Up against perhaps the deepest field in North American rally in decades, Barry McKenna and Leon Jordan flew the Irish flag atop the 100 Acre Wood Rally podium on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, scoring their first American Rally Association overall victory.
Subaru Motorsports USA’s season debut, Ken Block’s return to an event he’s won seven times, Pat Moro’s maiden event for the much-hyped Chevrolet Sonic LS3, and Sno*Drift winners Piotr Fetela and Dominik Jozwiak all weren’t enough to take McKenna and Jordan down for the overall and Open 4WD class victory. Keeping within a minute of Subaru’s David Higgins and Craig Drew for much of the rally, McKenna and Jordan capitalized on issues for the defending series champions during Saturday’s stages and hung on for the win. They defeated Oliver Solberg and Aaron Johnston, making their much-publicized stateside debut, by just 6.8 seconds.
While they hadn’t competed at 100 Acre Wood since 2016, the factory Subaru team entered the event heavily favored, sporting a new look inspired by the team’s World Rally Championship days. Higgins and Drew backed up the hype with wins in the first five stages and seven in total on Friday. But an electrical problem three stages from the finish on Saturday cost them five minutes, dropping them from 48.2 seconds ahead of McKenna and Jordan to third place, more than four minutes off the lead.
From there, it was Solberg and Johnston’s time to shine. But despite wins in the final two stages, they could only shave down 43.2 seconds of the margin that McKenna and Jordan had built. Fetela and Jozwiak would maintain their ARA National Championship lead by finishing fourth, while Limited 4WD class winners Paddy Brennan and Matt James completed the top five. Meanwhile, Michael Hooper and Claudia Barbera-Pullen won a fierce Open 2WD class battle against Seamus Burke and Darrugh Mullen by only 16.2 seconds.
Many of the top crews in the event, including Moro and Ole Holter, Block and Alex Gelsomino, Jeff Seehorn and Karen Jankowski, Dave and Mike Brown, and Martynas Samsonas and Ervinas Snitkas, retired with mechanical issues. Most of the aforementioned entries spent time in the top 10 of the rally, if not podium contention. All told, of the 75 entries (48 National and 27 Regional) who started the event, only 40 (29 National and 11 Regional) were scored as finishers.
Check out Jason Swoboda’s top photos from this weekend’s 100 Acre Wood Rally below: