Dave Clark in his RWD Merkur XR4Ti was 24 seconds ahead of Markus Saarinen until the last two stages. He finished second.

Seventeen 2WD teams took to the stages at this year’s Idaho Rally for the 2WD Challenge. Set in Boise County, the roads converge on the small town of Placerville and made for a fantastic weekend of racing. Eleven special stages made up the two days of rallying that would test the competitors’ skills, machines, and perseverance. The 2WD Challenge is supported by Team O’Neil Rally School and Streetwise Motorsports, who believe that starting with a 2WD in rally is the best path to future success in the sport.

Ramana Lagemann established quickly that he was the man to beat in a BMW M3. Setting the fastest 2WD times on all of Saturday, he and co-driver Chrissie Beavis settled into fifth overall, gunning for the podium. A flat tire on Sunday barely slowed the pace of the M3 on SS7 and it wasn’t until a differential failure on stage nine that wrote the end of the story for the BMW. Lagemann rejoined the rally for fun and super rally points, but you have to finish all the stages to win the 2WD Challenge.

The close battle for second on Saturday then became the close battle for first on Sunday. On day one, Dave Clark in his RWD Merkur XR4Ti was 24 seconds ahead of Markus Saarinen in the FWD Mini Cooper and Ryan Millen in the FWD Toyota RAV4. The Merkur was reportedly having steering pump bracket issues and was on the verge of destroying itself, while Clark and co-driver Jennifer Daly were running out of decent tires. The team was still having fun though, setting off a shower of RWD gravel where spectators had set up a line of colorful plastic flamingos on the outside of a sweeping turn. Dave Clark scored well at flamingo bowling.

Markus Saarinen in the Mini Cooper started to catch the RAV4 of Millen on stage four, and turned the attack all the way up on Sunday morning, beating Clark on SS7. Clark responded with a win on SS9, and back into the last service the three teams learned that they would be fighting for the $500 prize with Lagemann out. Markus and Alicia Saarinen had 7 seconds to make up for first in 2C and they pushed to take the lead with 11 seconds on the final two stages! Sarrinen takes home the 2C win with $500, and Clark takes the 2nd place prize of $300.

Markus and Alicia Saarinen had 7 seconds to make up for first in 2C, and they pushed to take the lead and the win with 11 seconds on the final two stages!
Markus and Alicia Saarinen had 7 seconds to make up for first in 2C, and they pushed to take the lead and the win with 11 seconds on the final two stages!

Ryan Millen and co-driver Christina Fate were excited to debut their Toyota RAV4 at Idaho, and we were excited to see where an experienced off-road racer, with a new navigator, in a new showroom-stock RAV4 would end up in the standings. The team was right up with the pack on the first three stages, and Millen settled into a rhythm to take third in the 2WD Challenge at Idaho earning $150.

Ryan Millen and co-driver Christina Fate drove their brand-new Toyota RAV4 to third-place finish at Idaho.
Ryan Millen and co-driver Christina Fate drove their brand-new Toyota RAV4 to third-place finish at Idaho.

A back-and-forth battle emerged with some historic hardware from John Hill in his 1967 Ford Cortina and an experienced Irish rally champion John Coyne in a rented 1982 Toyota Corolla. The Cortina unfortunately stopped on SS8 with a mechanical issue after winning the first stage of Sunday. John Coyne and co-driver Doug Nagy were having a blast on the Idaho roads and happily accepted the $50 for a great weekend of rallying. Coyne was fourth in the 2WD Challenge.

Setting consistent stage times all weekend was what kept Erik Christiansen in his Volkswagen Golf ahead of James Rimmer in a Subaru BRZ. Other than crumpling a fender with a bump on Sunday, Christiansen had a smooth weekend with co-driver Amy Floyd. Not expecting to be in the top placement at this event, the team hung in there to grab $30 for fifth in 2C.

The 2C 2WD Challenge is here to get teams excited about running in 2WD, and we were pumped to see Ryan McLaughlin and David Brown finish their first rally event with their Acura Integra.

“We finished Rally Idaho with only two gears left in the transmission and even brought home some hardware,” McLaughlin said. “Happy to have made it across the finish, even though we had to come home on a trailer. Stage rally is the most intense motorsport on earth.”

We couldn’t agree more! Both of our presenting sponsors are serious about 2WD 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 2WD. Streetwise Motorsports in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., builds and supports 2WD rally cars and is ready to help you get started in 2C with their many years of technical experience.

Next up is the Gorman Rally in Southern California on August 22. This event typically lets 2WD cars shine with its tight and twisty stages. We’re excited about the new roads — and looking forward to the extra competition that 2C will bring.

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Image courtesy of Kristopher Marciniak