Markus and Alicia Saarinen have rallied all over the United States in the last few years, and scored a first in 2WD Challenge at the Prescott Rally.

The beautiful red rock canyons of Arizona were the backdrop to the 2014 Prescott Rally and the first NASA Rally Sport 2WD Challenge. 2WD Challenge offers up a significant cash prize for two-wheel drive, and October 3-4 gave drivers a chance to really show their talent on the fast and flowing southwest stages. The 2WD Challenge is supported by Team O’Neil Rally School and Streetwise Motorsports, who believe that starting with a two-wheel drive car in rally is the best path to future success in the sport.

NASA National Rally Championship 2014 2WD champion Matt Brandenburg traveled from Ohio with co-driver Brian Huntsbarger to be a part of the action after winning two weeks ago at Black River Stages in New York. Matt was the heavy favorite, but an oil soaked clutch on stage two quickly put him out after he set the fastest 2WD time on the first stage. Brakim Racing’s e36 BMW M3 did not rejoin the rally on Saturday.

“Wish we could have fought it out this weekend!” Matt remarked. “One stage just doesn’t cut it.”

Markus Saarinen moved into first after stage two and held the lead for the remainder of the weekend. The well-equipped Sasquatch Mini Cooper was setting great times and even had its first fastest overall on the last stage of the event. Markus and Alicia Saarinen have rallied all over the United States in the last few years. For their hard work the team received a $1,000 cash prize for first in 2WD!

Fighting to maintain second place in 2C last weekend, Kristopher Marciniak, driving with a fresh engine in his rallynotes.com 2.0-liter Dodge Neon, saw his lead slip to just 12 seconds after the first two stages on Saturday. The father and son team of Bret and Doug Robinson, who set blistering-fast times on Saturday morning in their Volkswagen Golf, forced Kristopher to turn up the speed. The husband and wife Marciniak team responded by setting fast times the remainder of the day and took home the $600 prize for second place. Bret and Doug Robinson received $300 for third.

The husband and wife team of Kristopher and Christine Marciniak had to turn up the wick to keep second place when they were losing time to Bret and Doug Robinson.
The husband and wife team of Kristopher and Christine Marciniak had to turn up the wick to keep second place when they were losing time to Bret and Doug Robinson.
Father and son Bret and Doug Robinson nipped at the heels of second place, but finished third in 2WD Challenge at the Prescott Rally.
Father and son Bret and Doug Robinson nipped at the heels of second place, but finished third in 2WD Challenge at the Prescott Rally.

The battle for fourth came down to the wire. Erik Christiansen and Amy Floyd were determined to improve their stage times from last year at this event in their VW Golf. Chrissie Beavis and Matthew Johnson, who resurrected the family’s Volkswagen Jetta, had an unfortunate flat on stage one that set them back about five minutes. Determined to claw their way back, the newlyweds began setting a top pace and minutes became seconds as they worked to get back into the hunt, passing the father and son team of Larry and Lance Gross, who were setting solid times in their Toyota Corolla.

“Chrissie is gaining about 20 seconds a stage on us,” Christiansen said. “We might not be able to hold them off.”

On the final pass, Erik and Amy Christiansen managed to keep their lead by only 2.5 seconds! They were awarded $100, and Chrissie and Matthew were handed the fifth place and final prize of $60.

With the success of NASA Rally Sport’s first 2WD Challenge event, there will be an announcement on 2015 2WD Challenge events very soon. NASA Rally Sport wants 2WD Challenge to encourage the building of more affordable two-wheel drive rally cars by setting the goal of winning individual events. 2C competitors have a blast driving as fast as possible on closed dirt roads!

Both of our presenting sponsors are serious about 2WD Challenge as a starting point for rally. Team O’Neil in Dalton, N.H. offers classes in Ford Fiesta school cars and their curriculum focuses on starting with the skills and techniques of two-wheel drive. Streetwise Motorsports in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., builds and supports two-wheel drive rally cars and is ready to help you get started in 2C.

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Images courtesy of Sebastian Krywult and Brett Becker