Thursday, May 31, 2012

STPR® competitors say bring on the rain; Higgins first on the road


The Waste Management Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally®, presented by Citizen's & Northern Bank, begins Friday morning in downtown Wellsboro, Penn. Although STPR® is the longest and oldest rally in the continental U.S., the top three starting teams hail from the U.K. and Canada.

Subaru Rally USA Team co-driver
Craig Drew talks to a rally official
at the practice stage. / Tim White
First on the road will be the U.K. natives David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew in the Subaru Rally USA Team 2012 Subaru WRX STI, followed by Rockstar Energy Drink team's 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, piloted by Antoine L'Estage of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, with co-driver Nathalie Richard of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Third is the Cam-Jam Motorsports team of Leonid "Crazy Leo" Urlichich, of Thornhill, Ontario, Canada, and Carl Williamson from Carmarthenshire, Wales.

Although there are still competitors checking in, there are 65 teams expected to start tomorrow. With the weather forecast calling for thundershowers, many competitors expressed slippery roads only make STPR® even more exciting and challenging.

Rally fans may chat with their favorite teams, take photos and gather autographs on Friday at "The Green" in Wellsboro beginning at 11:30 a.m. for the Parc Expose.  Then watch as the cars leave to transit out Waste Management property for the stages there.  Free STPR Rally official spectator guides will be available at the Parc Expose.

Fans are invited to come back at 7 p.m. for the exciting Super Special Stage at the Tioga County Fairgrounds in Whitneyville, Penn.

"It's going to be a wonderful Super Special Stage," said STPR Chair Meridith Croucher, "thanks to Dirt Excavating, our newest sponsor, who provided heavy equipment and man hours to re-cut the course. Watching those men work was like they were dancing with bulldozers."

Dirt Excavating developed a
superior course for the Super
Special Stages at the fairgrounds.
/Tim White
During today's practice on the Waste Management stage, several teams commented the recently graded dirt road was now clear of ruts and rocks, making it rocket fast. However, the rain could play havoc on the road surface.

Many of the teams are competing at the regional level.

"I think the economy is better than the news is reporting. More people are catching on to rally in the U.S.," Croucher said. "Grassroots is where it's at, plus it's fun to watch someone just starting out in rallying, then advance to the national level."

For those who can't be at STPR in person, Rally America will offer streaming live video on both Friday and Saturday. Visit www.rally-america.com and click on the top banner.