Tag Archives: Championship

National Competition Intensifies 2WD Challenge at Prescott

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!


Gary DeMasi & Marie Boyd – 5th

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 & Andy Bautista – 4th

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 & Brock Palmer – 3rd

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 & Alicia Saarinen – 2nd

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 & Christina Fate – 1st

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
Prescott Rally
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

Atlantic Teams and Wildcard picks run into trouble, Pacific Teams dominate the podium at Prescott Rally


Driver Duncan Smith and Co-Driver Katherine Lindroth-Gendron 2015 NASA National Rally Champions in AWD

The 2015 NASA National Rally Championship was held in beautiful Prescott, Arizona, at The Prescott Rally, which has been a southwestern event for twenty eight years, and this year attracted teams from all over the country to challenge these very fast and flowing roads. Separated by twisty red rock canyons, these stages see elevations of over 5,000 feet. The “Original, Real, Tough” event made for a great place to determine the fastest all wheel drive (AWD) and two wheel drive (2WD) teams in the country. Qualification for the National Championship is designed to highlight the fastest drivers at events throughout the year and from all over the US. More like the Olympics, the NNRC takes the grassroots approach and acknowledges that most teams will only do 2-3 events a year, instead of a grueling tow schedule of events across the nation.

During the Parc Expose` at Lamb Nissan in town, the team of Eric Wages and Sara Montplaisir were working to fix a fueling issue that cropped up on the way over to registration. They started with a fuel pump swap on their Subaru Impreza STi, and then later discovered that one of their fuel injectors was clogged. Fearing serious engine damage should they choose to run it, Eric made the tough decision to not start the rally. Gutted after the tow from South Carolina, the team began work on restarting Saturday for the California Rally Series regional event.

With the top seeded AWD National Qualifier out, it was anyone’s guess as to who would be leading the rally after the first two iconic stages. Stage 1 “First View” heads towards the sun and into “The Cut,” a narrow opening in the mountain that’s just wide enough for cars to sneak through. Stage 2 is “Witty Tom” which starts out with lots of twisty rights and lefts, but finishes smooth and very fast.


Driver Ryan Millen and Co-driver Christina Fate are the 2015 NASA National Rally Champions in 2WD

Starting 10th on the road and qualifying by winning last year’s Power Stage here, Duncan Smith and Katherine Lindroth-Gendron shot out into first by winning SS1 and SS2 in their Subaru Impreza WRX. A reseed put them out first and in a fantastic position to attack the night stages with little to no dust. Absolutely taking full advantage of this, the team set a pace that was more than a minute ahead of the pack. The only two cars that were even close, were the 2WD RAV4 driven by Ryan Millen and Christina Fate, and an exhibition entry Mitsubishi EVO IX driven by Tingwu Song and Mustafa Samli

Josh Jacquot and Pete Pollard were “Shaking the cobwebs out,” on the first two stages. Josh is getting back into rally this year after a long hiatus. Their Subaru Impreza was clean and undamaged going into the first service after setting third fastest AWD on stages 1 and 2. Fast and clean was a great starting point for a two day rally.

Brad Morris and Co-Driver Doug Nagy set a decent time on the opening stage in their Turbo FWD Mitsubishi Lancer. On stage two however, the suspension was a little too loose and the team caught a big rock in the front left with 2.5 miles to go. This also ended up doing some damage to the rear left, and the team was forced to do road side repairs with only one spare tire in the car. This dropped them way back, but they would press on.

John Coyne who interestingly qualified for the NNRC in a 2WD car was campaigning his new AWD Subaru Impreza. As the NNRC is only out to identify fast drivers, there is no rule that prevents a competitor from switching classes for the final, and one might argue that it makes it harder with the level of competition in AWD. Co-Driving with John for the first time was Ryan Scott. The team lost some time on SS2 with a bent rear control arm and a flat front tire after going off sideways, but got right back up to speed setting the fourth fastest time on SS4 after service.

Markus and Alicia Saarinen were having fun and driving without incident on the first day in their Mini Cooper. Markus realized that they were going a lot faster than in years previous when the Mini was flying big over small jumps on the course. Unfortunately, their shorter ratio gearbox was keeping them from top speed, but the Saarinen’s continued to push and keep up with the 2WD leaders. One of those jumps took out the rear right suspension, but you wouldn’t know it from the times they were setting.

Gary DeMasi was another driver that made the long trip to Prescott, and was working with local co-driver Marie Boyd who has many years of experience on these stages. Gary spoke to Anders Green during the service interview: “I have to be honest, I was frightened at the first stage. I tip-toed through it, and we got a little bit more confident as we went along,” said DeMasi. This is Gary’s very first time on these stages with his V8 Ford Ranger and the wide open crests and steep drop offs are a complete change from racing the narrow tree lined roads of the Northeast.

AWD Wildcard pick Hao Yuan and Hongyu Pan were right up to 2nd behind Smith in their Mitsubishi Lancer on the first stages. They suffered from the dust on SS3, but still managed a 4th fastest in AWD NNRC right behind Jacquot on SS4. On the transit, their oil pump failed and they were unable to make it back to service. As such an extensive repair would be necessary, the team opted to withdraw.

The 2WD wildcard pick Brent Lee and Northwest Co-Driver Billy Irvin started well, set fourth fastest on stage 2, and jumped into second fastest on stage 3 in their Ford Fiesta. Unfortunately on stage four, the pair was forced to pull over and work on an engine electrical issue that caused them to stop a few miles from the end of the stage. They would restart on Saturday morning for the regional event, but the problem caused issues again and was traced to a faulty engine water temp sensor. Brent was grateful for the wildcard pick, saying “We’re really excited to be the wildcard pick, really excited to be racing out here in Arizona, and thanks NASA for inviting me.” Watch for this fast team to be back out on the stages next season!

On Saturday the teams would tackle the stage called Perkinsville. This stage sees top speeds, hairpins, and a tricky downhill and uphill section where drivers must carry maximum speed to win. The brand new Chevrolet Sonic RS driven by Ray Piloto and Co-Driven by Brock Palmer attacked these stages after fixing a turbo problem on Friday. Even though this was their first outing, and not qualified to win the national, they still showed what it takes by finishing third in 2WD.

Second in 2WD after picking up the pace for the Saturday stages, Markus Saarinen and Alicia Saarinen were delighted to be on the podium again at their home rally. With fourteen competitors in the class and setting times faster than a number of AWD Turbo cars, the Mini Cooper in the hands of Markus is a tough package to beat! Competing this year in all four of the Pacific Rally Cup events earned Driver Markus Saarinen and Co-Driver Alicia Saarinen the 2015 Pacific Rally Cup in 2WD!

First in 2WD was a team that has been setting fast times all season. Ryan Millen and Christina Fate driving their new Toyota RAV4 would gain a huge advantage in the dusty night stages on Friday with Ryan experienced at racing flat out in those conditions. Saturday their job was to stay clean and maintain that lead. With no reported problems, and winning seven of the eleven stages, Driver Ryan Millen and Co-driver Christina Fate are the 2015 NASA National Rally Champions in 2WD!

Getting back up to speed at this event was Driver Doug Chernis with Co-Driver Piers O’Hanlon in an AWD Subaru WRX STi. Just off the podium in fourth, the team would secure enough points for Piers O’Hanlon to take the 2015 Pacific Rally Cup AWD Co-Driver award. Piers rode with Todd McAllister earlier in the season taking second at High Desert Trails.

John Coyne and his brand new co-driver Ryan Scott were more consistent on Saturday. After the first two stages, John told Anders: “Very quick – the first stage is very very fast, and I got through Witty Tom without putting it off the road this time! A major step forward from yesterday.” John Coyne and Ryan Scott were third in AWD for the National Championship.

Josh Jacquot and Pete Pollard were smooth for the rest of the weekend to take second in AWD for the NNRC. With the Pacific Rally Cup also getting decided at Prescott, Josh Jacquot just edged out Driver Steven Benson with a scant four points for the 2015 PRC title. Those four points came, by the way, from starting, but not finishing the Gorman Rally earlier this year after the team got stuck on a pretty steep cliff. Does this make up for not challenging the last few stages at Gorman? Probably not, but Josh is pleased to be the 2015 Pacific Rally Cup AWD Driver Champion.

Duncan Smith and Katherine Lindroth-Gendron showed incredible speed last weekend at Prescott. Setting the fastest time on the first four stages on Friday was enough to keep them in the lead on Saturday. Josh Jacquot could only beat them on stage 12, but by then they had stored up minutes from taking the lead on Friday night getting ahead of the dust. Driver Duncan Smith and Co-Driver Katherine Lindroth-Gendron are the 2015 NASA National Rally Champions in AWD!

We would thank all of the teams who made it out to Prescott this year! We would also like to thank all of the volunteers who put a ton of effort into making this rally great every year, along with the support from the California Rally Series. The Prescott Organizers would like to thank Lamb Nissan, Prescottonian Best Western, NextCare, and Depot 89. This event should be on your must attend list for 2016!

Photos by Matthew T. Stryker
Stryker Rally Media

NASA Rally Sport Announces 2015 Nat’l Calendar with Video

Instead of a press release that has a bunch of dates and locations. NASA Rally Sport decided to take you to the action with their 2015 National Calendar announcement. You get to see a short clip of the flavor and in-car from each event, and you quickly realize that NRS has events all over the country, and they have a lot of them! Info and more on their website NASARallySport.com to help get you started in US Rally!

Jason Smith and Matt Brandenburg Earn National Rally Championship Titles at BRS

The woods of Upstate New York played host to two days of intense rally action last month. Black River Stages, the 2014 NASA National Rally Championship Event was held in the towns of Harrisville and Croghan on September 20-21st. A big field of rally teams from all over the country showed up to see just who would have what it takes to be the fastest on these twisty and sometimes muddy stages. Six qualifying events across the country led up to this winner-take-all event.

Jared Lantzy, Jason Smith, Elliott Sherwood, and  Matt Brandenburg

Jared Lantzy, Jason Smith, Elliott Sherwood, and Matt Brandenburg – Photo by Matthew Stryker – Stryker Rally Media

Top honors went to Driver Matt Brandenburg and Co-Driver Elliott Sherwood for Two Wheel Drive, and Driver Jason Smith and Co-Driver Jared Lantzy for All Wheel Drive.

“We like to use the phrase ‘win it on the stages,’ meaning that the best racing is when driving skill alone determines the outcome, and not frivolous timing penalties or undeserved mechanical breakages,” said NASA Rally Sport East Director Anders Green. “One excellent story that I heard from the weekend was Eric Wages, sitting in second place, and Mike Reilly in third, working hard during a turnaround at repairing frontrunner Jason Smith’s car when both of them would have benefited by doing nothing. That is a dedication to the true spirit of competition that goes beyond lip service. Ultimately, it’s the racers themselves who define the level of honor and nobility that exists in a series.”

Driver Jason Smith and Co-Driver Jared Lantzy for All Wheel Drive

Driver Jason Smith and Co-Driver Jared Lantzy for All Wheel Drive – Photo by Matthew Stryker – Stryker Rally Media

In the Two Wheel Drive class, Brandenburg showed up with a well built motor; it lasted just long enough to complete the stages and not a moment more. Kevin Turner and Matthew Rhoads took second, unable to repeat their amazing performance last year where they won the rally overall. Jim Kelly and Dean Thuline completed the 2WD podium, a pair that has steadily gotten faster all year and certainly one of the top picks for podiums in 2015.

Driver Matt Brandenburg and Co-Driver Elliott Sherwood for Two Wheel Drive

Driver Matt Brandenburg and Co-Driver Elliott Sherwood for Two Wheel Drive – Photo by Rob Sackyta

The structure of the multiple qualifying methods was based around finding and qualifying racers who have the potential for amazing speed. However, just like the Olympics, on the day of the actual race, no one will be able to sit on their laurels, they must come out on top in that gathering of all of their speedy peers. In many racing series across the country, it is well known that simply towing the race car to enough of the events will grant you a year end trophy, but when it comes to the NASA National Rally Championship, “You can’t win it with a trailer.”

NASA Rally Sport, the grassroots rally sanctioning body in the US, focuses on competitor fun and providing support for rally organizers. Providing tools, technology, and systems to the organizers, racers, and fans to increase their enjoyment of rally is a core mission of NASA Rally Sport. Making sure that rally remains a sustainable and affordable passion for the drivers and organizers while building the family of racers and volunteers that make rally happen goes hand in hand with that mission.

NASA National Rally Championship Wild Card Picks Revealed

For 2014 the ultimate rally event of the NASA Rally Sport season is the Black River Stages in upper New York. On the weekend of September 20 and 21, the rally will host this year’s NASA National Rally Championship and crown both All Wheel Drive and Two Wheel Drive national champions. Simultaneously, Black River Stages is the final round of the Atlantic Rally Cup presented by RallyPro at The FIRM. With just over six weeks until the rally takes place, the list of national qualifiers moves closer to being cemented with this announcement of the Wild Card drivers.

The NASA National Rally Championship philosophy works similarly to the Olympics: first you qualify, then a winner takes all battle for the title takes place in a single venue where all comers have a decent shot. There are a variety of methods of qualification, all designed to identify fast rally drivers. In short, you can win the final stage of a rally, you can win a rally, or you can win a regional series. All of these are excellent indicators that the driver is fast and has the potential to be a national champion. This method prioritizes driver speed over driver budget. And finally, there is the Wild Card. Each NASA Rally Sport director, in the Western part of the country, Kris Marciniak, and for the Eastern part, Anders Green, chooses a racer who they believe has the capability to take the crown but for some reason didn’t otherwise qualify.

“My Wild Card choice is Matt Brandenburg.” revealed Director Anders Green. “He had a tough start to the season, a penalty that kept him off the podium at the Sandblast Rally which would have qualified him for Nationals. But what really impressed me is how he picked himself back up after that event, kept at the grindstone, worked on his car and team and kept pushing through the rest of the season. It’s a perfect trifecta: he loves rear wheel drive, I love promoting two wheel drive, and the fans love his ridiculously yellow sideways BMW.”

“When it came to my Wild Card choice, I went with history.” started Director Kris Marciniak. “Jason Smith’s first rally as a driver was Black River Stages, way back in 2009. He worked his way up from Dead Last But Finished at that rally to multiple event wins and winning the All Wheel Drive Atlantic Rally Cup in just two short years. And doing it in an Open AWD Light car with no turbo speaks to the skill he has behind the wheel.”

The rally is always looking for passionate fans who want to get closer to the action by volunteering. Special access combined with great perks like free camping, food, and clothing makes volunteering the best way to meet up with a whole new group of rally fanatics in your area. Go to BlackRiverStages.com for more information on all aspects of the rally.

NASA Rally Sport, the grassroots rally sanctioning body of the US, focuses on competitor fun and providing support for rally organizers. Providing tools, technology, and systems to the organizers, racers, and fans to increase their enjoyment of rally is a core mission of NASA Rally Sport. Making sure that rally remains a sustainable and affordable passion for the drivers and organizers while building the family of racers and volunteers that make rally happen goes hand in hand with that mission.