Friday, January 11, 2013

Rally America National Championship kicks off in Michigan

Season opener preview to 2013 Rally America National Championship

Over 40 Rally Teams Ready to Tackle
the Icy Roads of the Sno*Drift Rally

The kick-off to the 2013 Rally America National Championship is coming quickly and teams are lining up to take on the snow and ice-covered roads of the Sno*Drift Rally on January 25-26 in Atlanta and Lewiston, Mich.

Event organizers report approximately a foot of snow has fallen in the local area in recent weeks. A year ago, the Sno*Drift Rally was an extremely icy affair and while there are a couple weeks to go the roads are looking much more like roads than an ice skating rink.

With the season just around the corner, the Sno*Drift Rally and Rally America are ready to welcome the return of many of last year's teams, including the 2012 National Champions and class winners for another year of exciting rally action.

Four-time Rally America National Champions and last year's overall Sno*Drift Rally winners, David Higgins, of Trefeglwys, England, and co-driver Craig Drew, of Forest of Dean, England, are back once again to fly the flag for Subaru Rally Team USA and attempt to continue the team's winning ways. "I'm really looking forward to getting the 2013 season started," Higgins said, "The Sno*Drift Rally is a funny event as when you are doing it you hate every minute because the icy conditions are so tough. You're always centimeters away from disaster and slipping off-road at any moment!" To keep his skills and reflexes sharp, Higgins spent much of his Rally America off-season driving for Subaru Rally Team China where he took two wins and their first Chinese rally title. 

"The rally events I competed in last year for Subaru China will be a great help for me to run Sno*Drift. The seat time is so important," Higgins added.

Higgins and Drew will once again be challenged by longtime Mitsubishi Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team rivals, Antoine L'Estage, of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, and co-driver Nathalie Richard from Halifax, Nova Scotia. L'Estage and Richard finished second overall in the 2012 Rally America National Championship and later in the year the Rockstar Energy team took home the Canadian Rally Championship as well as the coveted North America Rally Championship.

"I've always loved rallying in the snow and ice and once again this year, we'll be contesting Sno*Drift in the same trusted Mitsubishi EVO X that helped us claim the 2012 Canadian and North American Rally Championships," L'Estage said. "It's always tough going up against the big factory teams of Subaru and Ford but we'll be there to fight for the title and hopefully we can improve last year's Sno*Drift finish by one spot, putting us at the top of the podium"

Last year's Super Production (SP) Class Champs, Lauchlin O'Sullivan, of San Francisco, Calif., along with Scott Putnam, of Minneapolis, Minn., are back to continue their success right where they left off in their 2008 Subaru WRX STI. 

However, Southern Californians David Sterckx, of Los Angeles, and Karen Jankowski from San Diego,  are expected to challenge O'Sullivan and Putnam's category supremacy after nearly finishing in a tie with the 2012 SP Champions in just their first full year of national competition.

The always-exciting Two-Wheel (2WD) Drive Class is currently missing the entry of last year's champions, Chris Duplessis and Alex Kirhurani, but their runner-up competition will be back with a newly improved 2012 Scion xD platform piloted by legendary rallyist Andrew Comrie-Picard, of Hermosa Beach, Calif., and Jeremy Wimpey, of Stage College, Pa.

"The team has been working very hard all through the off-season, really there has been no off-season," Comrie-Picard said. "The new xD is the best-built 2WD rally car I've ever seen, in fact one of the best rally cars I've ever seen, with a load of amazing innovations. We're going to crush the Championship this year!"

Comrie-Picard and Wimpey will still need to fend off a multitude of furious 2WD talent that includes multi-Central Region Group 2 champ Chris Greenhouse, of Cincinnati, Ohio, and 2009 Rally America Rookie of the Year Dillon Van Way, of Carencro, La., in his turbo-charged 2011 Ford Fiesta.

Local rally legends will also appear on the icy Sno*Drift roads and fans should instantly recognize Henry and Cynthia Krolikowski, winners of six consecutive Rally America Central Region Championships, the longest winning streak within Rally America. Multi-time Production Class champion, Steve Nowicki, of West Bloomfield, Mich, along with co-driver Jimmy Brandt, of Lake Odessa, Mich., will enter the 2013 Sno*Drift Rally with their historic 1980 Mitsubishi Fire Arrow, the very make and model that made him the driver to beat of his era.

The Sno*Drift Rally is a fan-friendly event that begins with a driver meet & greet before the race begins on Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. in downtown Lewiston, Mich., and again at 8 a.m. Saturday morning in Atlanta, Mich.

Fans will be treated to a Super Special Stage on Saturday at the Lewiston Sand & Gravel allowing viewers to watch a complete rally stage from start to finish from a single vantage point. It's a great way to spend the day watching exciting rally action from a single viewing location. More information, including special stage shuttle buses can be found at