Photo courtesy: (c) Mathew Mendoza / WheelsDirty.com
On a day considered mild for August in Southern California, 27 rally teams dared to challenge the oldest continuously running rally in the state. Considered tough on cars and crews alike, with technical, twisting roads, and a schedule of 16 stages running late into the night, the 26th consecutive 2015 Gorman Ridge Rally was poised to be epic.
Based out of Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area, just 60 miles north of Los Angeles, Gorman Ridge Rally is round 4 of the California Rally Series. The event draws competitors from throughout the Southwest, even as far away as Albuquerque, NM.
Last minute entries from fast teams, including several with past overall wins at Gorman, drove up the competition in AWD. 2013 CRS Open Class Champion and 2013 winner Tingwu Song brought experienced Gorman Co-Driver Mustafa Samli in a Mitsubishi Evo. George Plsek teamed up with another seasoned Gorman Co-Driver Sean Gallagher to go for the win in their Evo. Both teams have experience from rallies all over the country and it showed when Plsek and Song set a blistering pace on stages 1 & 2. Plsek was slightly ahead on every stage until Song fought back on stages 11 & 12 to take the lead. Trying to keep that lead, Song and Samli got a flat tire on stage 14 that ultimately went down to just the rim, costing them at least a minute and a half. On stage 15 pushing hard to make up any of the time lost the team rolled the #95 Mitsubishi Evo onto its side blocking the stage. Once righted by a gaggle of competitors, the team ultimately decided not to continue. This left George Plsek & Sean Gallagher with a healthy lead that would not be challenged all the way to the 1st place podium.
Kris Psara has tackled this event many times in his Subaru Impreza STi. Recently teamed up with Co-Driver Andres Bautista who recently attended the CRS Rally School, the new pair got right up to speed and set 3rd fastest times on 1 through 3 and quickly secured 3rd in the first leg of Gorman known as the Condor Stages. The team went on to secure 2nd overall at the event and some great CRS and Pacific Rally Cup points.
Doug Chernis and Piers O’Hanlon were back for their 2nd consecutive year. Setting some consistent times and keeping in the battle for 3rd place, the team had very few issues as the competition thinned out into the night stages. For their efforts they placed 4th in the Condor Stages and 3rd in the Cliffs of Gorman.
Josh Jacquot and Dave Coleman were looking to solidify some Pacific Rally Cup points in AWD, and were chasing the podium until they got stuck on stage 14. Teetering on the edge of a small cliff, the car was undamaged but completely stuck. Jacquot will be back out to challenge for the NASA National Rally Championship, this year at the Prescott Rally, in Arizona.
Five or more open class teams were poised to take a win here at Gorman. One of those teams got a very unfortunate setback on the very first stage of the rally. John Trucks and Chris Fine got stuck on a berm and ignited some brush, which lead to a fire that the team fought vigilantly, and ended with the destruction of car #51. The crew is safe, but devastated as when anything you put your heart and soul into is lost. We feel that they have some rally karma saved up and coming their way so please check out our fundraiser link: http://www.gofundme.com/3z2qqfsw
Over in 2WD, the rally was energized by the 2WD Challenge and the prospect of winning some cash all the way out to 5th place. In the CRS Performance Stock class it was Chrissie Beavis and first time Co-Driver Erica Sacks in a VW Jetta driving for a win against Sarkis Mazmanian & Michael Mazmanian in their trusty Acura Integra. Beavis was fast enough to not only sweep the P-Stock win, but get into the top 5 2WD cars for 2C. Another late entry came from Brent Lee and John Dillon is a very well prepared Ford Fiesta R2. After having some engine computer issues on the first 2 stages the team elected to move to the back of the field after service. The issues suddenly resolved themselves and the team made up a ton of time. Enough to jump back into the fight for the top spots. Lee finished 4th in 2WD for the day.
A battle for 2nd and 3rd emerged in the CRS-2 class with Andrew Lockhart and Michel Hoche-Mong in their VW Golf against Bret Robinson and Brent Ellzey also in a Golf GTI. The leader changed 3 times and it wasn’t until the very last stage of the rally that Andrew Lockhart pulled out an amazing time to take not only the win but set the fastest 2WD time on the last stage. Running in an open class 2WD car the Toyota RAV4 of Ryan Millen and Christina Fate were the ones setting those fastest 2WD times on all the stages but the last. Their rivals, the Mini Cooper driven by Markus and Alicia Saarinen withdrew on stage 10 after and axle they replaced in service caused some additional problems. At the end of the day it was Millen 1st, Lockhart 2nd, Robinson 3rd.
Just finishing Gorman as a seasoned competitor is sometimes a challenge, so it was great to see two brand new teams on the stages, it was even better to see them both complete their first event. We’d like to congratulate Michael Seidman & Thomas Luhrs in an AWD Subaru Impreza and Zhiyong Cui & Yihai Zhang in a 2WD Ford Focus!