nd, Leelyn Prichard, Logan Mineer
3rd, John Black, Brent Ellzey

Racetec AWD:
1st, Andrew Lockhart, Logan Mineer
2nd, Alex Rademacher, Marra Esteep
3rd, Ray Piloto, Seri Traver

Lucas Oil 2WD:
1st, Andrew Lockhart, Robin Lockhart
2nd, John Black, Brent Ellzey
3rd, Chuck Wilson, Lori Stone

Bilstein Cup:
1st, Andrew Lockhart, Robin Lockhart
2nd, Chuck Wilson, Brent Ellzey
3rd, Leelyn Prichard, Logan Mineer

About the Bilstein Southwest RallyCup Series (www.southwestrallyseries.com): Organized as a non-profit organization in 2004, and officially recognized by Rally America, the sanctioning body for national and regional rally events in the USA, the Bilstein Southwest RallyCup Series (SWRC) supports the advancement of the sport of performance stage rally in the Southwest region of the U.S. It is promoted as an affordable entry point for individuals interested in participating in the sport.
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