Subaru Rally Team USA took the podium at the opening race of the 2014 Rally America National Championship this past weekend. The race, in Atlanta, Michigan, is the only course for the RANC that is traditionally completely covered in snow and marks the first of the season’s rally runs in the series.
The 2:10.5 finish for David Higgins and Craig Drew in their Sub. It was a gruelling run, though, and nothing was guaranteed as problems plagued nearly every contestant in the race. Close behind the Subaru team was the Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team of Antoine L’Estage and Marshal Clarke.
L’Estage was in the lead early on, despite a punctured tire in the fifth stage. Higgins had to drive through an entire stage with a loose hood, which often popped up to obscure vision. Both were repaired at the first service, after which Higgins bypassed L’Estage and took the lead, which held from that point forward.
L’Estage and Clarke stayed within striking distance of taking the win, however, but Higgins and Drew kept a clean, near-perfect run without mistakes, not allowing the rivals to take advantage.
For the winning team, it was sweet revenge. “Last year Antoine hurt us really bad when he beat us on the last stage at Sno*Drift,” said Higgins, “These difficult conditions can change so quickly and you never know what you are going to get. That just makes me pleased to set the year off and get the points in the bag. Now I am looking forward to getting on the gravel at the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood.”
Third place overall was taken by class winners Lauchlin O’Sullivan and Scott Putnam in their Super Production, making up for a disappointing season last year. 2013 Rookie of the Year Nick Roberts also took a SP class podium second.
In the 2WD class, Scion Racing Rally xD (rookie Matthew Johnson and returning racer Jeremy Wimpey) dominated after Ford Racing stuck their car in a snowbank, losing 35 minutes and any chance of placing. This also gave Troy and Jeremy Miller, both rookies, the second place finish for the class.
The B-SPEC win went to 2013 B-SPEC Champion James Robinson and his co-driver, Jordan Guitar, who also placed third in the 2WD category.
The next race in the Rally America series comes February 21-22 in Salem, Missouri’s 100 Acre Wood.