Olympia, Wash. -- The rains moved in shortly after the completion of day one of the Wild West International Rally, but unfortunately, things were sloppy even before the dust began to settle with scattered raindrops. Subaru Rally Team USA driver...
Olympia, Wash. -- The rains moved in shortly after the completion of day one of the Wild West International Rally, but unfortunately, things were sloppy even before the dust began to settle with scattered raindrops. Subaru Rally Team USA driver Pasi Hagstromm, along with co-driver Marko Taskinen grabbed the lead early, thanks to an early retirement from Team Mitsubishi Motorsports America driver David Higgins, and maintained that lead during the three night stages.
Higgins, already named the ProRally Championship's top overall driver for the second year in a row, retired shortly after beginning SS2 after Daniel Barritt, his co-driver, fell ill with another round of the flu. Barritt had been battling the bug all week and tried to rest as much as possible, but apparently it wasn't enough. It was an unfortunate turn of events for Team Mitsubishi's top tandem as they had jumped to a quick 20 second lead at the completion of the seven-mile SS1.
After five stages were run on Saturday, Team Subaru unofficially holds the top two spots after Ramana Lagemann, with co-driver Michael Orr, took over the second slot by overtaking Team Mitsubishi's duo, Lauchlin O'Sullivan and co-driver Christian Edstrom, during the evening stages. O'Sullivan's Lancer Evolution had a rough morning session when its left-front fender and light were broken and the hood slightly bent after the car made contact with a tree.
The Air Force Reserve pair, Tim O'Neil and co-driver Alex Gelsomino, battled problems all day long in O'Neil's Ford Focus SVT. The team had to replace a pair of front struts after SS2 before going off course about a mile before the end of SS5, putting an end to a rather tumultuous rally for the group. The cause for going off was believed to be mechanical in nature.
In the hotly contested FIA Group N class, Shane Mitchell, with Paul Donnelly, sits fourth overall and holds the early class advantage over Mark Nelson and co-driver Duncan McMath, who is with his third different driver this season (the others were Jonny Milner and Julian Reynolds -- all three have driven the same Subaru Impreza WRX). Mark Utecht, who holds a slight six-point lead in the Group N point standings over Mitchell currently, is third.
Day two of the Wild West International Rally is tentatively scheduled to resume on Sunday at 8:30 a.m., starting with a parc expose at the Mason County Fairgrounds in Shelton, Washington. The schedule is contingent upon weather conditions providing enough moisture to lift the fire restriction that is in effect for the state forests. Rain is in the forecast for the rest of Saturday night and most of Sunday. If the restriction remains in effect, however, the rally is scheduled to run in the morning and be completed by 1:00 p.m.
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