Ryan Millen Hits the Desert at the Prescott Rally
After winning his ARA class, this NASA Rally Sport event is "No pressure—just fun."
Ryan Millen and Rhianon Gelsomino may have already won the American Rally Association's Open 2-Wheel-Drive class in its inaugural season, but that doesn't mean they're parking their Toyota RAV4 rally car for the season. On the contrary, this weekend they're competing in NASA Rally Sport's Prescott Rally in Arizona, where they hope to win their class for the third time in three years.
"You could call it our 'hometown' rally—the easiest rally to get to," Millen said in a press release. "ARA finished in August so it’s nice to have the next two events to continue our rallying. No pressure—just fun, and a good way to start wrapping up the season."
Rather than extensive modifications like Subaru Rally Team USA makes to its cars that dominate Open All-Wheel-Drive, Millen's car is strikingly similar to the production model. Aside from the safety modifications necessary for any rally car, the RAV4 is mostly stock.
Yet the front-wheel-drive RAV4 was consistently the fastest car in its class at every ARA event this year. That's a testament both to Millen's driving skill as well as the RAV4's reliability.
"I could literally do a season without prepping it," Millen said. "Other than the stuff that gets damaged on the bottom, the bumpers maybe, but that’s it."
With several months between the Ojibwe Forests Rally and the first event of ARA's 2018 season (the schedule has not yet been announced), the team sees these NASA Rally Sport events as an opportunity to stay in practice and try new things without the pressure of the ARA championship on top of them.
Additionally, the Prescott Rally is the NASA Rally Sport National Championship event. Unlike other series' national championships, there is no year-long point structure, such as that which allowed Sebastien Loeb to win the 2006 World Rally Championship from his sofa after breaking his arm in a mountain bike accident.
After qualifying for the NASA Rally Sport National Championship by one of a number of ways—performing well in a regional series, winning a single rally, winning a Wild Card nomination—all competitors start on even footing, and only their performance in this single event counts for the championship.
Millen and Gelsomino won the Prescott Rally overall last year despite driving a two-wheel-drive vehicle. They hope to at least win their class, if not the rally overall, again, and add a NASA Rally Sport championship win to their existing ARA win for 2017.