Back for its 3rd time as the NASA National Rally Championship event, the Prescott Rally celebrated their 30th running with a great event in the Southwest. As a big end of year event, Prescott is the finale for the local California Rally Series Championship, the regional NASA Pacific Rally Cup, and this year, the National Championship event. Lots of points battles from classes all throughout the field.
In AWD, the PRC points leader John Coyne came to Prescott to win, but it wasn’t to be with gearbox failure on Friday night with his Subaru Impreza WRX. Co-Driver Doug Nagy described the sounds their transmission made as: “An apprentice using a lathe for the first time whilst hitting it with a hammer…” On Saturday morning Flynn Baglin & Stacy Hochanadel (Subaru WRX STi) held the lead in AWD and kept their pace ahead of Kurt Northrop & Will Smith who were doing great with their non-turbo Subaru Impreza. Working hard this weekend was the team of Ernie Manansala & John Dillon in their Open Lite Subaru Impreza (Pictured going over the bridge, above).
The smooth, wide, and fast Prescott roads were made even faster with some recent grading. This caused two issues: Loose gravel making the stages slippery, and massive amounts of dust, which had the rally increasing to 3 minute intervals between cars at one point. Into the night, many competitors found themselves stopping on stage because of the poor visibility.
On Saturday, after 118 stage miles, Flynn Baglin & Stacy Hochanadel captured the 2017 National Championship with their 1st in AWD. Flynn also grabbed the Pacific Rally Cup Driver award for the season. As Stacy wasn’t co-driving for Flynn all season, the PRC AWD Co-Driver for 2017 was Will Smith. Kurt Northrop & Will Smith finished 2nd in AWD. Rounding out the podium with a 3rd Subaru Impreza was Ernie Manansala & John Dillon.
With slightly more than 75% of the field being 2WD, the weekend was dominated by fast FWD & RWD drivers. Ryan Millen & Rhianon Gelsomino came out to win Ryan’s 3rd 2WD National Championship with the Toyota RAV4, and from start to finish that’s exactly what they did. Having no mechanical issues meant that they kept ahead of the dust on Friday and built up a decent lead on Saturday. A lead that was challenged briefly by Bradley Morris & Ryan Scott in their Mitsubishi Lancer, only to have a coolant and fluids leak after stage 10, ending their event.
This event uses roads around Prescott Valley, and Jerome, Arizona. The red rock canyons make for a beautiful backdrop to this tough, two day, event. NASA Rally Sport switches its final event from East to West every other year to give competitors from both coasts of the US a chance at the National Championship. Unlike a traditional championship, and more like the Olympics; drivers qualify at local events, and then compete at the final National Championship event for the top prize – winner take all!
Getting faster with each stage, setting the pace for 3rd overall, and grabbing 2nd in 2WD – Andrew Cowan & Ryan Dunham were doing amazing in their 30 year old Volkswagon Jetta! Moving up past the wildcard pick of Markus & Alicia Saarinen on stage 6, Cowan was setting top times to keep the rest of the field at bay.
Coming out from Pennsylvania, this would be Gary DeMasi’s second time out at Prescott. His previous experience helped with his long time co-driver Stephen Kurey, his first time out here. Their Ford Ranger seems right at home on these fast stages, and they did a fantastic job to secure 3rd in 2WD!
The 2017 Pacific Rally Cup 2WD championship was captured by Erik Christiansen & Amy Floyd in their VW Golf. Even with a flat on Friday they came back strong on Saturday and pushed to set some great stage times. Not “cruising to the win”, Erik was looking to beat his personal best at Prescott.
We had a fantastic time out on the stages this season! We have hundreds of driver interviews on our YouTube channel, and we stay social with #RallyFriends as @NASARallySport on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We want to thank all the volunteers, organizers, and staff for their outstanding work and commitment to the sport of rally! See you on the stages soon!
Photos: Sebastian Krywult – Małgorzata Krywult TurnDriverSide.com