RAMER: Subaru Rally Team USA Sno*Drift preview

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Subaru Rally Team USA Readies For Season Opener Sno*Drift Rally

(January 28, 2011) Subaru Rally Team USA (SRT USA) returns to the 2011 Rally America National Championship today at the season opener Sno*Drift Rally in northern Michigan. The two-car team has undergone some changes in the off-season including the signing of multi-time British and American Rally Champion David Higgins to replace Travis Pastrana while BMX ace Dave Mirra returns to the team but with a new co-driver in Marshall Clarke, who has extensive top level international rally experience. Higgins and Mirra will each pilot 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI rally cars prepared by Vermont SportsCar at all six rounds of the 2011 Rally America National Championship. The team's spirits were buoyed by a very successful pre-event test earlier in the week in Michigan.

The Sno*Drift Rally features nearly 130 miles of snow and ice-covered roads in northern Michigan with nearly one third of the miles run at night. Constantly changing weather and road conditions historically make this rally extremely challenging made even more treacherous as Rally America rules prohibit the use of spiked or studded ice tires here placing a premium on road traction.

"I'm really looking forward to my first event with SRT USA," explained Higgins. "I've driven the team's 2011 STI several times in test sessions over the past two months on both gravel and snow and I've already got a comfortable feeling with the car which is important entering such a challenging event like the Sno*Drift Rally." Higgins will be co-driven by the UK's Craig Drew and it will be the duo's first time working together in competition. Higgins is a past winner of the Sno*Drift Rally, taking victory in 2003.

Higgins brings extensive rallying experience to SRT USA, most recently competing in the Chinese Rally Championship having gone on to help his team secure championship titles in 2004, 2007 and 2009. No stranger to the American rally circuit, Higgins claimed consecutive SCCA ProRally titles in 2002 and 2003 before returning to the UK and winning the 2004 British Rally National Championship. Notably, the 38 year-old driver has also won the Group N British Rally National title in 1997, 1999, and 2002. As a testament of his passion for the sport, Higgins and his family also operate a UK-based training facility, The Forest Experience Rally School.

Dave Mirra meanwhile is looking forward to working on car setup development and driving techniques with the veteran Higgins as he looks to advance his driving in 2011. Mirra earned Rally America Rookie of The Year honors in 2008 and achieved two podium finishes in three rounds of the inaugural RallyCar Rallycross series in 2010 as well as a podium finish in the Olympus rally that same year. "It's going to be a fun year with David and with my new co-driver Marshall Clarke, who has a lot of experience as well," said Mirra. "Sno*Drift can be really tough and grip levels change constantly, so I plan on being conservative with my pace as Marshall (Clarke) and I get up to speed together with the notes and conditions."

Competition begins Friday afternoon (January 28, 2011) with seven stages covering nearly sixty miles. The Sno*Drift Rally continues Saturday (January 29, 2011) with eleven more stages covering seventy snow and ice covered miles. For exclusive video and photos of SRT USA's pre-event test session as well as event updates visit Subaru.com/rally. For event results and live updates fans can visit rally-america.com.

-source: srtusa

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Series RALLYCAR