The 2015 Prescott Rally was the culmination of the local California Rally Series Championship, the points battle for the Pacific Rally Cup, and the winner-take-all NASA National Rally Championship. With that as a starting point for the competition, it was going to be a real challenge to capture any of those 2C winnings. Teams from all over the country traveled to take part in the event, and this offered a unique opportunity to see just how fast the 2WD competition in the Southwest is. Our supporters, Team O’Neil Rally School and Streetwise Motorsports, believe that starting with 2WD is the best path to future success in the sport and they encourage competitors to master these skills before upgrading rally machinery.
Local competitor Brian Scott took his historic rally machine off the display floor of the local Nissan dealership and right onto the leader board for stages 1 and 2. This gorgeous Datsun 240Z has all the trimmings of a modern rally car and is an instant hit with spectators. In the right seat, Brian’s long-time experienced co-driver John Dillon made this team hard to catch at their home event. On day two however, the team broke the throttle cable (no doubt pushing it to the max) and was out of the fight.
Brad Morris had helped to arrange travel for himself and the AWD team of Eric Wages from South Carolina to take on the NNRC. Brad has driven and won this event in the past, and along with local co-driver Doug Nagy, the team was looking for the win. Setting a 4th fastest time on SS1 the team charged into the second stage. They suffered a hit to the right front of their Mitsubishi Lancer, which caused two flats. With only one spare, they limped into the first service. On Saturday they did well to climb back up into the top spots, but a broken axle would end their event on the very last stage.
Brent Lee had to scramble a bit to find a co-driver for Prescott, as his mentor John Dillon would be riding in the Datsun. Experienced Northwest co-driver Billy Irvin stepped up for the 2WD challenge, and a chance at the national championship title in Brent’s Ford Fiesta R2. The pair was quickly up to speed setting a fourth fastest on stage 2, and was just behind Millen setting second on stage 3. An electrical sensor problem that prevented the engine from knowing its temperature crept up on them and they unfortunately stopped towards the end of stage 4. In the spirit of pressing on, they would restart on Saturday but the problem resurfaced and the car refused to start after stage 8.
Mike Hurst, who has been involved with the operation of rallies for many years, so it was exciting for him to come out and race in a very clean Ford Capri loaned from Bob Olson. Along with experienced driver / co-driver Michel Hoche-Mong the team was at the head of the 2WD pack on Friday. They set great times for the first two stages on Saturday, but a leaking radiator was discovered pulling into service. The bottom of the aluminum tank had come in direct contact with the chassis, so a quick repair was out of the question and Mike chose to save the car and savor his first outing in a rally car in many years.
Two teams having a great time at Prescott were Richard Burden with co-driver Sean McElwain in Richard’s new VW Golf, and Steven Egger and Christopher Chenoweth in Steve’s BMW 318i. Richard has some experience with Irish rally, and enjoyed shaking out his new car on the technical stages. Consistent over the two-day rally, Steven approached the event with a great attitude. Both teams took to the stages and always had big smiles when they came into service.
Determination was what allowed Javier Olivares and Gian Castellanos in their Ford Escort to finish the event. An electrical problem with their fuel system cropped up on stage 9, and the team barely made the cutoff time for the next stage. It was reported that the co-driver was holding wires together to keep the car running. After their defeat at Gorman, the team was happy to be at the final time control on Saturday.
Learning just how much rally is about pressing on regardless, Jason Hamilton and Ralph Pond started their first rally with alternator problems. Competing on their very first stages they set a decent time on SS1. The Ford Mustang was running off the battery and some bad wiring was identified when they came into the first service stop after SS2. They charged it as best they could with the service truck and headed off into the night. They would retire shortly afterwards, but we know they’ll be back!
Making the tow all the way from Pennsylvania, Gary DeMasi was looking to challenge the roads and competitors of the Southwest. Teaming up with local co-driver Marie Boyd, the V8 Rally Ranger would tackle the wide flowing roads. Slow at first, but picking up speed, DeMasi gained confidence with the open exposures Prescott provides. Having some issues with fuel didn’t prevent them from continuing on Saturday, and Gary’s unstoppable determination would see the team all the way to the awards. Grabbing a small piece of the cash pool, Gary DeMasi and Marie Boyd were fifth in 2C and finished as the third qualified team for the national championship.
Chris Palermo and Andy Bautista were new teammates for Prescott in their Nissan Sentra. Problems with a brake pad on Friday night was the only thing that slowed them for the weekend. Battling with Andrew Cowan and Ryan Dunham in their more powerful VW Jetta, the fight went down to the wire with Cowan losing a rear wheel on stage 12. This put Palermo into 4th place in the 2WD Challenge.
Ray Piloto and Brock Palmer were debuting their brand new Chevrolet Sonic at Prescott. Not wrapped up in the championship or national fight, the team had a relatively stress free weekend. Some turbo issues were sorted on Saturday morning and the climb to the top of the leader board was on. Grabbing the third fastest time on the last stage would land them third in 2C for the weekend and Ray Piloto would take home $75.
Markus Saarinen admitted that the gearbox he had to work with was not the best for the fast Prescott stages. Along with his co-driver and wife Alicia, the couple was still flying off the jumps and cattle guard crossings that dot the roads. Matching speed with Millen on Saturday wasn’t going to be enough to take the lead, but staying in second in 2WD and fifth overall was going to capture points for the Pacific Rally Cup, and $150 of 2C cash!
Ryan Millen and Christina Fate were squarely on a mission to finish out a great season of events with their Toyota RAV4. Grabbing cash at two of the three 2C events this year, many knew they were going to be competitive at their very first Prescott. Once again using his Baja desert racing skills, Ryan was able to get out ahead on stage 3 when the sun set and the dust came up. Grabbing a minute on most of the field, the team catapulted into the lead. They take home first place in 2WD, third overall, and $250 worth of cash for winning the 2WD Challenge!
Our presenting sponsors are serious about 2WD as a starting point for rally. Team O’Neil in Dalton, NH offers classes in Ford Fiesta school cars and their curriculum focuses on starting with the skills and techniques of 2WD. Streetwise Motorsports in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA builds and supports 2WD rally cars and is ready to help you get started in 2C with their many years of technical experience.
More info on 2C – The 2WD Challenge
The event was part of the California Rally Series
This event was part of the Pacific Rally Cup
This event was the 2015 NASA National Rally Championship Final
Photos by Matthew T. Stryker
Stryker Rally Media