Olympus Rally is underway in Pacific Northwest Saturday and Sunday
SHELTON, Wash. (May 16, 2015) – The fourth round of the Rally America National Championship is underway, with nearly 50 teams taking to the stage roads in the Puget Sound area near Shelton and Matlock. Live coverage of the event is on Twitter Saturday and Sunday at www.twitter.com/rally_america.
A last-minute regional entry by Subaru Rally Team Canada driver Antoine L’Estage, who finished third here in 2012 between first-place driver Ken Block and runner-up David Higgins, has set the field abuzz. But L’Estage said his aim this weekend is to shake down his team’s new car before the first gravel rally of the year in his native Canada.
“We’re happy to be here and we like the Rally America events, but we’re here this weekend as a real-world test and we don’t want to disrupt anyone’s championship,” said L’Estage. The team is headquartered at Rocket Rally in nearby Squamish, British Columbia.
He says he and co-driver Alan Ockwell are entered in the regional-only portion of the event because he doesn’t want to play spoiler to the points chase. Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew are undefeated in the Rally America National Championship this year.
With so many brand new stages in the event this weekend, Drew observed that the event would be won or lost in recce. "Olympus Rally is going to really put the co-drivers to the test," said Drew. "The nature of the roads around there is very technical and very twisty -- a bit like the roads back home, really -- and we're looking forward to the challenge."
The Subaru Rally Team USA crew will have some able challengers for the overall podium. Fan favorites FY Racing have returned to competition in their Open class Subaru, with driver Adam Yeoman and co-driver Jordan Schulze looking to improve upon their second-place performance last month at Round 3.
Newcomer Jeff Seehorn is stepping up to the national category at Olympus in his Super Production Subaru. He and co-driver Michael Milos set some of the fastest stage times in regional competition last month and could be contenders.
But Nick Roberts and co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino, as well as Lauchlin O’Sullivan and co-driver Scott Putnam, won’t make it easy for the rookie team. Both squads are poised to continue to battle in Super Production in their race proven Subaru competition vehicles.
In two-wheel drive, it is expected to be a battle of Fords with Oregon Trail winners Troy Miller and co-driver Ole Holter in their Ford Fiesta R2 battling Steve LaRoza and co-driver Alison LaRoza in their 2014 Ford Fiesta ST. Cameron Steely and Preston Osborn are also in the hunt in their 2014 Ford Fiesta ST, while longtime Rally America regulars Ramana Lagmann and co-driver Chrissie Beavis will play the wildcard in their rear-wheel drive BMW M3.
In B-Spec, Tracey Gardiner and Tracy Manspeaker are favoured in their 2007 Toyota Yaris. Points leader James Robinson is absent this weekend because his 2015 Honda Fit is on display at the Brickyard with Honda for IndyCar’s big qualifying weekend.
The Olympus event has recently taken a two-year break from the championship, but it has seen wins by many rally superstars in its long history. Block and Alex Gelsomino took the win for Ford the last time the race joined the Rally America calendar, back in 2012. Travis Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom have also counted Olympus among their victories for Subaru.
The Olympus Rally is a storied stop on the Rally America calendar, with a history spanning four decades. It ran as a World Rally Championship event in the notorious Group B era. Rally legends John Buffum, Rod Millen, Hannu Mikkola, Markku Alen and Juha Kankkunen have all had big wins there over the years. Gene Henderson and co-driver Ken Pogue were its inaugural winners back in 1973, in an AMC Jeep.
Saturday began with Parc Expose at 9 a.m. in downtown Shelton on Railroad Avenue. Sunday kicks off with Parc Expose at The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, at 1060 West Eells Hill Road. Rally America is providing live updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/rally_america using the hashtags #RallyAmerica and #OLY to filter Olympus Rally news. Attendance is free and a complete spectator guide is available for download at www.OlympusRally.com/Spectators/.
ABOUT RALLY AMERICA: Rally competition can be simply described “real cars, real roads, real fast.” It’s an all-season motorsport that sees drivers and their co-drivers take modified road cars to the limit as they achieve blistering speeds over courses that cover more than 100 miles of gravel, dirt or snow-covered roads. Based in Williston, Vermont, Rally America, Inc., sanctions the Rally America National Championship, which consists of eight national-level events in 2015 from Portland, Oregon, to Newry, Maine. More at www.rally-america.com