Eric Vlasic Rises to Victory at Black Bear

The 2014 edition of the Black Bear rally proved once again to be a war of attrition. With heavy rain leading up to the event and continuing into the early afternoon on race day, competitors expected some of the most challenging road conditions of the season.

Martin Donnelly and Angela Cosner jumped out to an early lead, showing very good pace in the opening stage. However, with Cosner struggling early in the day with health issues, the Can-Jam Motorsports crew mistakenly checked into the second time control early, resulting in a ten-minute penalty. Despite finding their speed again later in the day, the pair were not able to gain back enough ground to break onto the podium, finishing in fourth place.

With Donnelly out of the hunt, Will Hudson surged ahead, putting on a show in his first-ever Ontario rally. With veteran co-driver John Hall providing guidance, victory looked to be a foregone conclusion for the 2WD Fiesta crew.

Of course, the rally gods had a different plan in mind. On the very last stage of the day, a key bolt holding the driveshaft in place came loose, completely disconnecting the shaft. Hall and Hudson took it upon themselves to conduct some creative repairs, using a screwdriver to hold the driveshaft in place of the bolt while they drove. But despite an excellent performance and equally impressive ingenuity, the damage to the car was ultimately too great an obstacle, resulting in a DNF.

As it is in rallying, one person's misfortune proved to be another's blessing. Eric Vlasic and Chris Pye had been quietly positioned in second place after the second stage. In an event that is known to be a car killer, they kept their Subaru Legacy in one piece, while consistently posting good stage times throughout the rally. And with Hudson being forced to retire, Vlasic's consistency paid off - in the form of his first overall win at an OPRC event. Of equal importance, the win moves Vlasic into third in the overall championship standings, leapfrogging Martin Donnelly.

"We just drove our own race." said Vlasic, "Cars started dropping back and DNF'ing, and we just stayed consistent."

Second place overall went to Andrew Kulikowski and Kelly Mathew in one of the Juggernaut Motorsports Ford Focus ZX3s. Kulikowski began the day in the middle of the pack, but slowly clambered up the standings as the rally progressed, eventually grabbing second place after the day's penultimate stage. Kulikowski and Mathew also claimed first place in the two wheel drive category.

"We were a little concerned it was going to be pretty rough today." Kulikowski admitted, "We improved pretty steadily over the day, and (we had) quite a bit of a go in terms of roughness in the stages. Luckily, we had no issues at all."

The final overall podium spot went to series veterans Alan Ryall and Bruce Leonard, who were hanging around the centre of the field as well, before jumping up into third on the last stage of the day. The production 4WD crew drove a clean event - one which they have competed in many times before. The podium finish pushes Ryall up to second place in the overall championship standings, just five points behind leader Peter Thomson.

With Kulikowski and Mathew securing first place in the 2WD category, Kurt Thiel and Russell Norton took home second. The VW Golf crew were in the mix for an overall podium spot, but slipped just outside the top three as the day came to a close.

Rounding out the 2WD podium was the second Juggernaut Motorsports crew of Gary Sutherland and Kylee Davis. A clean and consistent performance in a very difficult rally allowed them to earn valuable championship points.

Also worth noting is the fact that Zoltan Kovacs and Guy Boudreau were the winners of the DMACK Power Stage, giving them an extra championship point.

The next round of the Ontario Performance Rally Championship, the Galway Cavendish Forest Rally, takes place in just over three weeks time. A unique event, the rally partially takes place in Parnell's limestone quarry, providing obstacles and challenges not seen anywhere else.