Last weekend DirtFish hosted what we believe is the biggest rally-cross event ever run: the Northwest Rally Association’s Rallycross Fest. Our property was packed with over 200 competitors, all racing on courses mapped out around the 315-acre former mill site.
Split across 11 classes, vehicles ranged from stock economy cars, to side-by-sides. It was a true ‘run what you brung’ event that was centered around light-hearted competition, and just getting to have fun in your race car – be it a Lexus GX470 on street tires, or a fully prepped stage rally car.
Two separate courses were laid out for the two-day event, one predominantly in our handling course area behind the famous planer building, and the other using parts of our Mill-Run and Wedge courses toward the back of the rally property.
Over the weekend, racers ran laps, helped marshal parts of the courses, and got to spend time with and have fun with each other. Without the need for co-drivers, competitors were also able to offer each other rides intheir cars, as well as any of their friends or even spectators who wanted a go.
The result was a very tight-knit atmosphere that meant everyone was in it for each other, and just genuinely loving what they did. Families could spend the weekend together in a great environment, while swapping drivers and passengers as the weekend goes on.
“There were amazing courses, it was really fun!” said DirtFish content creator Daniel Piker. “Seeing the number of father-son duos, including myself, was amazing.”
Although light-hearted competition surrounded by friends and family is always great, everyone still secretly wants to be fastest! Without further ado, here’s how each of the 11 classes played out.
Front-wheel-drive (FWD), Rear-wheel-drive (RWD), All-wheel-drive (AWD), four-wheel-drive (4WD)
Rally Cross, not to be confused with the multi-car races on mixed surfaces called rallycross. This form of motorsport is called autotests in the UK, motorkhana in Antipodean nations and autocross in the US.
Stock FWD had 14 competitors all racing in what might just be the most cost-effective class. First and second place went to Peter and Vincent Dozeman in that order. The two shared a 2001 Honda Civic Si that seemed to just blow the competition away; Peter’s final time was almost a full minute ahead of third-place Christopher Dolquest’s 2003 Ford Focus SVT.
With it also being Peter’s birthday, the win couldn’t have come at a more exciting time for him.
Just over a second behind Dolquest was the Fiat 500 of John Baily, who had been trading times back and forth with Dolquest the whole event, and just barely fell short of the podium in the last run of the day.
Also in the mix battling with Dolquest and Baily was the Mazda 3 of Emily Portratz. Though she finished fifth, she was within about five seconds of the podium at the end of the day, making for quite the battle for third in class.
Prepared FWD was one of the smallest classes of the weekend, with only four competitors running both days.
At the top of the competition, however, was Chris Miller, both a familiar face to the North American stage rally community, and husband to DirtFish instructor Michelle Miller. Chris was piloting a 2000 Focus hatchback, a platform he has been running since the beginning of his rally career.
About 40s back, a tight battle for second place went on between Jim Guenther’s 2009 VW Golf GTI and Ryan Armstrong’s 2003 Focus ZX3. While Armstrong was typically slightly off Guenther’s pace, he actually often made up time by keeping his runs clean and clear of penalties for missing gates or hitting cones, while Guenther had a bit more of a tendency for pushing close to the edge of the track.
In the end though, it would be Guenther taking the second spot by just 4.5s over Armstrong.
All within 11s of each other, the top four Modified FWD drivers were all on top of their game. Fastest in the end was Sven Eisma (also known as “Too Smooth”), who was also the fastest of all the FWD runners in their 2009 Honda Fit Sport at 16m07.509s.
Chasing Eisma all weekend was Chad Berg, Ben Schepper and Brandon Ellis, who all were trading top times and positions in the closely matched class.
Berg’s 2015 Focus ST just barely fought off Schepper’s beauty of a Toyota Starlet GT Turbo for second place, leaving the Starlet in third, and Ellis’ 1996 Geo Metro fourth.
Fifth in the 15-person class was Dean Neshem in his 1995 Geo Metro, making him second of five Geo Metro entries in the class.
Daniel and David Bergeron, each entering in a 1987 Porsche 944, were able to take the top two positions of a class where only four entries missed out on a podium finish.
Daniel was able to hold off David by about 20s, while third place was another vehicle from the era, a 1985 Toyota MR2 driven by Mukhtar Kiboigo.
The first of the newer cars was Michael Wilhelm’s 2014 Ford Mustang, which held up to the dirt surprisingly well! Wilhelm battled back-and-forth with the much lighter MR2 all weekend, and only fell back by about 13s.
Finishing off the top five was Maksym Volodin in a BMW 330i, still only about 15s off the pace of the Mustang in-front of them and ahead of the final two entries.
Prepared RWD’s leader managed to put a full minute between himself and his competitors in his 1997 Mazda Miata. All the way from Utah, Gonzalo San Miguel was not only fast, but clean all weekend, managing to get just one penalty for hitting a cone.
In second place was the 2016 Scion FR-S of Michael Boyd who also kept things pretty clean, but lacked the pace of the Miata ahead of him.
Third place would go to another ’97 Miata, driven by Evan Kuester.
The closest battle of the top five would be for fourth, between a 2000 Ford Ranger and a 1987 Mazda RX-7. The Ranger, driven by William Cooper, managed to edge out the RX-7 of Neil Richter by just 1.4s, less than the penalty for hitting a cone!
The biggest class of the weekend by far, Modified RWD attracted 40 competitors.
It was won by Dan Hipwood, who was behind the wheel of a V6-swapped 1986 Toyota MR2 and pulled away by about 12s despite the amount of competition in his class.
“I love him, and I hate him… he’s certainly inspired me to work on the car again,” joked second place Kip Tischer when speaking of Hipwood.
Tischer, an experienced racer and DirtFish instructor, managed to pull off second place in his 1995 BMW 318ti, consistently running similar if not faster times than Hipwood, but picking up more penalties.
Constantly swapping positions were the 1999 BMW M3 of Jennifer King and the 1992 Mazda Miata of Phil Clarke.
The two managed to avoid getting a single penalty, with King finishing on top by just about four-and-a-half seconds over Clarke.
To get the final spot in the top five was a close battle between two of DirtFish’s own, writer Josie Rimmer and racing school instructor instructor Mitch Williams.
The Merkur XR4Ti of Rimmer and BMW 2002 of Williams fought hard against each other, but in the end it was Rimmer, who was handling her latest car in competition for the first time, who took the fifth spot by 10s.
Stock AWD as you might expect had plenty of Subaru Imprezas and Foresters competing for the top spot, but in a field nearing 25 entries there were a few standout entries including a few Ford Raptors, and the Lexus GX470 SUV which surprisingly handled hairpins better than many of the Subarus.
But as expected, it was a WRX that led the pack. The 2015 Impreza driven by Anthony Orantes, despite using street tires, managed to put in a time that beat every single previously mentioned class leader at 15m47.774s.
Chasing Orantes were the 2001 and 2006 Imprezas of Brandon Burgler and Cody Hoops, who finished in second and third respectively, each car a decent 13 to 15s off the previous one’s pace.
Battling for third the whole event, and finishing just 1.2s outside of the podium was DirtFish instructor Geoff Clark in a… 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee? Clark managed to out-maneuver over 12 smaller, more nimble cars on the tight, technical stages in a nearly 5,000lb, 26-year-old SUV without getting a single penalty!
The final competitor to reach the top five in class, hopefully without a bruised ego, was George Fakashchuk in a 2005 Volvo S40 T5.
Modified AWD Turbo and Supercharged
In a bittersweet victory, the Modified AWD-TS class was won by the Mitsubishi Evo VIII of Alexander “Big Al” Mock.
Mock had been highly successful in the North West Rally events in the past, and this win would mark his last event before he moves across the country to Washington D.C.
Mock’s time of 14m39.738s was also by far the fastest time of the entire event, beating second place in class Luke McLane’s 2002 Impreza WRX by almost exactly 10s.
Third and fourth place were taken by the WRXs of John Weinzettel and Justin Nelson respectively, with the top five being rounded out by Austin Dowda’s 1991 Honda Civic Wagon.
Open 4WD was a small class, mainly run by those just trying to have some fun. First place would go Traver Phillips behind the wheel of a Yamaha YXZ side-by-side, while second would go to 23-year rally veteran Mark Tabor in his stage-prepped Subaru WRX.
Zane Brown’s Yamaha YXZ1000R SS SE would take third, with Kyle Fugate coming fourth in a Polaris RZR.
The final competitor in Open 4 was Freddie DelaCruz in a full custom-built Jeep short course and off-road truck, similar to the old USHRA tough-truck builds.
DelaCruz said the reason he decided to enter the black sheep of a truck was because his Impreza wasn’t ready, and despite being “wider than the course” at points, he had a load of fun.
Modified AWD Naturally Aspirated
There was 15 entries, and only one of them wasn’t a Subaru (it was an Audi).
Modified AWD Naturally Aspirated won by Jeffrey Olmstead, who earlier this year competed in his first stage rally on the DirtFish Olympus Rally. Olmstead’s 2000 Impreza led over Kyle Herzog’s 1994 Impreza by about 13s, and Michael Hohn’ 2000 Subaru by a bit under 30s.
The top five were rounded out by the 1995 Imprezas of rally driver Peng Du and Jan Pasia, who, while competitive, each ended up with decent-sized gaps between them and the cars in front of them.