Last weekend’s Rally in the 100 Acre Wood turned out to have a fairly high attrition rate (nearly half [48%] of the national competitor field didn’t finish), but we’re pleased to report that of the 16 who made it to the finish, 11 have Team O’Neil Rally School instruction and training on their resumes.
Of course, the big news was that the rally welcomed the return of one of Team O’Neil
Rally School’s most high profile students, Gymkhana star and Rally America-turned-WRC racer Ken Block. In his 6th appearance at the high-speed rally in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, Block claimed his 6th win, this time in his hand-built, highly modified, super fast Ford Fiesta.
The excitement for Team O’Neil didn’t end with Block’s triumphant return, however. Former students as well as TON instructors and mechanics took 6 of the 9 podium positions in three classes (Open, Super Production & 2WD) in the national rally, and 10 of the top 13 spots in the race overall.
Instructor Travis Hanson grabbed the second place spot in the Super Production class, and 5th overall, and last year’s Rally America Rookie of the Year, Adam Yeoman, came in 4th in the Open Class and 6th overall. Mason Moyle garnered the 3rd place podium in the Super Production class, finishing 12th overall. Our congratulations go out to these podium finishers, as well as to former TON students Evan Cline (13th overall and 4th in Super Production) and Verena Mei (16th overall and 7th in 2WD).
But perhaps most interesting to those of us at Team O’Neil, where Tim’s philosophy is to teach drivers how to drive lower powered, 2WD vehicles fast, was that 5 of the top 11 finishers overall raced 2WD vehicles, proving that a driver with the right training and experience can compete with drivers of higher powered cars. In fact, of the 16 national rally teams that finished the race, 7 were racing 2WD vehicles, and 6 of the drivers have trained at Team O’Neil. TON instructor Chris Duplessis once again dominated the 2WD field in his Ford Fiesta R2, followed by Andrew Comrie-Picard (2nd) and Dillon Van Way (3rd).
Our vote for the crowning event of the race? Ed McNelly, TON’s shop manager and lead
mechanic, actually rolled his Ford Fiesta R2 on SS14; but, seeing as he landed back on his wheels, simply stepped on the gas again and drove off into the sunset to finish 10th overall. Ed lost just under a minute, but Tim’s response to that was, “You can wreck the car, but don’t lose time!” Well, we’ll be doing a further write-up of this one, rest assured…
Two regional rally drivers also stood out: Chris Greenhouse, who took 1st place in the open class in both the Trespassers Wil and 100 Acre Wood Regional Rallies (and who took 11th overall for the national rally!), and Carl Siegler, who brought home 2nd place in the Trespassers Wil and 3rd in the 100 Acre Wood Regional Rally.
We’ll be putting together photos and videos from the rally to post for your enjoyment. And if you have any images or video from the race that you’d like to share with us, we’d love to see it!Team O’Neil service.
Team O’Neil Rally School and Ford Racing were pleased to provide the organizers of the Sno*Drift National Rally with two 2-day Team O’Neil Ford Racing Rally Schools to award to a regional competitor and to a pre-registered worker. Both TON and Ford Racing are staunch advocates of supporting the sport of rallying on a grassroots level, and this means doing whatever they can to help support the “little guy” (no, we’re not talking about size here – we mean the competitor who doesn’t have big sponsors with big money behind him to support his rallying addiction), and also to recognize the scores of volunteers who are absolutely essential to the success of any given rally.
We caught up with the two winners (via email correspondence) to chat with them about their involvement in rally and have posted our interviews with them here. The first, driver Carl Siegler, received the award as the “Highest finishing Regional Driver who has never been a class winner at the Regional Runoffs (combined results for both days, excluding road points)”. Carl took second place in the Open Class of both the Sno*Regional and Drift Regional Rallies.
TON: You’ve attended a class at Team O’Neil previously. When did you last come, and how long was the course? What did you learn from the course?
CS: I was last at Team O’Neil in the fall of 2009 for a 4 day school. This was during my first season as a rally driver and I had just come off an event where I rolled and another with a minor off so I wanted to reset myself and break some of my bad habits and learn some new skills. I think the most important thing I got out of it was getting back to basics – things like where to be looking, hand positioning, anticipating road condition and general vehicle dynamics.
TON: How long have you been a competitor in rallies as a driver?
CS: This will be my 4th season as a stage rally driver. The 1st year was in an Open Light Subaru (2004 STI that was de-turbo’d). The 2nd and 3rd were in an Open Class Subaru (the same 2004 STI). This season I have a new Open Class 1996 Subaru Impreza because I retired the last one after a big off at Rally Minnesota.
TON: Have you ever been a co-driver in a rally?
CS: I have never codriven. I have a feeling I would get car sick!
TON: How did you get involved in rally?
CS: In 2004 I bought a Galant VR4. While doing research on the car I began to learn about its rally heritage. Eventually I discovered the Ojibwe Forests Rally took place not so far from where I lived so I went up to spectate. From that point on I was hooked but after examining the financials I realized it was too expensive for me at the time. Since then I’ve volunteered at rallies, done rallycrosses, tsd rallies, and ice racing before finally building a stage rally car in 2008/2009.
TON: Besides the Sno*Drift regional rallies, what other rallies have you competed in?
CS: I have done Nemadji Trail 1, 2, 3, Ojibwe Forest, LSPR, STPR, Gravity Park Twin Performance Rallies, 100AW, Rally Minnesota, and Sno*drift.
TON: What are you hoping to take away from your next TON experience?
CS: The next time I’m at Team O’Neil I’d like to really focus on building from where I’m at as a driver. I know there are lots of little things I should be doing to improve on my fundamentals and I’d like to try and identify where I can pick up speed.
TON: What are your goals as they pertain to rallying?
CS: The most important goal is to keep having fun! Ideally in the next couple years I would like to try a season as a National competitor.
TON: Anything else you’d like to add as it pertains to your involvement in rallying?
CS: I’d just like to give a shout out to my codriver Dave Goodman! He’s the key to our team’s success and a lot of fun to work with. I’d also like to thank our wonderful crew and Ziptie Rally’s second driver, Anthony Israelson, for everything they do keeping things going and promoting the team! Also a big thanks to our sponsors: TSSFAB, Morries Minnetonka Subaru, Gearhead Designz, Carbonetic, St. Paul Media, and Team Powder!
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Since becoming a volunteer chairman of the New England Forest Rally, Tim O’Neil says he’s realized just how much effort goes into the overall production of the events and he wanted to do what he could to give back to the workers. Knowing that the workers often express interest in coming to the school, working with Ford to offer a 2-day course was an obvious way to say “Thank You.” Our next winner, JB Lewis, was chosen out of a list of pre-registered rally workers by random draw.
TON: How long have you been volunteering at Sno*Drift?
JBL: I’ve been volunteering regularly at Sno*Drift since the 2001 event. Before that I attended as a member of a team, though the very first time I attended, they were short workers and I ended up helping at a control on the first night. That’s what first set me on the course to getting my radio license too, I think.
TON: What job(s) do you perform for the rally?
JBL: At Sno*Drift, I’ve worked as a marshal and in Net Control. I’m primarily at the event to help run the radio safety net; that is, Net Control is what I know I will be doing, but I’ll do whatever Barb needs when she needs an extra body on the course somewhere.
TON: Do you work at other national, local or regional rallies as well? If so, which ones and for how long have you been involved in them?
JBL: I’ve worked at LSPR, Ojibwe Forest, Rally Minnesota, Headwaters, Rally Colorado, Shooting Star, and Cadillac. Cadillac was a one-off club rally before Rally America took over sanctioning. I have been driving course opening for Ojibwe and Rally Minnesota/Headwaters since 2003 or 2004, course opening for LSPR since 2004 or 2005. I first earned my amateur radio license in September of 2001, and started volunteering for communications duties since then. At Cadillac and Shooting Star, I was a “Super Marshal”: a roaming marshal that fills gaps and solves problems.
TON: Have you ever driven or co-driven (or both) in a rally or other kind of motorsports race? If so, please tell us about your experience. If not, is it something you’re interested in doing at some point?
JBL: I first got involved in motor sports in 1991 when I got involved with the Sports Car Club at Ohio State. We put on autocross and TSD rally events. I also joined the Akron Sports Car Club and SCCA, participating in autocross and ‘gimmick’ rallies. From there I crewed for a few seasons with a Firestone Firehawk team based out of Mentor, Ohio, and with those contacts was introduced to stage rally crewing for Mike Burke and the legendary co-driver Yorgi Bittner at Magnum Opus in 95. I crewed for them again at LSPR the following month. In 1996, Yorgi was co-driving for Selcuk Karamangalou, and I crewed for them at LSPR, as they won the PGT championship for that year. During this time, I was very involved in autocross, travelling to many regional and divisional events.
In 1997 and 1998, I crewed for Wayne and Annette Prochaska with their G2 GTI.
In 1999, I co-drove for Lyn Dillon at Sno*Drift, and then for JB Niday at Headwaters, Ojibwe, and LSPR. It was whil co-driving for JB Niday that I met Brenda Corneliusen, then co-driving for Bob Nielsen. A week after LSPR that year, I moved from Columbus, Ohio to Minnesota. In 2000 and 2001, I crewed for Mark Utecht, with Brenda in the right seat, to two National Championships.
In 2002, right after Sno*Drift, I was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer. Following successful treatment, I started volunteering as a radio marshal.
TON: How did you feel about winning the 2-day course at the Team O’Neil Rally School? Have you ever taken a rally driving course before?
JBL: I am very excited about the school. I’m going to be calling to find out about applying the certificate’s value to a 3 or even 4 day school. I was very happy for Mark Holden when he won a certificate for the Team O’Neil school a few years ago, and I know he had an outstanding time there!
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Congratulations to these two very deserving winners, and thanks to them for the time they took in answering our questions. We look forward to welcoming them to our little slice of heaven in the northern woods of New Hampshire in the coming year!