Eli Ruiz | Democrat
This past weekend, the NASA Empire State Performance Rally in Rock Hill drew more than 50 cars and hundreds of drivers and spectators to the Rock Hill area.
Story by Eli Ruiz
ROCK HILL April 23, 2013 The more than 50 cars slated to compete in Saturday and Sunday’s National Auto Sport Association (NASA) Empire State Performance Rally (ESPR) Tarmac event were in full display Friday evening as 2013 race hosts, the Rock Hill Fire Department, held a “Ceremonial Start” event at the Rock Hill Firehouse. They later moved the show to Rock Hill Drive.
Not to be confused with previous rally organizers Rally New York, ESPR chairwoman Fran Gager explained that the separate entities have no affiliation.
On April 16, the Town of Thompson board passed a resolution approving the ESPR race routes, with Thompson supervisor Tony Cellini affirming before the vote that, “Ninety-nine percent of people were in favor of it...”
Cellini was on hand for Friday’s ceremony and offered, “It’s fantastic, the whole of Rock Hill Drive is completely packed and all the businesses full. I think the Rock Hill Fire Department deserves a ton of credit for all of this, and the organizers have had our [Town of Thompson board] complete support.”
The ESPR is just one of 13 events in the NASA Rally Sport series and nearly 200 volunteers including four ambulances placed around the track by the Rock Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corp. (VAC) were on hand for the 2-day multi-stage road-race, which is the only rally series event run on paved roadway or “tarmac” in the United States. For their part, ESPR has agreed to make a sizable donation to benefit the Rock Hill Fire Department.
Erika Detota of N.J., who along with her co-driver Mary Warren Michigan represented the only two women to race in the event was driving in her third ESPR, said, “This is one of the very first races I competed in as a driver and I just love all the guys here. They’ve just helped me so much.”
An accomplished rally sport driver, Detota came in second-place (2-wheel drive) at last year’s ESPR and won the 2-wheel drive 2010 United States Rally Championship in her “Lamborghini Blue” 1995 Suburu Impreza. Detota echoed Gager’s sentiments about the sport
“Rally is amazing. There’s just nothing like it but it’s actually not at all as popular here in the U.S. as it is in Europe, South America and Asia.”
She also stressed the importance of having a co-driver for these types of races, saying, “It’s not like NASCAR where you’re driving in circles. These are real roads and there are hairpin turns, jumps and you just never know, so it’s really important to have a great co-driver that you trust fully.”
Indeed, beside Detota, Warren and a few others, the vast majority of drivers for the event were European, mostly Irish. “It’s very, very popular in Ireland,” remarked Gager.
The top three overall finishers in the 2013 Empire State Performance Rally were Greg Roumiantsev and Zsanett Martaine Fabian in their all-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Evo X with a time of 1:05.36. In second place were Michael Reilly and Joshua Benthienin in a two-wheel drive Ford focus at 1:06.47 and rounding out the top three were Colin Bombara and Larry R. Pantzer whose Suburu Impreza RSTI garnered them a time of 1:07.56.
For more information on NASA Rally Sport and their upcoming events go to nasarallysport.com. To learn more about the Empire State Performance Rally go to esprally.com.
Readers interested in making donations to the Rock Hill Fire Department can call (845)-794-8961 or stop by the Rock Hill Firehouse at 61 Glen Wild Road.