Subaru Motorsports USA dominated a muddy and treacherous Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally, with driver Oliver Solberg going wire-to-wire to win his second event of the American Rally Association (ARA) season in only his first full season of rally. Teammate and ARA championship leader David Higgins drove to a calculated second-place finish in pursuit of his tenth U.S. rally title. Solberg and Higgins swept all 15 stage wins and have now combined to win five of the last six ARA national events in their Subaru WRX STI rally cars.
With Susquehannock Trail moving from its usual June timing to a new date in mid-September, cool and damp weather conditions made for a very different rally from previous years. Rain during the week turned the service area into ankle-deep mud and left the narrow, fast Pennsylvania roads slick and more dangerous than usual. Oliver Solberg – still a few days shy of his eighteenth birthday – and returning co-driver Aaron Johnston attacked early on Friday in their #70 WRX STI, winning the first two stages to build a quick lead over Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew. Solberg would ultimately take eight of the first day’s stages to Higgins’ two as the veteran pursued a conservative strategy to protect his championship hopes.
Saturday’s stages continued the story of the event with more damp, foggy conditions and a continued push from Solberg and Johnston for stage wins. The pair would again take the first two stages of the day before Higgins and Drew struck back with a win on Stage 13. A broken axle briefly left Solberg with only front-wheel drive on Stage 14, but he was able to complete the stage and return to service with most of his lead intact. After repairs, Solberg closed out the weekend with a win on the rally’s final stage to take the overall victory. Higgins brought his WRX STI home in second, with the Ford of third-place finisher Barry McKenna more than twelve minutes further back.
“Fantastic, finally another win since Olympus!” Solberg said after the rally. “I knew the conditions were going to be difficult so my goal was just to push hard and win as many stages as possible. It’s been a long couple of rallies but the team has done a fantastic job.”
“This weekend was very much a championship drive for us,” said Higgins. “Oliver had good pace and we knew we had a chance to lock up enough points to secure the title this weekend so made the choice to drive safely and get the job done. Now we can relax and go flat out at the last event next month, try to end the season on a high note.”
David Higgins and Oliver Solberg will go head-to-head in the final round of the ARA season at Lake Superior Performance Rally, to be held October 18-19 in Houghton, Michigan.
Subaru of America, Inc. (SOA) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Subaru Corporation of Japan. Headquartered at a zero-landfill office in Camden, N.J., the company markets and distributes Subaru vehicles, parts and accessories through a network of more than 630 retailers across the United States. All Subaru products are manufactured in zero-landfill production plants and Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc. is the only U.S. automobile production plant to be designated a backyard wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. SOA is guided by the Subaru Love Promise, which is the company’s vision to show love and respect to everyone, and to support its communities and customers nationwide. Over the past 20 years, SOA has donated more than $145 million to causes the Subaru family cares about, and its employees have logged more than 40,000 volunteer hours. As a company, Subaru believes it is important to do its part in making a positive impact in the world because it is the right thing to do.
Following the latest British F3 Championship race, DirtFish Driver, Benjamin Pedersen had the opportunity to join Global Racing Group for another round of the F3 Americas Championship at Road America. Overall, Road America was very successful for him! He and the GRG team dominated the weekend with pace and results. By the end of both races, he crossed the finish line in P1 with a gap of more than 7 seconds to P2 and claimed the fastest lap times in both races. With the strong showings he’s had in the US championship, he has now moved up to 2nd place in the Driver’s Championship, which is a powerful statement considering he has missed six races in 2019.
As the Friday morning qualifying session got underway, the team decided to have Benjamin wait in pit lane for the first 5 minutes to let the morning moisture evaporate off of the track surface. This strategy worked! As the track cleared, his times became faster and faster. For the remainder of the session, he battled red flag conditions ruining his fast lap times with every attempt except one, which secured him a P3 position for the start of Race 1. Upon review of the data, Benjamin could have secured pole by roughly 0.7 of a second. Unfortunately, due to the red flags and position on track, P3 was the best he could achieve.
At the start of Race 1, Benjamin’s focus was on the win. As the lights went out, he had a decent start that was equal to P1 and P2, so he went into turn one right behind them in P3. He was quickly able to make a pass on P2. Unfortunately, he made a small mistake in the braking zone that pushed him wide into the runoff area, dropping him back to P3. The pace was strong, so catching back up didn’t take long, and by the time he was at the end of the first lap, the nose of his car was back on the gearbox of P2. At the end of the first lap, a full-course caution came out, which bunched up the field of cars. Luckily, there was a long straight away right after the restart zone, so the caution ended up serving as a great passing opportunity!
As the race went back to green, Benjamin got the run on both P1 and P2 which made turn one very tight. By the time they made it to the braking zone, he was a little bit late on the brakes and gave the P2 car a little nudge on the rear tire. Luckily, his front wing wasn’t damaged, but the momentum was enough to push the other driver wide, and move Benjamin into P1. With the car in good shape, Benjamin pushed hard to try and increase the gap ahead of the rest of the field, which he was able to do by large margins. He was even able to set the fastest lap time of the race by over 1 second! As the 35-minute race progressed, the drivers saw two more periods of full-course caution, and on each restart, he was able to maintain P1 and increase his gap each time. As the checkered flag came out, Benjamin crossed the finish line in 1st place with more than an 8-second gap to P2. Unfortunately, that wasn’t how the official results would remain. After being served two very borderline penalties (that weren’t consistent with similar incidents earlier in the season), he was pushed back down to 5th. With no other option than to get over it, all focus quickly changed to Race 2 where Benjamin would be starting in Pole Position again!
In the final race of the weekend, Benjamin was focused on having a good start and a strong first lap to pull away from the field. As the lights went out, he had a stellar start and was able to maintain P1 through turn one, and from then on, he was able to increase his lead with every lap. The race went on for the full 35 minutes with clean racing and no full-course cautions, Benjamin to continue pushing hard with every lap and extend his lead. As the checkered flag came out, Benajmin crossed the finish line in 1st again! To top it off he won by more than 7 seconds, and was able to secure the fastest lap time of the race! This wasn’t just a great race for Benjamin; it was a huge success for Global Racing Group who landed two of their drivers on the podium.
The final three races of the 2019 season take place this weekend at Sebring International Raceway.
Subaru Motorsports USA is managed by Vermont SportsCar and proudly supported by Subaru of America, Inc., Idemitsu Lubricants, Yokohama Tires, Method Race Wheels, DirtFish Rally School, KÜHL and RECARO. Follow the team online at http://www.subaru.com/motorsports
There are countless companies who make tires for streetcars, however very few of these companies manufacture actual rally tires. But, what makes rally tires so special and how do they differ from the tires you would see on your car?
Although there aren’t many companies that make them, the ones who do, do it very well. Each company has their own tread patterns and special compounds built specifically for the harsh environments of rally. The one characteristic these tires all have in common are the sidewalls: because the roads are rarely smooth and are littered with hazards, such as large rocks protruding from the road, potholes and other unseen obstacles, the tires have to be extremely strong. They all have very thick sidewalls, making them extremely rigid and able to take the constant battering that comes with rally (think of it like a 15” run flat tire). Some companies even add ribs to the outside of the sidewalls, which are placed there to help deflect rocks and resist punctures.
The other feature they all have in common are larger, chunkier tread blocks (similar to an off-road truck tire). While they all have tread that is built for getting the most traction on a loose surface, that’s where the similarities end. Each company has their own distinct tread patterns that also help maximize traction in different circumstances (Hoosier makes tires that demonstrate this very well). There are one to two strips of straight tread block on the inside of the tires, giving the driver maximum grip during acceleration and braking. As you move towards the outside of the tire the tread pattern is built more for turning, giving the driver the best possible traction in different severities of corners.
The next important part of the tire is the compound – just like street tires that have different compounds for different types of conditions and roads, rally tires do, too. The compounds range from soft, medium, hard and everything between. There are many different factors that are worked into the decision for which compound to use, including temperature, stage length, road surface and weather. It’s always going to be a question of better grip or a longer wear rate. At DirtFish the roads we use are hard packed with VERY abrasive gravel, so we tend to opt for a harder compound tire that will last longer.
What about snow/winter rallies? There are a couple of manufacturers that make rally-specific snow tires. Commonly there are three different kinds of snow tire; ones for deep/soft snow, ones for hard-packed snow and others made for ice. The most common deep snow tire is built the same way as a gravel rally tire, but have a very soft compound with a wide open tread pattern (studless). For hard packed snow, people choose a tire that is similar to a snow tire you would see on everyday streetcars (studless or studded). Finally, the tires built for ice are very different from the rest. They are extremely narrow (almost half the width of the gravel tire) and are equipped with large studs or spikes, virtually giving the cars more traction that a gravel tire on a dirt road. You won’t see any studded/spiked tires competing in rallies in the US, as the sanctioning bodies do not allow them (some Canadian rallies allow studs).
Although there aren’t many companies that manufacture rally tires, they are a key part of the sport. Without these specially built tires, there wouldn’t be the speed and reliability you see in races these days.