November means a return to the Mojave desert for the last rally of the year, Seed 9 Rally Presented by Gold Strike Hotel & Gambling Hall. In what seems to be a new trend, at least in West Coast rally, is the inclusion of UTV’s – and the Seed 9 entry list had two. One driven by third place on last year’s podium, Brent Lee with co-driver Ericka Sacks, and the second was Mihai Gologan – whose co-driver was MIA, but he braved the rough desert stages alone. While there are mixed feelings about including off-road vehicles in traditional rally, there’s no denying that it brings more participants as well as a whole new audience and fan base to the rally scene.
This year’s entry list shrunk considerably from last year’s, mostly due to many of the usual teams having had a rough time at Prescott the previous month and not being able to get the car back into rally shape for Seed 9. The convention of Elvis impersonators were also sadly missing. Still, coinciding with SEMA week works in its favor with teams in town that may not normally run a car in this regional rally, and All Fours Rally Team signed on with Agatino Fortunato and Randy Biehl in Super Pro (Subaru WRX STI) as well as Cameron Steely and Preston Osborn (Ford Fiesta ST). There was even an international driver – ZiYong Xu arrived with a large cheering posse that perhaps for the first time ever gave Seed 9 actual spectators other than of the region’s wild horses. Seed 9 organizers had found him a co-driver in John Dillon who not only has a deep rally resume, but also speaks a bit of Mandarin.
Eight is enough for the rally to be run so the cars drove out of the Gold Strike parking lot, past the suddenly famous Pioneer Saloon under the watchful eye Goodpsring’s patrol car, and onto the dirt and gravel of Wilson Pass Road. All teams survived the four stages – one or two almost-offs, but everyone was able to re-start and continue.
After service, teams drove out to the two night stages – Ivanpah Valley West and East – right by the casino. It was here where one team’s luck ran out. Watching from downstage a quarter mile away, the headlights of Steely’s Ford Fiesta ST started making their way on the road. Suddenly, the headlights were pointing up in the air, then red taillights whipped around way higher than taillights ever should. A few minutes later, the next car came through – fortunately, everyone was fine.
Congratulations to overall winner Matt Coffman of Formula D with co-driver Blake Lind for the second year in a row, Xu/Dillon in second and Fortunato/Biehl third.