David Nickel Wins Radium Rally

Photos courtesy of Shawn Bishop, RallySport.ca.

It was a dusty Radium Hot Springs Rally that greeted Western Canada Rally Championship competitors. With very little wind to blow the dust away, it hung in the air like a thick fog, making an already challenging event even harder for drivers.

In addition to the dust, the expected battle between Alex Kozlov and Hardy Schmidtke failed to take shape.

For Kozlov, bypass problems on the first stage of the rally eventually turned into a turbo failure on the third, marking the third event in a row that this has happened to the Calgary driver.

"Now I need a big turbo and big inter-cooler" admitted Kozlov, "I am too tired to drive without power!"

In Schmidtke's case, problems began on stage 1 as well. The gearbox in his Mitsubishi Evo began jumping out of fourth gear, so Schmidtke started shifting directly from third to fifth. This of course didn't stop he and codriver John Hall from winning the first two stages of the rally. That was, until the fourth stage - when the gearbox exploded - ending the event for the Cochrane based Schmidtke.

Meanwhile, Boris Djordjevic and Chris Kremer were having problems of their own.

"(On the) first stage our belt skipped and knocked some electronics. Second stage it fell off and the temperature went up." Djordjevic lamented, "We managed to repair it and crawl to the end of the stage."

Djordjevic subsequently won stages 3 through 6, but could only manage to climb back up to 13th overall.

Matt Bobyn, in a 2WD Volkswagen GTI, was actually leading the event overall after the fourth stage. But tire issues put he and codriver Dan Bobyn off the road and out of the rally.

While many of the series' mainstays were struggling with mechanical issues, other competitors were finding success. With all the drama surrounding them, David Nickel and Darren Garrod quietly climbed the rally standings, finishing in the top three in each of the afternoon stages. Battling with eventual second place finishers Nicholas Spencer and John Kesslar, their consistency alone was enough to propel them to first overall at the end of the very last stage.

Spencer and Kesslar too, showed well at Radium. Holding a steady pace throughout the event, the pair were rewarded for their efforts with valuable second place points.

Kenny Wahl and Aaron Neumann rounded out the overall podium in third. After a slow start to the event - and their season - by Wahl's standards, the BC-based team recovered to get their campaign back on track with their first podium of the young season.

In 2WD, Eric Grochowski and Jeanne Junnila finished in the top spot. It was an incredible result for the series veterans, especially considering that just two weeks ago, Grochowski was still in the hospital recovering from injuries suffered in a motorcycle crash.

Matt Pullen and Steven Szybunka finished second in their incredibly popular Ford Ranger pickup. And Voytek Stywryszko and Spencer Armstrong finished in the final podium spot in class.

The Western Canada Rally Championship now enters its long summer break. The next event on the calendar for many of the teams in Western Canada won't come until the Pacific Forest Rally in early October. While the gap between events will drive some competitors crazy, others will welcome the chance to retool and recharge for fall's push to the championship finale.