While Travis Pastrana got the spotlight for a third win in a row at DirtFish Olympus Rally last weekend, another driver was celebrating a well-deserved victory of his own in the National L4WD class.
Former DirtFish instructor Travis Nease drove his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution to a first National class win in the car, as well as 11th overall, beating out some seriously strong competition.
The L4WD class was one of the most competitive at Olympus, with the likes of Ele Bardha (undefeated in the class this year before Olympus) and last year’s Olympus class winner Matt Dickinson on the roster. Incredibly, there were only seven speed factor points separating the top six competitors in the class.
Nease and Bardha both started out their year at Sno*Drift in February, while Olympus was Dickinson’s first rally of the year. At Sno*Drift Bardha took first and Nease took second, but at Nease’s home event last week he was able to leap ahead of Bardha, who suffered many problems on stage.
Nease was at a loss for words at impound after SS12 when he had secured his position.
“It’s hard to explain [my thoughts] because five years ago I did my first rally last on the road and now I’m up here at the top!” he exclaimed.
Before Nease moved to Idaho, working part-time at DirtFish was one of the ways he saved up the money to grow his grassroots rally team into what it is today. And the experience gained there no doubt help him hone his skills for the times he was able to take his own car out on stage.
“Well really, it’s exactly how it should go, you should win your class if you’re a DirtFish instructor!” Nease joked.
Of course, Nease knows it’s not that simple. In a rally as tough as Olympus, a mechanical fault or one wrong move can ruin anyone’s chances of winning. Just ask Brandon Semenuk.
“The first event that I did [in this car] actually was Olympus” Nease said, “I finished one half of a mile last year, broke an axle.”
Early disappointments didn’t stop him though. Nease continued to work on his car and his team to make both stronger, and race-ready for the 2021 season, not losing sight of the importance of a strong foundation in the face of competition.
Nease’s outlook is without a strong team – “nothing else is going to work,” – something any successful driver will tell you in any form of motorsport.
Though Nease is new to the Evo, his experience in previous cars helped guide him through the difficulties many drivers faced on the harsh roads of Olympus, including the infamous Wildcat stage.
“I ran Wildcat when that stage first came out, I think it was in 2016,” he remembers. “To be honest that stage is much easier than it was then, it was a fresher road, it was a lot looser.”
Nease sits currently in second in the ARA National L4WD standings, behind only Bardha, who has the advantage of having run one more event.
If he’s able to compete more this season, Nease is confident the Evo has the speed to carry him to similar success in future rounds, so long as he’s able to tame it.
“It’s a wicked fast car,” he said, “I just need to figure out how to drive it.”