Block and Gelsomino win 2012 Olympus Rally

Monster World Rally Team’s Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino overcame a challenging rally car field and extremely dusty conditions to win their first Olympus Rally and their second Rally America national event of the season.

Block and Gelsomino led the Olympus Rally from the very start winning all but one stage. The team drove a clean race dealing with dust through the first two stages before moving to first on the road for the remaining stages. Despite having less grip the Monster World Rally Team gained an advantage racing dust free to the finish.

“I haven’t been able to win this event in the past,” said Block, “so it feels really good to come back and get this one. The stages here feel like World Rally Championship roads.”

Subaru Rally Team USA arrived up at Olympus with a stunning new white livery celebrating four Rally America National Championships. Knowing that the Championship was in the bag they focused on just winning Olympus, and avenge a second place finish to Block at February’s Rally in the 100 Acre Wood. But the team fell behind early when they struck a large rock on SS4 that forced them to go through the stage with a damaged front corner, and thick dust hampered the driver’s quest to make up time on the Olympus Rally leaders and finished second overall.

Rockstar Energy Drink’s Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard made a special cross-country trip to compete against Block and Higgins, but the team experienced difficulties after they hit the same rock as Higgins. L’Estage dropped to fifth before pushing hard towards third place overall getting the points they needed to successfully defend their second overall position. In the process the Rockstar team also clinched their fifth North American Rally Championship.

Regrettably, two drivers from the Canadian Rally Championship who made the top five battle more interesting did not finish the rally. Last minute entry, Patrick Richard and Darren Garrod driving for Subaru Rally Team Canada, broke a driveshaft on the third stage. Richard was as high as fifth overall at the time of his retirement.

Can-Jam Motorsports’ Leonid Urlichich and Carl Williamson went off the road on SS8 and was unable to continue. It was a disheartening finish for Urlichich who was third overall at the time and ultimately lost his third place standing in the Championship.

The 2012 Super Production Championship was decided at Olympus after Lauchlin O’Sullivan from San Francisco, CA and Scott Putnam from Minneapolis, MN drove terrifically not only to get the single point he needed to clinch the title, but win the class at Olympus. O’Sullivan moves into third in the overall Championship standings to tie last year’s SP Champions, Travis and Terry Hanson, as the highest finishing SP Class car.

“Just needing a single point to get the SP Championship is a weird thing because you just need to start the event to win it,” explained O’Sullivan, “We worked very hard this season and the win makes it worth the effort.”

SP Class second place finishers, Byron Garth and co-driver Chrissie Beavis were unfortunately penalized on a technical infraction and was moved to fifth place in class. Mike Goodwin and Martin Brunley assumed second place and made the Rally America podium for the first time. 19 year-old Mason Moyle and John Hall rounded out the podium for their second one this year.

The Two-Wheel Drive Class was an absolute knock-down battle. Chris Duplessis and Alex Kihurani withstood challenges from Scion Racing and the Summit Rally team to secure Duplessis’ third 2WD National Championship. Early on Duplessis fell to third in class and then drove to a class win partly due to a penalty accessed to Summit Rally Team’s Will Orders and Toni Feaver, both from Australia.

Orders and Feaver almost made up the 2:30 minute penalty and was 57 seconds out with one more stage to go. But bad luck ended their day with a mechanical failure and the team was unable to continue.

Scion Racing’s Andrew Comrie-Picard and Jeremy Wimpey had a small shot at the 2WD title, but settled for second in the 2WD national championship. The team finished just 21 seconds behind Duplessis after an inspired drive that kept them in the title hunt the entire event.

Team O’Neil Rally School’s Ed McNelly and Ole Holter snatched third place both at the Olympus Rally and in the 2WD national standings – the first national podium for McNelly.

Will Hudson and Brian Szykowny won the Ray Damitio Regional Rally and John Nagel Regional Rally.

An unseasonal long dry spell hit the Northwest causing organizers to shorten the event to accommodate the landowners recreational use ban on the property where the roads were located. The first day began with four stages and saw a seven-hour break before the night stages began, and organizers only used a single 20 mile stage on the second day. Still, 72 cars began the event and it is the largest entry in Rally America’s history.