Just southwest of Ridgecrest, California, on a light, breezy Saturday morning, with the sun keeping it around 80°F, the teams unpacked trailers and set up. Radio crews and volunteers had been busy getting ready for the four new miles of road, that would bring competitors excitement and smiles for the rest of the day. This new section included jumps, twisty turns, and trees. Stage 1 – ‘Gold Rush’ took drivers and co-drivers on a 14.3 mile ride of everything this rally has to offer: 1,600 foot elevation changes, blind crests, flowing fields, cattle guards, fast sections, technical, and twisty.  Drivers reported that they simply loved it!

Coming off a small rally hiatus, it was unclear if Keith Jackson and Marra Estep would be able to pick up their 2009 USRC winning pace. Winning Stage 1 with more then a 45 second gap, quickly confirmed that there were no issues getting right back into maximum attack, with their Subaru Impreza WRX.  Their competition was Bill Holmes and Sean Gallagher in their Ford Raptor followed closely by Jon Burke and Zachary Dickinson in anouther Subaru Impreza WRX.  Burke would have problems with the car and not continue after service.  This left Holmes in 2nd, a minute and a half behind Jackson, and well over 3 minutes ahead of the CRS GT cars. Having some brake problems on the last stage, Cem Akdeniz and Mustafa Samli would take 2nd in Open 4WD and 6th overall.

(The audio is pretty rough, but the driving is not. This stage is called “Gold Rush” and it’s got everything rallying in the high desert has to offer. Climb 1,600 feet in 6 miles, fast and flowing down hill flat out, and then tight and twisty back up into the trees! Jon Burke & Zachary Dickinson were setting fast times until a mechanical problem kept them in service after stage 4. Up-Two-Mountains Rally Team @ The 2012 High Desert Trails Rally.)

Running in Subaru Imprezas, Alex Rademacher and Jeana Yi, were close with Leelyn Pritchard and Logan Mineer all day. After service it became not only a battle for CRS GT, but a battle for third overall.  Radamacher turned up the pace in the afternoon and pulled into the lead.  Pritchard maintained bragging rights by beating him on Stage 8 – The DirtFish Power Stage!  Co-driver Logan Mineer said “I’ll admit, it was nice holding that champagne for a bit, even if I knew it was Keith’s all along.” Michael Carnes & Reza Yazdani were back again this year in their Audi Quattro to take 3rd in CRS GT.

In 2WD Eddie Fiorelli & Tom Smith set an outstanding pace for the first stage in their CRS-2 VW Golf, taking the 4th fastest time, and surprising a number of turbo 4WD cars.  They would keep 1st in CRS-2 all day, ahead of Sean Lane & Christian Coulter in their Dodge Neon, and Javier Olivares & Brock Heinz in their Mitsubishi Gallant; but would be beaten overall by a Performance Stock VW Golf driven by the experienced Tony Chavez & Raquel Salas.  Chavez would go on to set fast times and secure 1st in P-Stock and 5th overall!  2nd in P-Stock would be Sarkis Mazmanian & Arin Hovsepian in an Acura Integra.

The DirtFish Power Stage spurred on the competition to the finish. There was no stopping 4WD Driver Keith Jackson and Co-Driver Marra Estep all day.  They won every stage, and this one was no exception, grabbing the top prize from Leelyn Pritchard and Logan Mineer.  Bill Holmes and Sean Gallagher also stayed in complete control of 2WD to emerge victorious and take the $100 from Tony Chavez & Raquel Salas.  Jackson and Holmes then celebrated with a spray of champagne.

Teams are off to Rally Idaho for the next event in the California Rally Series Championship on June 9th & 10th. See you next year at High Desert Trails when they celebrate their 40th anniversary!

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