Posted Friday, February 27, 2015 at 10:05pm

Overcoming Rally Diversity at 100 Acre Wood

2012 Rally America Super Production champions Lauchlin O’Sullivan and co-driver Scott Putnam return to the wild and crazy Ozark woods of south central Missouri this weekend. The Rally in the 100 Acre Wood can be as diverse as the fairy tale stories heard in Winnie the Pooh from which the rally was named.

The traditionally wild weather is an example of the event’s diversity.  During testing Wednesday afternoon it was 41 degrees and partly cloudy. Wednesday night it’s expected to dip to 24 degrees with snow showers late night.  It’ll be subfreezing Thursday and Thursday night it’s expected to dip to three degrees above zero. The rally starts Friday afternoon in Potosi. It may not get above freezing until after the rally ends Saturday evening.  This year the weather will offset the wide, high speed, flowing gravel roads that drivers love about 100 Acre Wood.

“We’ve always done really well here except for last year.”  In fact 2014 at 100 Acre Wood is a painful memory for the team.  O’Sullivan and Putnam hit a tree in practice before the event and were unable to start in their 2008 Lucas Oil/Wolf LED Rally Team Subaru WRX STI.  Time lost in repairing the car cost them a chance at another Super Production title in 2014.

“It’s fun on both sides of the car,” said co-driver Putnam. “The roads are flowing and high speed. It allows you to get in a nice rhythm. It’s not difficult to call. We can do our dance through the woods.”

It has been a solid start to the 2015 season. The team finished second in class and third overall at the Sno*Drift Rally in Michigan last month.  But it was a long weekend of nagging problems with the car.

“It was a one step forward and two steps back kind of rally,” O’Sullivan said. But that’s part of rallying, really. “You just never know what a rally’s going to give you.” O’Sullivan continued. “You really can’t have a perfect game plan. It’s how quickly you can get over the problems and get on with the event.”

2013 Rally America Rookie of the Year Nick Roberts and co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino won Super Production and finished second overall at Sno*Drift.  The two teams will watch each other all year in a bid for the 2015 category championship.

“Since we’re the top of the class we keep an eye on each other,” O’Sullivan said. “We swap times on every stage. We try to keep an eye on the next guy in the class and this year it appears the next guy is Nick.”

Above that, though, the goal for 100 Acre Wood is to get to the end of the rally. There’s an old saying in motor sport that you can’t win unless you get to the end of the event. The diverse, high speed gravel roads will have ice, snow and mud this weekend. To combat those conditions the team bought gravel tires, ice tires and snow & ice hybrid tires for the weekend. That’s on top of having the engine refreshed for one of the fastest rallies in the American championship.

“We’ll definitely be on ice/snow tires on Friday then it’s just a toss-up on what we’ll need Saturday,” O’Sullivan said.  The close competition in the Super Production category could be the most exciting of the season.

“Number one is getting to the end and get some good points. We want to win. We want to keep rolling in Rolla.” Rolla, Missouri is a college town nearby where some teams, including O’Sullivan and Putnam, stay during the weekend. “You definitely are doing your own event  but you have to keep an eye on your competition all weekend.”

100 Acre Wood is a picturesque event set in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. It’s always a favorite due to its fast, tight roads. Although you won’t see Winnie the Pooh or any of his friends, you will see some of the best rally driving on some of the best rally roads in North America. There’ll be 18 timed sections or stages, nine on Friday and the remainder on Saturday. The first car is expected to end the rally about 6:30 pm Saturday evening in Salem, Missouri.

– Bill Wood