Hi! I’m Michelle Miller, professional co-driver and instructor here at DirtFish.
The only thing I’m proficient in writing is pacenotes, so when I was asked to write this column, my heart rate went higher than it does on stage. I’ll do my best not to use my pacenote shorthand!
I’m well into the 2022 American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National championship, where I have been navigating for the amazing Lucy Block as part of the Hoonigan Racing Division. We’re campaigning the new Rally3 Fiesta for the first time (one of the first in the US!) and it’s Lucy’s first time taking on the full championship. She’s killing it.
The Fiesta… it’s fast. And it’s been so thrilling growing into it this year. This season has seen us progress as a team to find as much speed as possible in the new car, as we learn to build notes that maximize not only the car’s potential, but ours as well.
That brings me to last weekend, the Ojibwe Forests Rally.
This was our first repeat event together, so we had notes from 2021 from our time rallying in a Fiesta R2T. This gave us a great base to work off as we did recce on Thursday.
Our notes have come a long way from that first event together (2021 was Lucy’s first-time writing notes from scratch instead of using Jembas) and our speed in the new car has proven it.
We were able to perfect and refine our old notes, and went into the stages confident to carry momentum over Ojibwe’s (very) tricky roads.
As a team, we were pushed. Through the high speed, big crests, jumps, blind corners over crests, and surface changes that are difficult to read and take a lot of trust in each other – the notes we wrote delivered us to our combined execution. These roads were tough.
That said, Ojibwe has some of my favorite stages. Linked corners created a beautiful rhythm for notes, and the team feeling in the car is second to none.
Lucy thrives in the trickiest conditions. We had a blast riding the ruts that formed from cars past and dove straight into committing over jumps and crests. The wildflowers were in full bloom and the forest bright and vibrant, making for a beautiful rally backdrop. Of course, we quickly learned that the mosquitos liked us too.
The spectator Soo Pass Ranch stages marked the end of the rally, and we were happy to be sitting in a spot where we didn’t need to push for a position. We embraced the need to finish and just had fun on these very slippery, narrow stages, going full Gymkhana on SS14 (which we nicknamed Handbrake Sally), laughing, honking and enjoying being sideways.
We were never without support, either.
The Hoonigan Racing Division provided fantastic backing for us all weekend, allowing us to maintain laser focus on recce and racing.
The car was in top-notch condition as we left every service, even after hitting a couple big rocks, clipping some tree branches and sailing over lots of muddy stage sections (I think we gained at least 100lbs in mud)!
I, of course, have to shout out Pawel of Motorsports Catering for making delicious, sustaining meals for us at each service, keeping us focused and energized.
We had our best finish at this year’s New England Forest Rally. We topped that at Ojibwe, finishing sixth overall Nationally, and third in the Open 4WD National class – sharing that podium with our team-mates (and winners) Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino.
It is unparalleled to see our names up there with these amazing drivers – and to experience both a family and a team win.
We can’t wait for our next event at the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally, where we plan to hold onto our speed and see where we can find more. Of course, we always plan on having a little (or a lot of) fun.
We look forward to a full Block event, with Lia joining back again in the R2T and Ken pushing as hard as possible to chase down his overall championship. See you there for more muddy fun.