Team O’Neil Dominates 2wd Classes at 100 Acre Wood Rally
Team O’Neil Motorsports sent three Ford Fiesta Rally Cars into the 100 Acre Wood of Salem Missouri. All three teams would come out victorious in the second round of the 2016 Rally America National Championship with Dave Wallingford and co-driver Leanne Junnila leading the pack and taking Dave’s first ever overall 2WD victory.
In June of 2015 Dave Wallingford came to Team O’Neil rally school looking for a good time. By the end of his 5-day tuition he left with a passion.
“Dave was a great student. He was like a sponge and soaked up every piece of advice the entire instruction staff offered. The funny thing is I don’t think Dave even knew how to drive a manual transmission before Team O’Neil,” explained Travis Hanson, Director of Training at Team O’Neil.
“Ha! Yes, it’s true, I could not drive a manual before arriving at Team O’Neil. But their instructors had me shifting in about 10 or 15 minutes!” Said Wallingford
“Travis and the rest of the instructors have really been fantastic. I took the 5 day class thinking it’d be a fun vacation, but by the end of the first day I was hooked! I couldn’t be happier with both the training and motorsport support at Team O’Neil. They taught me how to drive, and now they allow me to concentrate on my driving at rallies by taking care of my car and all the behind the scenes work that would otherwise distract me.”
Dave left the rally school and started his search for a rally car. He came back to Team O’Neil to test and eventually purchase a used Ford Fiesta R2, the same car used by Brendon Reeves to win the 2013 Championship.
Dave used some of his new learned skills when his shifter broke on stage 2 and he had to perform repairs on transit to continue.
“It broke when I was trying to shift up to third, which forced me to drive fairly slowly on a fast stage. Slow enough that it gave me some time to go through the car’s inventory in my head, and I remembered the spare tie rod I practiced changing during training. A bit of duct tape later, and I could shift. It only had to last a few stages until the next service, when my crew quickly replaced my MacGyvered fix with a freshly painted new shifter.”
Dave overcame that adversity early in the Rally to find himself leading his first ever National Rally after the first day. Dave traded times back and forth with Steve LaRoza in his Team O’Neil prepared Ford Fiesta ST all day on the Saturday Stages, but in the end Dave came out on top.
“I am so proud of Dave. He did an amazing job staying calm and collected while in the lead and he pulled out the win!” Travis exclaimed. “It really is amazing that Team O’Neil was able to work with Dave, a new guy to cars and motorsports, and in less than a year get him to win a national 2WD race overall. It takes people years to accomplish what Dave has figured out in months. What other rally school can do that?”
2015 Rookie of the year Steve LaRoza and his daughter/Co-driver Alison placed 2nd in 2WD. Keanna Erickson-Chang and Ole Holter climbed their way to 2nd place in the B-Spec Class only her third rally ever. 30 teams started in National competition only 19 ended up finishing the rally. This was a tough rally with a number of large crashes.
The team is now preparing to drive across the country to the Oregon Trail Rally in Portland, Oregon on April 26. The team will vigorously prep the cars for another grueling rally. The drivers will dry clean the champagne from their fire suits and start to review their notes from the rally last year. You can expect the Team O’Neil rally teams to be ready to storm the podium once again.
Team O’Neil Rally School has a history of producing North American Rally Champions. Additionally most of the Rookie of the Year recipients had prior training Team O’Neil. Not including all of Tim O’Neil’s personal accolades Team O’Neil has directly supported 5 drivers and have 5 2WD championships. Developing a custom course and constantly evolving curriculum over the past 19 years has given Team O’Neil Rally School the capability to still be the only rally training program in North America to produce a Rally America champion competitor.