Arie Villasol of Modesto will climb into his Acura MDX on Labor Day and, with a 1970 Ford Escort Mexico in tow, begin the 23-hour journey to Lincoln, Neb.
His destination is the Solo National Championship, the top autocross competition sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of America. His goal is unfinished business on Sept. 4-5.
Villasol, 46, plans to bring home a national title that barely eluded him in 2000 and 2002. The local graphic arts designer placed second at the nationals in both years, the latter by two-tenths of a second. This time, he hopes to ride to a title in the E-Prepared class.
“I’ve got it in my blood,” he said.
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Villasol calls the Escort, owned by Dwayne Komush of Patterson, “my little rally car.” He’ll compete for trophies and a little prize money from sponsors, but the races are defined as amateur competition. All the Modestan seeks is a modicum of glory and satisfaction for Komush and six local sponsors.
“It’s totally worth it. My job is to keep winning,” he said. “This is all grassroots.”
Villasol’s opponents are the other drivers, of course, and the clock. The races are conducted in open parking lots or old airport runways and the course is defined by cones and pylons. At Lincoln, he’ll race the approximately one-minute course three times each day. His fastest time each day will count.
Born in the Philippine Islands in Bataan province, Villasol was raised in Phoenix and moved to Modesto 12 years ago. He competed on the SCCA autocross circuit from 1997 to 2002, then took a break to get married and raise a family (he and his wife have two daughters, aged 6 years and 7 weeks). He didn’t dive back into racing in a big way until this year, when he spotted Komush’s Escort.
“I’ve raced with Dwayne for years. The car was just sitting, so I asked him if I could run it,” Villasol said. “I’ve been fortunate to have friends like him who have helped and provided sponsorship.”
Villasol races in the SCCA’s San Francisco Region, where he has excelled this year in venues such as the O.co Coliseum in Oakland, the Marina Airport, the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds and Crows Landing. His stock rose after major wins in April in San Diego and two months ago in Crows Landing. That marked the return of SCCA national competition to Crows Landing for the first time in 19 years.
At Nationals, Villasol figures to challenge E-Prepared three-time defending champion Chris Dorsey of Littleton, Colo. The local racer will be comfortable among the approximately 1,200 who will compete in about 80 classes at Lincoln. His father was a former road-racer who drove at Sonoma Raceway and Laguna Seca.
But Villasol, ready to go in his Escort, likes his chances against the Toyota Corollas, Honda Civics and Datsun 510s in his category.
“I was able to secure enough funding this year to race once a month since April,” he said. “In racing, it’s all-about seat time. The more the seat time, the faster you’ll go.”
Coleman nabs gold – Beyer High School’s Rachel Coleman has bounced back impressively from a serious hip injury this summer. The proof of her recovery was the gold medal she won in the women’s 16-under division at the last stop of the Modern Pentathlon of North America summer circuit earlier this month in Guelph, Ontario.
Coleman overcame missing a few months of training due to the injury, resulting in her not taking part in the U.S. Nationals.
“We only had about six weeks to prepare and having the long injury layoff made it a challenging timeline,” she said.
Her victory in the pentathlon featured wins in the fencing and equestrian show-jumping. She also placed well in the swim and combined pistol-shooting and run.
“Being a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, it was fun to take part in my other country’s nationals and I look forward to competing in the U.S. Senior Trials for the Pentathlon World Cup later this year,” Coleman said.
Notes – Ripon High will celebrate its refurbished Stouffer Field, featuring an all-weather track and $1.5 million in improvements, with a ribbon-cutting and community party on Thursday at 7 p.m. Congressman Jeff Denham and Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen are scheduled to attend the ceremony that caps a seven-year project featuring 900 donors and volunteers and a $200,000 investment by the Ripon Unified School District. For more information, visit www.rcafsite.com .... Oakdale’s Ryle Smith is ranked 11th in the all-around category of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association standings. Smith won all-around honors at the 2012 Oakdale Rodeo. Former Escalon cowboy Russell Cardoza, now an Oregon resident, is ninth ... Modesto heavyweight Rodney Hernandez will face off against Zachary Bunce of Las Vegas in a six-round fight on Catalina Island on Aug. 30 Michael Gaxiola of Modesto will make his pro debut against local rival Victor Torres on Sept. 6. Gaxiola again fights in a four-rounder in Sacramento on Sept. 26.