Los Angeles – California Rally Series (CRS) Championship season introduced new championship classes for Side by Side (SxS), vehicles, which have exploded in popularity of the last few years.  The Frazier Mountain Rally, held on May 20, was the first event to feature these new classes, and what an exciting debut it was, with SxS occupying all of the top four spots on the leaderboard!  The lightweight vehicles were well suited for the twisty stages that climb up and then down Frazier Mountain within the Los Padres National Forest.


Claiming the overall win and the SxS Production Turbo class victory was Stephan Verdier, a name familiar to Global Rallycross and Formula D drifting fans.  Verdier bested second place finisher Rhys Millen, another Global Rallycross and Formula D veteran, by a margin of only six seconds after forty-five minutes of racing!  Both drivers were piloting Polaris RZR XP 1000 Turbos.

Despite being down on horsepower at elevations approaching 7,500 feet, the normally-aspirated production SxS class still set times beyond even the fastest cars.  James Hill took the class win, and third overall with Erica Sacks calling notes from the passenger seat of his Polaris RZR XP 1000.  Not far behind was Cain Smead and co-driver Michael Henderson in a Yamaha YXZ 1000R, who finished fourth overall, almost a minute ahead of the fastest car.

WRXIn Open Four-Wheel drive class, Flynn Baglin and co-driver Vincent D’Angelo piloted their Subaru Impreza WRX to the class win and fifth overall behind the SxS.  The finished earned them enough points to move into the championship lead ahead of John Coyne and Doug Nagy, who were unable to make it to the first stage when they found boost issues in their Subaru Impreza. Deke Williams and Timbrey Lind, also in a Subaru Impreza WRX finished second in class, which puts them in third place for the championship, narrowly behind Coyne / Nagy. 


Chris Palermo and Chris Fine teamed up again for a last minute entry into the rally in their Performance-Stock (P-Stock) class Nissan Sentra.  They continued their streak of class wins which puts them solidly in the championship lead.  Their P-Stock rivals Tony Chavez and Raquel Salas had a rocky start to the event, with three flat tires in as many stages.  They finished the rally, but vowed to find a new tire supplier!

TuLast year’s P-Stock champs Brian Tullio and co-driver Andres Bautista have moved up to the large-displacement two-wheel drive CRS-5 class with a new (to them) Mazda MX3.  Tullio was ecstatic with the horsepower improvement over his old P-Stock BMW and his comfort level with the car was evident as he moved up the leaderboard, taking the class win and finishing just 0.6 seconds behind Palermo/Fine.

In the Four-wheel drive normally-aspirated Open Lite class, Kurt Northrup took his third class win in as many events.  He extended his lead over rookie driver Ernie Manansala, who saw his pace improve throughout the rally (even besting Northrup on the penultimate stage) thanks to pairing with veteran co-driver Marie Boyd.  

hmmThis was only Eliza Coleman’s second rally, but she improved on her pace from the season opener and took first place in the small-displacement two-wheel drive CRS-2 class.  This earned her and her co-driver Alex Gelsomino (of WRC fame) the lead in the championship over Erik Christiansen and Amy Floyd, who were forced to withdraw with mechanical issues.


The championship battle continues June 10 and 11 with the Idaho Rally.  Based in Boise, ID, the rally is the furthest event on the CRS calendar.  The event draws a mix of competitors from all over the west coast and rocky mountain states.  With 50 entries there will be deep competition in every class, including SxS.  Teams to watch include John Coyne and Doug Nagy who hope to solve their turbo issues and improve over their podium position from last year.  Idaho will also be the first CRS event this year for the CRS-5 Toyota RAV4 of Ryan Millen and Rhianon Gelsomino.  Millen piloted his Toyota to a victory in the Open class championship in 2015, beating many turbocharged four-wheel drive Subarus with his nearly stock front-wheel drive Rav 4!  He will be battling in the CRS-5 class with Bradley Morris and Ryan Scott, who set some blisteringly fast times in their front-wheel drive Mitsubishi Lancer at High Desert Trails before they were forced to withdraw.  With over 130 stage miles, Idaho is the longest event on the calendar, so anything can happen on this two day event.

The California Rally Series is the premier performance rally championship in the southwestern United States.  The Series incorporates events from various sanctioning bodies in order to create a meaningful regional championship for its members.  The Series celebrates more than 40 continuous years of performance rally, making it the longest running rally series in the United States.  To learn more about the California Rally Series visit www.californiarallyseries.com and follow @crspress on twitter.