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Old 04-21-2008, 01:36 PM   #1
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Default 2008 Olympus Rally

2008 Olympus Rally Recap
Story by Jeff Zurschmeide, Subiesport Magazine - Photos by Lars Gange, rally.subaru.com

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April 19-20 2008, Pomeroy, Wash.

We’re only three events into the 2008 Rally America series, with six events yet to run, but I’ll go out on a limb and predict that this is the year Ken Block and co-driver Alessandro Gelsomino win the Rally America national championship. After two years in the shadow of teammates Travis Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom, Block and Gelsomino have won two of the first three events in dominating fashion.

“I’m definitely going to try for the championship. This year, we’ve got a plan,” remarked Block at the Olympus podium ceremony.

Whatever that plan is, it’s working very nicely. Block won 7 of the 16 Olympus stages outright and finished second on 4 more. On the 5 remaining stages, a quirk in the Rally America championship rules created a tie with up to 17 other competitors.

As a safety measure, FIA and Rally America require event organizers to keep average stage speeds below 80 MPH. They do this by limiting the minimum possible stage score to an 80 MPH average. If any competitor exceeds the 80 MPH average on a given stage, that stage must be changed or eliminated the following year.

Because this is the first running of the Olympus Rally on new roads outside Pomeroy, Washington, the average stage speed was exceeded on 5 of the 16 total stages. Each stage of the rally was run at least twice, and on the last stage of the event, the top 18 competitors all earned the minimum stage time. The first running of that stage saw 16 of the top 17 competitors earn the minimum time.

There are two things to note about this fact – the first is that the level of competition in Rally America has never been higher. The national-level competitors have raised their game to equal any national rally series in the world. The second note is that the Olympus stages were among the fastest of the competition year – and stage speeds will have to be brought down next year.

From its days as a WRC round in the 1980s through 2007, the rally was based in Olympia, Wash. But due to a management change within a key landowner, the organizers lost their signature roads and the town of Pomeroy was ready to step in to provide a new home for the event.

Pomeroy is a small farming town located in the Palouse hills near the Idaho border. The terrain is windswept grassland covering steep hills and narrow winding canyons. The stage roads normally serve as farm access to the cattle ranches and wheat fields of the area. Even in mid-April, snow threatened throughout the entire event, but held off to give Rally America its first dry and unfrozen event of the year.

The new Olympus roads were exceptionally smooth and featured long straight stretches that encouraged speeds above 120 MPH. A cooperative County Sheriff used his radar gun to record trap speeds on the event, and the top speed of 124 MPH was not set by an STI, but rather by a venerable Volvo 240 driven by John Lane and Jason Grahn of Washington. Who could have predicted that?

In the end, Pastrana and new co-driver Derek Ringer took second place overall, winning the 4 stages that Block didn’t. Pastrana/Ringer finished the rally 23.9 seconds behind Block/Gelsomino. Contenders Tanner Foust and Chrissie Beavis took third, 1:12.8 behind Block/Gelsomino.

Fourth place went to the Mitsubishi Evo team of Andrew Comrie-Picard and Marc Goldfarb, keeping them in second place for the season so far. Two-time PGT Champions Matt Johnson and Jeremy Wimpey kept their X Games hopes alive with a strong fifth place finish.

2004-5 national champion Patrick Richard and co-driver Alan Ockwell finished 6th overall. Because he doesn’t compete in the entire Rally America series, Richard is something of a wild card when the series comes to the Pacific Northwest. With past P-WRC experience, Richard is tough to beat on his home turf. Look for this team to keep the pressure on at next month’s Oregon Trail Rally.

Last year’s Group 5 champions Kyle Sarasin and Mikael Johansson finished 7th in their open class Subaru. The 18 year old Sarasin continues to drive well and finish in the top 10. Last year’s Olympus runners-up Andrew Pinker and Robbie Durant finished in 8th position. They usually do better in the Pacific Northwest, having won the last two Oregon Trail events. Look for this team to go all out next month in Oregon.

Also new at this year’s Olympus Rally, Primitive Rally Enterprises owner Paul Eklund and co-driver Jeff Price debuted the first 2008 STI to enter any stage rally in North America. The car arrived in Production GT trim, sporting snow tires and stock front suspension because no rally tires will fit on the 17-inch wheels required to clear the STI’s front brakes. “The car performed great, and I love the active center diff,” Eklund said. “I just left it on Automatic the whole time.” Eklund and Price finished 16th overall and 5th in the Production GT class. Look for them to climb up the standings at Oregon Trail as they get the new STI sorted out.

Speaking of Production GT, the class was won by Stephan Verdier and Scott Crouch, followed closely by Patrick Moro and Mike Rossey, each team driving a WRX. Among two wheel drive cars, Group 5 honors went to the Canadian team of Zbigniew Szewczyk and Tomasz Karzynski in their Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer, and Group 2 was won by local Northwest favorite Lou Beck and co-driver Jerry Mizar in their Ford Focus. Production class was taken by the brothers team of Jan and Jody Zedril in their Mitsubishi Lancer.

Production is not normally a popular class in the Rally America series. Because the class is limited to stock cars of low power, Production lacks the sex appeal of faster classes. But a new rule could change all that – at least at the regional level. New for 2008, Rally America has eliminated the 4-valve per cylinder multiplier in the Production formula. This change allows 1.8-liter AWD Subaru Imprezas into the Production class.

As the word spreads that these plentiful and low-cost cars are no longer forced to compete against the WRX and 2.5RS Subarus in Production GT, the class should experience a resurgence at the amateur level. In this event’s regional standings, local competitors Richard Rockrohr and Marie Jacobs turned in a strong second to the national winner driving a 1995 Impreza. With the same access to specialized rally parts as its more powerful brethren, the long-ignored 1.8-liter Impreza seems poised to be the new overdog in Production.

For all the high speeds of Olympus, the event was kind to equipment. None of the top contenders damaged their cars, so they should all be in top form for the Oregon Trail Rally, to be held May 16-18 outside Portland, Oregon. Block and Gelsomino may have a strong lead, but this season isn’t over for a long time yet.

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Last edited by ricochet; 05-06-2008 at 11:23 AM.
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Old 04-21-2008, 03:36 PM   #2
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Awesome write-up and full follow-up of the event. Can't wait for Oregon Trail!!
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Old 04-21-2008, 07:21 PM   #3
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Great Write-Up. It sounds like it was a pretty fast Rally, and a great rally for our team.

J. Cooley
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Old 04-21-2008, 09:15 PM   #4
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Is it me, or does that pic remind anyone of the photochopped Impreza WRC on the Windows XP hills wallpaper?
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Old 04-22-2008, 06:24 PM   #5
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cant wait for STPR
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Old 04-23-2008, 05:24 PM   #6
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"Speaking of Production GT, the class was won by Stephan Verdier and Scott Crouch, followed closely by Patrick Moro and Mike Rossey"

I don't think 2:27 back is following closely........
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Old 04-24-2008, 07:30 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Pakin View Post
Is it me, or does that pic remind anyone of the photochopped Impreza WRC on the Windows XP hills wallpaper?
Like this?
Sorta of does resemble it
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Old 04-27-2008, 05:39 PM   #8
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I was bummed that Chris Duplessis did not due better in the Naturally VW R32. I helped those guys load up the previous wednesday and they were very excited about the car. I know the cars former driver and head mechanic had worked very hard to overcome some problems they had when Chris and Tim O'neil initially came out to test the car. Hopefully they can figure out the problem. I am really interested to see Chris's speed in the open class and in that particular car.
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Old 05-01-2008, 03:58 PM   #9
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Awww, the new car looks good even riding in the ditch!!
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Old 05-02-2008, 04:35 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by spdracr00 View Post
Awww, the new car looks good even riding in the ditch!!
Hah, yeah...he is a little off course
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Old 05-05-2008, 03:25 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by snork View Post
Hah, yeah...he is a little off course
Nah, Paul's just testing out the suspension.

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