SWEETWATER, Tenn. (June 26, 2013) - This year's Dixie National Challenge attracted competitors from seven states to the rolling hills of the Redneck Resort in Sweetwater, Tenn., for a weekend of SCCA RallyCross.
The three-day event promised some stiff competition for the defending champions. Of the 31 drivers registered, four drivers from Florida made the long trip to compete and their efforts were rewarded with 3rd and 4th in MR and 2nd and 3rd in MF.
Richard Lawrence, East Tennessee Region SCCA RallyCross chairman, got some vital setup help from Jonathan Sullivan, Adam Tegethoff ,Tom Brustowicz and Chris Harp, in the timing and scoring trailer. The RallyCross program is relatively new to the area, but the Redneck Resort owner, Jeff Daragh, seems to enjoy the events as much as the competitors. He flew over the event on both days in his ultralight plane to film the area and the competition.
Saturday's course was long and flowing, featuring a course laid out on the contours of some of the hills. This allowed some drivers to use the natural curve of the land to stay on the power and set some fast times. The first group of 16 cars to run included Stock Front (SF), Prepared Front (PF), Prepared All (PA) and both Prepared and Modified Rear (PR and MR, respectively). Once the grass was scraped clean, the course got pretty dusty, but the breeze kept the dust moving so it did not hamper the vision of drivers on course. Shelton Wright held a large margin in SA, as he had not hit a cone all day.
In MR, the Miata of Pat McCartin was showing "that the Miata is the answer to all questions automotive," as Chris Harp put it. He held a 21-second lead over the Toyota pickup of Miles Philips. Philips was leading Colin Rogers in the BMW and Skip Cambre in his 300ZX. The lone entrant in the SF class was Ron Foley in his 2012 Honda Civic Si. Foley is very competitive behind the wheel, but despite the best-natured prodding of his fellow competitors, decided to stay in stock class by himself.
In PF, the newly acquired Neon of Tim White suffered a water pump failure, which put him out of the afternoon runs. The only other car in PF was the Mitsubishi Eclipse of Kyle Moroney. Moroney suffered a debeaded tire on his final run. Who would end up with the title in PF?
In MF, holding an almost 20 second lead was the VW Rabbit of Leon Drake. His car was running on the spare transmission after he found sheared gears in his differential the week before the Dixie National Challenge.
The PR class was led by the BMW of Mike Morel. Unfortunately for Morel, his co-driver Wes Stuckey was setting the pace. This duo normally shares the cockpit of Stuckey's Audi 4000CS Quattro. Morel's 325e is normally seen on the Solo/PDX circuit, but it seemed to be doing just as well in the dirt, after making the change to snow tires.
Stock All class was a husband and wife affair, with Charles Wright in "her" Subaru Impreza RS leading Barbara Wright in "his" Mitsubishi Evo. The Wright's Impreza RS is completely stock, but was being driven in SA by Charles Wright, in PA by Shelton Wright, and in MA by Tim Boyett. This is one tough little car!
The MA class was the largest of the field with nine competitors and four car manufacturers. ZB Lorenc, Orion Fairman and Greg Ohlemacher had come from Ohio to compete. Lorenc and Fairman were leading the field at the end of day one with Tim Boyett in a close third. The real battle in MA was for 4th with Richard Lawrence's Legacy sitting 0.71 seconds behind Tom Brustowicz's WRX.
Sunday's start saw the running order reversed. This meant that the MA, MF and SA cars would get on the course first and have to drive on the wet, grassy surface. The course was also all new with some tricky corners that proved to be a decisive factor.
The first few drivers were cautious, as a blown gate could easily erase a lead they may have held. With the top four drivers in MA so close together, they couldn't take a chance on giving a position away. The course was slippery all the way through the entire first heat of five runs.
The chicane eventually caught out drivers Adam Tegethoff and Greg Ohlemacher, as they spun under braking. One driver who kept his cool to finish fourth in MA was Austin Webb. His Lancer EVO was misfiring on the first day, but ran smoothly on Sunday to keep him in fourth, fending off a hard charging Richard Lawrence.
In PA, third place Zack Lewis started out with a 14-second advantage over the yellow WRX of Jonathan Sullivan in fourth. Lewis went out a little too hot on his first run, scoring a DNF. He kept his cool, though, and managed to finish in third place over Sullivan by just 2.398 seconds. Edwin Cunill's MazdaSpeed6 finished second in PA, silently churning up the grass and setting very quick times all weekend.
The in-class competition in the rest of the field was not that close, but there was no shortage of drama. The MF Ford Escort of the Old Dirty Rally team had broken a shift rod, leaving the car stuck in 2nd gear. Rick Wilson and Marti Drake took it easy, as a single spin or stall on course could leave them stuck. They made it through all of their runs on Sunday only to stall out on grid after their final run and have to be pushed back to their pits. They had a rough weekend, having to change CV axles twice. Also losing a CV, was the Ford Focus of Matthew Earl. At some point Sunday morning, the right front tire of Tegethoff's S4 managed to contact the bumper, dragging through most of one run. A few zip ties and rivets later and the car was back for its final few runs.
The best battle for position all day was in the MA class with Tim Boyett overcoming a six-second deficit to beat Orion Fairman by 0.494 seconds, for 2nd place in class. Both drivers were in Subaru Impreza RS's, but Boyett's car was the same car being driven by Charles and Shelton Wright in SA and PA. In the end, the Wright's Impreza took the top two fastest overall times in PA with Shelton, and SA with Charles behind the wheel. Shelton hadn't hit a cone all weekend and took the overall top time by about three seconds. That made two first place and one second place finish in class, as well as overall top, second- and sixth-fastest times for the whole weekend, in the same car.