It’s almost time for round three of the 2021 American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National season: the DirtFish Olympus Rally.
As ever, the Washington event has attracted a dense and star-studded entry across the various classes.
Here is DirtFish’s pick of the bunch that could be worth keeping a close eye on this weekend.
Travis Pastrana is on a roll. With two wins from two, the five-time US rally champion already holds a commanding series lead over Subaru Motorsports USA team-mate Brandon Semenuk. The question is, can the Californian go for the hat-trick?
The odds are stacked against him. Mainly because Barry McKenna is back in the latest-spec Ford Fiesta WRC and by all accounts was the quickest man last time out only for a puncture to rob him of the victory. Pastrana admitted as much.
However that shouldn’t actually count against Pastrana and instead should prove he knows what it takes to win. He and Rhianon Gelsomino were not the quickest on the 100 Acre Wood Rally but were the smartest and most dogged partnership on the stages.
Sometimes in rallying patience can be key, and we’ve seen Pastrana can utilize that if he needs to. It’ll be fascinating to see whether he chooses to just pin it everywhere or drives for points this early into a nine-round season.
– Luke Barry
Travis Pastrana isn’t the only one with two wins behind the wheel of a Subaru this season.
Hollywood stunt driver Ele Bardha and co-driver Corrina Roshea have made a huge splash in the L4WD class with their first-ever class win on Sno*Drift, as well as a win in their first gravel rally last month at 100 Acre Wood.
Bardha is looking to make a lasting impact in his first-ever west coast rally, and has proven to accommodate well to any condition he’s thrown into. Certainly one to watch this weekend.
– Mason Runkel
Over the years the ARA has developed an increasingly Irish flavor and that only gets stronger this weekend with the presence of Callum Devine in a McKenna Motorsports Ford Fiesta R5.
There are several reasons why Devine is worth watching in Washington. Back in a Fiesta R5 he regularly pedalled in 2019, Devine – a podium finisher in the European Rally Championship – endured a tough 2020 and is looking to bounce back.
While he might be down on power compared to some of the big hitters at the front of the pack, Devine is rapid and has always gelled well with the M-Sport-built car after a somewhat trying year as part of Hyundai’s stable last season.
Don’t be too surprised to see him and James Fulton standing on the podium on Sunday.
Winner last year in the L2WD class, André D’Orazio is looking to make it back to the top of the podium, but this year in O2WD.
D’Orazio has been very successful behind the wheel of the Fiesta R2 this season with a class win at Sno*Drift, and a promising shot at third in class at 100 Acre Wood until an unfortunate retirement ruined his run.
O2WD is a tough class with the likes of Michael Hooper and Seamus Burke typically found at the top, but D’Orazio is fully capable of piloting the front-wheel-drive Fiesta to the front for the upset.
Use any cliché you like about fortunes turning, it certainly can’t be denied that Nate Tennis has already faced his fair share of misfortune in 2021.
Back for a full campaign in the ARA this year, DirtFish’s lead instructor scored a strong second in class on the Sno*Drift Rally before it all unraveled on 100AW with some mechanical drama.
However, on DirtFish’s local event, you’re not expecting Tennis to take it easy are you? Anticipate a strong attack from the Subaru BRZ this weekend and, if that happens, Tennis could very well feature in the reckoning for a class podium.
After an extremely rough start to the season, last year’s Olympus winner wants to return to the top spot on the podium.
Barry McKenna gave the debut to his controversial new WRC Fiesta last month at 100 Acre Wood and finished in third place after a puncture caused him to stop on stage for two and a half minutes.
Despite this, McKenna proved far and away he had the fastest car by clawing back over a minute and a half, only to run out of stage miles before he was able to take the lead back.
With more time behind the wheel, McKenna will be hoping to run away with the lead this weekend.
On his first race of 2021, Matthew Dickinson is ready to hit the ground running. Last year he piloted his 2015 WRX STi to a fifth place overall, which was also the team’s first victory in the L4WD class.
Dickinson didn’t get too much seat time in competition last year, but still managed to prove himself in the heat of the battle. Olympus 2019 proved to be a good event for him and the El Diablo Rally Team, with Dickinson coming second in class.
Ele Bardha might be Dickinson’s biggest threat coming out to Olympus in his class, and there’s sure to be a tense battle between the two for top of the class.
The other Irish visitor making what’s likely to be a one-off appearance in the US is Josh McErlean, Devine’s fellow Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy member and a British Junior Champion.
McErlean’s reputation has shot up considerably ever since he made his R5 debut on Rally GB in 2019. As well as an impressive dose of raw pace, it’s the 21-year-old’s work ethic and attitude outside of the car as much as anything else that’s understood to have impressed Hyundai enough to induct him into its junior set-up.
The US stages are a brand-new proposition as is gravel to an extent, with McErlean’s R5 outings on the loose restricted to just that Rally GB outing and a one-day national event in Wales last year.
How quickly he finds the rhythm on gravel again will be key to his weekend, but he’ll certainly be keen to see what he can do against the US’s best and his compatriot Devine.