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Higgins, Drew win Ojibwe Forest Rally

Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew won the 2014 rally with a time of 2:20:32.1, driving their Subaru WRX STI rally car. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham

Subaru Rally Team USA driver David Higgins and his co-driver Craig Drew claimed victory at the 2014 Muscatell Ojibwe Forest Rally in Detroit Lakes this past weekend.

The duo maintained the leading pace despite constant pressure from factory teammates Travis Pastrana and co-driver Chrissie Beavis with their DMACK Tires-shod 2014 Subaru WRX STI rally car.

The Muscatell Ojibwe Forest Rally was the penultimate event of the eight round 2014 Rally America Championship and featured three days of competition on high-speed and technical forest roads in northwestern Minnesota. The rally is highly regarded for its flowing and technical sandy gravel roads which are a favorite among rally drivers.

Higgins and Drew entered Ojibwe as champions-elect after mathematically securing 2014 Rally America Championship at the previous round, the New England Forest Rally. The 2014 Rally America Driver’s Championship will be Higgins’ fourth straight driver’s championship in a row and his sixth in the USA.

The rally began with a close duel between teammates Higgins and Pastrana, with Pastrana only 24.1 seconds behind at the beginning of the final day of competition and ready to push to close the gap on Higgins.

Unfortunately Pastrana slid wide off the racing line and became stuck in a ditch on the final day’s first stage. Pastrana tried in vain to free his high-centered Subaru and was forced to retire from the event. It was Pastrana’s first non-finish of the season after a string of four consecutive podium finishes prior to Ojibwe.

To the delight of the fans, the event organizers allowed Pastrana to race as exhibition only on the final stage of the event which ran through the streets of Detroit Lakes.

The rally, however, belonged to Higgins and Drew. They won nearly all of the event’s sixteen competition stages, with just two stages narrowly won by Pastrana. Higgins battled through the fog on the second day’s night stages to pull time from Pastrana and then never looked back after Pastrana’s retirement, winning all of the final day’s stages while cruising to the finish.

“This rally is always a difficult one and this year was no different. We had thick fog to contend with on Friday night, plus real tricky road conditions where it would be very slippery and wet in spots,” explained Higgins. “Travis (Pastrana) was pushing us real hard and it was a big challenge to go fast in those conditions. After Travis exited the rally we obviously had it easier but we still pushed a bit and tried some different things with the car. The team and our Subaru were perfect again, and big thumbs up to Craig (Drew) as this was the only event in the championship that he had yet to win.”

“The Ojibwe Forests Rally organizers put on a fantastic event for both fans and competitors,” stated Rob Weir, Subaru Motorsports marketing manager. “We’re proud to put Subaru at the top of the podium at this Rally America round, and look forward to our return in 2015.”

FY Racing’s Adam Yeo-man and Jordan Schulze took second place after fending off a hard-charging Lauchlin O’Sullivan. It is a particularly sweet finish for the drivers who managed to keep their car serviceable through multiple problems to take their highest career placement to date.

It didn’t take long for Super Production’s (SP) Lauchlin O’Sullivan and Scott Putnam to shake off any rust to not only take the class victory, but also land third on the overall podium. O’Sullivan and Putnam missed nearly half of the Rally America season due to a February crash that totaled their vehicle. They spent the summer repairing the car for a run at Ojibwe, and they came back with a vengeance.

Current SP Class points leaders Dillon Van Way and Andrew Edwards did not need to outright win their class to secure their first ever Super Production title with a second place class finish. Van Way drove a flawless race to stay just ahead of his closest rival in the Super Production points standings, Nick Roberts and co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino, who finished third in class at Robert’s home event.

The Rookie of the Year award is closer to reality for Troy Miller, supported by co-driver and brother, Jeremy Miller. The Millers normally compete in the Two-Wheel Drive (2WD) category, but decided to enter Ojibwe in an SP prepared Subaru to take on Mickey Moran and Alice Von Denes, who also run a SP class Subaru.

Both Miller and Moran are vying for the Rookie of the Year award. However, Moran and Van Denes suffered multiple problems during the event and eventually retired due to fatigue. Miller now holds a commanding Rookie of the Year points lead with his sixth overall finish.

In the 2WD category, Ford Racing’s Andrew Comrie-Picard and Ole Holter got off to a slow start after the Super Special Stages, and quickly retook the 2WD lead from Matt Brandenburg and Jimmy Brandt.

Comrie-Picard’s pace steadily increased to completely outpace his 2WD competitors and he finished an outstanding 16 minutes over second place Panos Karpidas and John Hall. It is the third time Karpidas and Hall have podiumed this season.

Honda Performance Development’s James Robinson and Brian Penza took third in class in their B-SPEC Honda Fit.