Roger Sieber Wins Cochrane Rally

Photos courtesy of Shawn Bishop,

The Western Canada Rally Championshipkicked off its 2015 season this past weekend in Cochrane, Alberta. With 25 teams entered, and the old timber roads of the Burnt Timber forestry providing an unpredictable combination of snow, slush and mud, every competitor started the season with a chance at victory.

And things got off to a wild start. Alex Kozlov led after the first stage, but then went off the road and retired on the second, handing the lead to Roger Sieber. At the end of stage 3 however, reigning champion Hardy Schmitke held the lead - albeit a narrow one over Sieber.

However problems with the centre differential of Schmitke's Mitsubishi Evo on the following stage meant that Sieber regained the lead, 15 seconds ahead of Kenny Wahl. The two Subaru crews were locked in a close battle for two more stages, before a roll forced Wahl and codriver Aaron Neumann out of the rally.

With Wahl and Neumann out Boris Djordjevic and Chris Kremer took hold of second position, just over a minute behind Sieber and navigator Garrett Mealing.

But with Sieber surging ahead in front and Djordjevic holding steady in second - though suffering severe fogging issues on at least one stage - attention shifted to the battle for third position between Stu Ford and Adam Vokes.

For Ford, Cochrane marked his return to rallying after suffering a series neck injury in a crash last season. And despite having to adjust to a new car, Ford appeared none the worse for wear as he held onto third position through the middle portion of the rally.

However Vokes and codriver Jeff Canavan picked away at the gap between themselves and Ford, which they had narrowed to only 8 seconds with two stages to go. After pushing hard through the rally's penultimate stage, Vokes managed to leapfrog Ford, earning a much deserved podium position.

Eric Grochowski and Leanne Junnila reigned supreme in the 2WD category, battling all day with eventual second place finishers Tanveer Deen and Michael Szewczyk. The first Western Canadian rally of 2015 also marked Grochowski's first rally since winning the Canadian 2WD title in 2012.

The Alberta native trailed Deen by as many as 30 seconds after the morning stages, but narrowed that gap to 10 seconds heading into the final stage of the event. Unbelievably, Grochowski and Junnila posted the third fastest overall time on the final stage, snagging the 2WD victory and forcing Deen and Swzeczyk to settle for second. Jason Bailey and Nick Shytryn rounded out the 2WD podium in their 2014 Scion FR-S.

Also of note - 4WD Production crews showed very strongly at Cochrane. Djordjevic's second overall finish meant he also claimed first place in the production category, while 4th place Stu Ford finished 2nd in production, putting an exclamation point on his return from injury. Mathieu Perron and Robin Chapelsky rounded out the class podium, also finishing a strong 6th overall.

The next round of the Western Canada Rally Championship takes place on the gravel roads of Radium, BC. With the Radium Rally getting underway in late May, teams have just a short time to recharge and prepare for their next challenge.