Higgins, Pastrana split first 3 American Rally Association events of 2017; both SRTUSA teams to face off at STPR

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DAVID HIGGINS

Last year’s national champion David Higgins, who has won STPR six times including victory in Pennsylvania for the last three years, is again being challenged by his teammate and friend, adventurist and rally veteran Travis Pastrana.

So far, Higgins, has won two events in his Subaru Impreza WRX STI (Perce-Neige in Quebec and Olympus in Washington State), while Pastrana nipped his teammate at the Oregon Trail event. Travis, who has finished second several times at STPR, but has never won this event, will be looking to pull even with Higgins in the point standings.

Here are the summaries of those first three events.

Round 1: Rallye Perce-Neige /  Quebec  / February 3-4, 2017

Subaru Rally Team USA (SRTUSA) drivers David Higgins and Travis Pastrana made history by claiming a 1-2 finish at Rallye Perce-Neige, the first round of the newly formed ARA (American Rally Association) National Championship. The 143 mile stage rally event held in Maniwaki, Quebec, hosted over 40 international competitors on snow-covered gravel roads in a grueling single-day race format in early February.

Subaru Rally Team Canada driver Antoine L’Estage, a seven-time winner of Rallye Perce-Neige and past STPR champion, built an early lead over the first three stages of the rally, until mechanical issues hindered his pace. Higgins and Pastrana, who closely trailed L’Estage during the first loop of stages, battled for the lead throughout the remainder of the rally.

Higgins would go on to win the event over teammate Pastrana putting the #75 Subaru WRX STI rally car on top of the podium.

“A great result, it feels good to win in such harsh conditions against some top guys, and this was the first ever ARA event, so I’m glad we were able to get our names in the history books,” said Higgins at the podium celebration. “The last loop of stages was hard work, the snow was coming down pretty hard on one stage, there was a big snow ball inside the corner, we clipped it and smashed one of the lights, making the night stage even tougher. The hood pin was also damaged, so we had to slow down a bit to keep the hood from flying open on stage. It was a challenge but it was all good in the end!”

“Man, heck of a day! The snow during the final night stages came down hard. It was like a video game, you’re in a trance going 120 mph,’ said Pastrana at the finish. “You don’t see anything on the road. All you see are trees coming at you really fast. We gambled with tire choice this weekend which didn’t go in our favor, but we’re happy to be on the podium and get valuable championship points.”

For the droves of spectators who ventured out into the woods Sunday, SRTUSA gave them a great show on the remaining 69.8 stage miles. SRTUSA #199 with Travis Pastrana and Robbie Durant didn’t go down without a fight and pushed hard all day. On the opening stage Sunday they were able to beat Higgins and Drew by 1.1 seconds, slightly closing in on the lead. Despite this small gain, and keeping the pressure high on their teammates, David Higgins and Craig Drew ran a flawless final three stages extending their lead further.

Round 2: Oregon Trail Rally / Oregon / April 21-23, 2017

TRAVIS PASTRANA

Subaru Driver Travis Pastrana Wins the 2017 Oregon Trail Rally

Subaru Rally Team USA driver Travis Pastrana held off teammate David Higgins to win the 2017 Oregon Trail Rally held near Portland, Oregon. For a second year in a row, the factory duo finished 1-2 overall.

Pastrana and co-driver Robbie Durant lead from the first stage in their #199 2017 Subaru WRX STI, but their lead was slim and under constant attack from David Higgins who had won the previous six Oregon Trail Rally events in a row.

Pastrana and Higgins are now tied atop the ARA Driver’s Championship standings heading into next month’s Olympus Rally near Olympia, Washington.

The Oregon Trail Rally represented round 2 of the 2017 American Rally Association Championship and is regarded as one of the most scenic and challenging events on the calendar. After starting on mixed surface stages at Portland Intl. Raceway the action moved east for gravel rally stages along the scenic Columbia Gorge. Teams contended multiple tarmac stages as well, adding to the challenge.

This year’s result was as intense and as closely fought as last years’ Oregon Trail Rally, where Higgins and Pastrana traded stage times throughout the event with Higgins earning victory by just 9.5 seconds. However, this year it was revenge for Pastrana as he led from start and held off Higgins’ constant attacks to emerge victorious by just 10.5 seconds.

The key to Pastrana’s success may have been a tire choice gamble early in the event where on the mixed tarmac and dirt stages at the Portland International Raceway he elected for tarmac tires whereas Higgins opted for gravel tires. The gamble paid off and Pastrana earned a 12.7 second lead which he clung to throughout the rally. Pastrana would go fastest on eleven stages while Higgins went fastest on five stages with the final gap, after three days of rallying and over 100 miles of stages, at just 10.5 seconds.

“David Higgins has been a mentor and someone I’ve always looked up to and tried to emulate my driving after my whole rally career, so to be able to battle him and come out on top is an amazing feeling,”  Pastrana said at the podium. “He was undefeated here, and had won here the last six years in a row, so we had to be perfect and go all-out to beat him. Our Subaru was amazing and Robbie (Durant) was perfect on the notes, everything worked really well. To get the win here and be tied in the championship standings is all we could have asked for.”

Round 3 : Olympus Rally / Washington / May 13-14, 2017

Higgins and Drew Victorious at 2017 Olympus Rally

Subaru Rally Team USA driver David Higgins 75 and co-driver Craig Drew 75 claimed another win at the Olympus Rally, round three of the 2017 American Rally Association National Championship. Higgins and Drew took a commanding lead early in the event, and were able to hold off teammates Travis Pastrana and Robbie Durant. In the end #SRTUSA #75 claimed victory by just over two minutes.

Their success at the 2017 Olympus Rally marked David Higgins and Craig Drew’s 30th win together. Over the course of a long and successful professional driving career, David Higgins never looses sight of everything required to make it happen.

“Big thanks to all the workers that make the Olympus Rally such an amazing event, and not forgetting all the fans and other teams that make it such a classic event,” Higgins said.

For the droves of spectators that ventured out into the woods Sunday, SRTUSA gave them a great show on the remaining 69.8 stage miles.

SRTUSA #199 with Travis Pastrana and Robbie Durant didn’t go down without a fight and pushed hard all day. On the opening stage Sunday they were able to beat Higgins and Drew by 1.1 seconds, slightly closing in on the lead. Despite this small gain, and keeping the pressure high on their teammates, David Higgins and Craig Drew ran a flawless final three stages extending their lead further.

The rivalry between the SRTUSA teammates continues next month at the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally (STPR) based in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, June 2-3.