|Peter Hascher and Grzegorz "Greg" Dorman won|
the 2012 Waste Management Winter Rally in a
Prodrive-built Subaru Impreza STI. Photo: G. Dorman
"Stars like Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz were using this vehicle for recce before their WRC events," Dorman said. "I started my rally career in Poland when I was 16. There is something in this sport that makes me extremely happy when I get inside a rally car. This weekend was even more special."
The varying weather conditions, both before and during the rally, left the course a mixture of snow, ice, mud and gravel, creating a challenge to the competitors in both tire choice and driving styles.
"The conditions were difficult to pick the right tire because the stage the organizers used is known to be a little on the rough side," Dorman said. "Therefore using street winter tires would be risky and might lead to punctures."
Finishing second, Brian Penza, of Dublin, Ohio, and Neil Salmons, of Columbus, Ohio, were just over 11 minutes behind the leaders in overall time in a Production 2008 Honda Civic Si.
This was Penza's first stage rally, yet he didn't come in blind as he is an experienced RallyCross competitor.
"For my first time driving outside my comfort zone of rallycross, I had a great time at WMWR," Penza said. "Our 'Tortoise and the Hare' approach eventually led us to our final position, while the Ford Focus SVT was starting to catch us in the corners at the very end."
Loosing the battle for their second-place position were Russell Norton, Ithaca, N.Y., and Philip Barnes, Middlebury Center, Penn., in a Group 5 2002 Ford Focus SVT.
"While running in second place, we put the front wheels over a berm and onto a frozen mud puddle on SS3, giving up almost three minutes," Norton said.
They finished only nine seconds behind Penza and Salmons, even though the last two stages created changes in the road conditions. He compared the surface of SS4 to an ice rink.
"We caught [Penza] halfway through SS4, but with no grip took the conservative route and backed off," Norton said. "Apparently we backed off nine seconds too much!"
Norton said the combination of changing weather conditions with a course that offered fast and slow sections due to elevation changes made for a more interesting rally.
"It was a great shame that on the first stage we passed three sets of disappointed thumbs up, "we're OK" displays," Penza said, "This kept our novice team on the cautious side."
Bradford Ames and Brycson Devine, both of Marston Mills, Mass., were the second car out of the rally when their 1990 Acura Integra clipped a rock on the inside of left-hand turn at a dropout crest.
"The car started to lift to roll, so I turned into it, sliding towards the tree line," Ames said. "With no power at the wheels from the axle, the outer CV shattering on impact, it was a handful to keep it on the road."
Ozgur Simsek and Paul Bromley, both of Brooklyn, N.Y., were the third team out of competition when their 1991 Nissan Sentra SE-R kept hitting the skid plate and the engine cutting out. Simsek was also running on rally tires, as he had competed in the Sandblast Rally the week prior, instead of the intended tires for snow-and-ice conditions.
Simsek said his rookie co-driver was a bit nervous once they started the first stage.
"We got going and the third corner about a quarter mile in at a medium right-turn, the car had absolutely no grip and started under steering head on into the corner," Simsek said. "I yanked the handbrake and she rotated, hit the rear, bounced off and hit the front and half spun. We turned around and continued on. We were having hard time rotating the car and committing into corners."
Simsek and Bromley passed Justin Carven in the Grease Car VW Rabbit, and then had difficulty getting up an icy incline. Carven, of Holyoke, Mass. and co-driver Frederick Wrightson, Somerville, Mass., were the DNF of the rally.
"Ironically, Justin got stuck while towing his car out," Simsek said.
Simsek's Sentra died at the top of the hill and wouldn't restart. The team handed in their time card and went back to service to spectate the second stage.
"When we arrived there I joked, 'Is this where the DNF meeting takes place?' as half of the field of was there," Simsek said. "We flat towed the car while the teams were at the hour-long service. We tried to get back in but it looked like we had internal engine damage as the crank did not rotate."
Rally volunteer Jeremy Keck said he had a good time.
"Kinda sad we lost half the field in the first stage," Keck wrote on the STPR Facebook Page, "It was still a good race. We definitely need more competitors but everyone I met was so nice."
Many teams commented the Waste Management Winter Rally was a well-run event, thanking all involved.
"I want to thank the volunteers, Finger Lakes STPR Motorsports and Waste Management for putting it on," Norton said.
Dorman added, "Proper stages, proper service and great volunteer turn out. We have used this event as a training/practice for the rest of the year. Me and Pete might compete in more non-National Rally America events."
"Although our event ended quickly, I have to say we had a good time," Simsek said. "It did feel more like a Rallysprint than a rally. Everyone was extremely welcoming. The food was excellent and that chocolate/peanut butter cheesecake was to kill for!"
Results from the WMWR at available at http://www.stpr.org/2012winterrally/results.html.
The property used for the rally is owned by Waste Management. Several years ago, it generously allowed the organizers to use the land for several stages in the national rally, the Waste Management Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally® in June. Last year was the inaugural winter rally.
"I want to thank Waste Management for their continuing support of our events," said Event Chair Meridith Croucher. "There is new management at the Wellsboro site, and they didn’t have to let us run, but they did and I am very grateful. Without their support, we would not have the winter rally and the STPR® would not be as great an event."
The STPR®, round four of the Rally America National Championship, is June 2. Presented by Citizen's and Northern Bank, is based out of scenic and historic Wellsboro, Penn., headquartered at the Tioga County Fairgrounds.
The rally regularly draws the top rally teams from the U.S., Canada and abroad who enjoy putting their skills to the extreme test of performance rally. Competitors from the worldwide professional rally community are also found at this premier event. See www.stpr.org for information.