Images via Alex Wong/Emotive Image
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It was just over a month ago that the long-awaited sophomore season finally kicked off for the American Rally Association with the Oregon Trail Rally. Now, after spending the first two rounds of the season on the west coast, the series travels east for the first time in 2018 at the Waste Management Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally.
One name that won’t be heading there, however, is current overall points leader Jeff Seehorn, whose limited 2018 schedule doesn’t include STPR. Despite podiums in the first two events, the Limited 4WD driver and co-driver Karen Jankowski will resume their season in July at New England Forest Rally.
That provides Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins and Craig Drew with the perfect opportunity to reclaim the points lead after a plethora of mechanical issues at Olympus Rally two weekends ago. Higgins and Drew, who won the season opener at OTR, are also the defending champions at this event, having held off teammates Travis Pastrana and Robbie Durant by over three minutes with a time of 1:53:50.1 last season.
With Pastrana and Durant not defending their inaugural ARA title, the second Subaru entry has seen multiple drivers and mixed results so far. Chris Atkinson and Stephane Prevot dealt with car trouble at OTR, but Patrik Sandell and Per Almkvist took the overall win at Olympus. With Atkinson coming off a tough weekend in his rallycross season debut in Silverstone, he and Prevot will return to the car at STPR in hopes of shaking off the gremlins and matching Sandell’s performance.
Even without Seehorn competing in Limited 4WD, the class entry list remains deep. Sam Albert and Michelle Miller finished second in class and third overall at Olympus and will compete this weekend, while Travis Nease also continues his full-season campaign and Cameron Steely returns to the field after skipping Olympus. Nease and Albert currently sit fourth and fifth in the overall driver’s championship, respectively, and at least one (of not both) may wake up Sunday morning in the top three with a good result.
In addition, don’t be surprised if the podium ceremonies have a distinctly Irish flair in multiple classes, with Barry McKenna (Open 4WD) joined by Patrick Brennan (Limited 4WD) and Seamus Burke (Open 2WD). McKenna’s championship position doesn’t match the pace he’s shown so far this year, while Burke’s 1977 Ford Escort is one of the most exciting vintage rally cars to regularly compete in the United States.
The 15-stage, 125-mile STPR route kicks off on Friday afternoon with two runs through the Waste Management stage, and includes spectator points on nearly every route. Both Friday and Saturday wrap up with a pair of Super Special runs at the Tioga County Fairgrounds, where Higgins and Drew will hope to spray champagne together for the sixth time in eight years, as well as for the fifth year in a row.