On Saturday May 2nd, the High Desert Trails Performance Rally kicked off the 41st annual California Rally Series Championship and the growing NASA Rally Sport Pacific Rally Cup. Twenty Nine teams took to the stages in the morning and the rally would test these teams for the next 10 hours! Fast and flowing roads with short sections of pavement, tight and twisty forest sections, and rapid elevation changes presented their challenge. Just a few hours from Los Angeles, this rally has grown to be one of the biggest in the Southwest.
Some late entries and early problems had the top spots changing constantly. Previous winners Bill Holmes & Sean Gallagher set a 2nd fastest time on Stage 1, lost their brakes on Stage 2, and were forced to retire the Ford Raptor. 2013 CRS Open Champion Tingwu (Rick) Song beat Holmes on Stage 1 and stayed in first position until damaging the rear control arm mount on SS4 on his Mitsubishi Evo. A big effort in service got Song back out for the next 4 stages only to have co-driver Yufeng Hao fall ill on SS8. Another late entry was international driver Hao Yuan with East Coast Co-Driver Ozgur Simsek in a Mitsubishi Evo. Setting top times early in the day, the Evo was struggling a bit with fuel, and then a flat and starting issues took them out on Stage 9. 2014 Pacific Rally Cup champions John Trucks & Chris Fine were in the mix until a big bump caused damage to their Subaru WRX STi wiring harness and they couldn’t continue after Stage 5.
One should never expect to land on the podium at their first event, but that’s exactly what Dave Forman & Brian Gladish did with their Subaru STi. Getting really lucky with an off on Stage 6 and sorting out some brake issues kept them “in it to win it” in 3rd as their live text reported. Last year’s overall winner Todd McAllister with experienced co-driver Piers O’Hanlon took a few stages to get warmed up together, but set a fastest time on Stage 4 and had a trouble free run all the way into 2nd place.
Coming back after a long rally hiatus, Josh Jacquot & Dave Coleman showed that they had what it would take to win in their Subaru Impreza, setting fastest on Stage 3 and staying in the hunt for the rest of the day. Wins on SS8 and SS9 solidified their outstanding effort and the only problem reported was the Co-Drivers head cold. Setting the fastest AWD time down the final Power Stage awarded them the overall win, and the prize from Streetwise Motorsports.
Another fast team that dropped out early was Brian Scott & Brent Ellzey in their gorgeous Datsun. A rear suspension part failed, they threaded some large trees on the second stage Sorrell Peak, and landed safely with minimal damage to the historic rally car. 2013 Power Stage winner Pete Pollard with Seri Traver were in the hotly contested 2WD field when a steering arm failed at speed and Pete was able to get the car safely to a stop without further damage on Stage 9.
Three teams battled all day for the top spot in 2WD. Bret Robinson and his new Co-Driver Scott Rhudy set top times on Stage 5-7 AND SS10, but losing time on Stage 4 and Stage 9 was what kept them in 3rd for the day in their Volkswagen Golf. Only seconds separated Chrissie Beavis & Matthew Johnson in 2nd in their VW Jetta who capitalized on their Stage 9 win.
Grabbing the top place in 2WD and setting the fastest time on the HDT Power Stage was a team who has racked up some serious experience over the last few years: Markus Saarinen & Alicia Saarinen in their Mini Cooper are very experienced with a 2014 CRS Championship and many rally wins, but first timers to High Desert Trails! The team had no problem without reconnaissance, and took to the stages like an alumni. Grabbing the top time on SS2 and SS11, the Saarinen’s were fast all day to take the win AND the 2WD Power Stage Pirelli Tire prize from Streetwise Motorsports
The next event is Rally Idaho for both the Pacific Rally Cup and California Rally Series Championship on June 13th-14th. We would like to thank all the volunteers and crews for making this such a successful event. The High Desert Trails Performance Rally returns May 7th, 2016!