Los Angeles – On October 5 & 6, the Prescott Rally marked the finale of the California Rally Series 2017 championship.  Held amongst the red rock canyons and lush Verde River Valley northeast of Prescott, AZ, the rally offered its usual amalgam of smooth, flowing stages with picturesque scenery.  The 110 miles of competitive stages were run in conditions ranging from clear skies to dead of night, with sun glare and hanging dust testing how well drivers trusted their co-drivers.


Following his win at the Gorman Rally in August, Flynn Baglin had a narrow lead in the Open four-wheel drive driver championship over defending champion John Coyne.  Baglin and co-driver Stacy Hochanadel drove a clean, fast rally, winning the class on Friday night while a transmission issue in their Subaru took out Coyne and co-driver Doug Nagy after two stages. 


COyneNot willing to give up the fight, Coyne/Nagy installed a new transmission overnight and rejoined for the Saturday event.  Their work paid off as they not only won Saturday’s event, but ended up setting the fastest times in their class on every stage.  By claiming second place points on Saturday, Baglin ended up exactly tied in overall points for the driver championship with Coyne.   When the dust settled (and there was a lot of dust!), the CRS tie breaker rules gave the advantage to Flynn Baglin.  John Coyne will take home the second place trophy, with Deke Williams finishing third.  Coyne’s co-driver Doug Nagy will win the class co-driver championship, finishing above Timbrey Lind in second place and Vincent Dangelo in third.

northropIn the normally-aspirated, four-wheel drive Open Lite class, driver Kurt Northrop completed the perfect season at Prescott, winning the class at every CRS event this season!  It wasn’t without drama though, as a minor off at the hairpin of Saturday’s first stage nearly cost him, but he was able to get back on the road and continue without losing much time or damaging the car.  His co-driver Will Smith joins him at the top of the leaderboard among Open-Lite co-drivers.  Finishing second in both the Friday and Saturday Prescott Rally, as well as second overall for the season was rookie driver Ernie Manansala.  Running mid-pack, the dust was an issue for Manansala, but he kept the car on the road and finished the season with a streak of second place results.  Look for him to be pushing for the win next season.  Rounding out the co-driver championship for Open Lite is veteran Marie Boyd in second thanks to the two events she sat in Manansala’s right seat, and one of Manansala’s other co-drivers Chong Pak in third.


The large-displacement two-wheel drive CRS-5 class saw a huge revival this year after being on hiatus a few years ago.  Brad Morris and co-driver Ryan Scott had been plagued by a string of bad luck in their turbocharged Mitsubishi Lancer this season, but Friday night everything fell into place and they not only won their class, but beat the Open four-wheel drive winning team of Baglin/Hochanadel outright on every stage!  However, a mechanical issue forced them to retire on Saturday, adding another DNF to their season.  Meanwhile, Andrew Cowan and co-driver Ryan Dunham have been getting faster and faster with each event.  They finished second in class on Friday in VR6 VW Jetta, but went all out on Saturday to take the class win.  The result was enough for Cowan to take first place in the CRS-5 driver’s championship, edging out Michael Cadwell, who proved to be fast his rookie season.  Cadwell and co-driver Omar Cardenas drove a clean rally in their BMW 325is, finishing fifth in class on Friday and third on Saturday.  The resulting points were enough for Omar Cardenas to take the class co-driver championship.  In third place on Friday night were Brian Tullio and co-driver Nick Roder.  Tullio won the Performance-Stock championship last year, and he moved into a V6-powered Mazda MX-3that allowed him to set some very competitive times this season.  However, the team carried just a little too much speed into a left turn on Saturday and ended up rolling the car and finishing their rally.  Despite the crash, Tullio finished in third place for the season.  Meanwhile, Andes Bautista seat swapped his way into second place on the co-driver championship, with Ryan Dunham taking third.



CRS-2, the small-displacement, two-wheel drive class saw its share of excitement over the weekend as well.  Coming into the event, Erik Christiansen and co-driver Amy Floyd had a narrow lead over rookie driver Eliza Coleman, and her co-driver Alex Gelsomino (of World Rally Championship fame) for the season.  On Friday night, the VW Golf GTI of Christiansen/Floyd fell victim to a flat tire, which cost them fifteen minutes while they stopped to change it on stage.  This allowed Eddie Fiorelli and co-driver Christine Marciniak to emerge from the late night dusty stages with the class win.  Coleman/Gelsomino meanwhile locked in a solid second place finish in their Scion XD.  Starting with a clean slate Saturday morning, Christiansen/Floyd got off to a fast start, and set the pace all day, setting class wins on every stage in order to claim top points, as well as the driver and co-driver CRS-2 championships.

Coleman/Gelsomino battled through some very tricky conditions as the last stage sent later competitors driving west into the setting sun.  They emerged unscathed with another second place finish, which also awarded both of them second place finishes in their respective championships.  Rounding out the top three on both Friday and Saturday rallies was the father/son team of Larry and Lance Gross.  They team had a minor off on the very last stage due to hanging dust, but managed to get back on the road and finish.  Driver Larry Gross will take the third place championship trophy, while the third place co-driver is Christine Marciniak.


The husband and wife team of Tony Chavez and Raquel Salas had the production-based two-wheel drive P-Stock class driver and co-driver championships clinched before the Prescott Rally began.  They used that as an excuse to move into CRS-2, but luck would not be on their side as they rolled their VW Golf on the first stage Friday night.  Meanwhile, Jen and Terry Stonecipher (another wife and husband team) had mechanical troubles in their VW Golf on Friday night and were forced to withdraw.  They were able to get the fueling issue sorted out overnight, and rejoined on Saturday.  Their strong finish gave them enough points to claim second place in the P-Stock driver and co-driver championships.  Thanks to some early season wins at the High Desert Trails and Frazier Mountain rallies, Chris Palermo and his co-driver Christopher Fine secured third place.

With severe late season fires in Northern California causing the Mendocino rally to be cancelled, the CRS Side by Side Championship came to an early finish in its inaugural year.  The SxS Production Turbo class was a battle of rally car veterans, with Brent Lee ending up in the top driver position, ahead of Stephan Verdier, both piloting Polaris XP Turbos.  Seasoned co-driver John Dillon took the co-driver win in the class (one of three CRS classes he earned points in this season!).

James Hill and co-driver Erica Sacks had a clean sweep, winning the SxS Production class in every SxS event this debut season.  They set some impressive stage times all year long in their Polaris XP 1000, mixing it up with the more powerful rally cars.  Cain Smead and co-driver Michael Henderson drove their Yamaha YXZ1000 to second place in the championship.

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.