Pastrana leads Ojibwe Forests Rally
Subaru Rally Team USA driver Travis Pastrana is holding strong in the lead of the Ojibwe Forests Rally Saturday, while teammate Dave Mirra looks for his first-ever overall podium finish.
Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom pushed hard during the opening stages to take the early lead. They had been battling with teammates Ken Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino for a favorable road position in what is typically a dusty event when Block crashed out.
That left Pastrana to start Day 2 with a three-minute and 52 second lead over the second-place Mirra and co-driver Derek Ringer. With just four stages remaining on Saturday, Pastrana and Edstrom had grown their lead to nearly four and a-half minutes.
"Unfortunately a lot of people at this event have been having some trouble," said Pastrana on Saturday. "Fortunately, we are not one of them."
Block and Gelsomino were unharmed in the Stage 3 rollover, but the incident dealt a serious blow to their championship hopes. Block entered this round a distant second to Pastrana and, with just two rounds remaining in the season after this event, he needed serious points here to gain ground on his teammate.
Mirra, meanwhile, suffered a flat tire early on Day 1, but made up ground as rival Andi Mancin struggled to push his ailing Mitsubishi through the night stages.
"It feels great," said Mirra. "This feels like the first rally where everything is sorted out and I'm driving the car and committing."
Mirra, a BMX superstar, is running the Rally America championship this year in the new Super Production class -- a category for lightly modified vehicles. He was well off Pastrana's pace after 11 stages, but said he was playing it safe and aiming for a personal best finish.
"If I can stay right where I'm at for the rest of the day," said Mirra. "I'll be really pleased."
Mancin spent the first day just trying to hold on until his mechanics could dig into his overheating car's engine overnight. The crew were able to repair the car, but more bad luck on Day 2 – including further mechanical trouble, coupled with a flat tire – meant Mancin and co-driver Maciej Wislawski had dropped to fourth-place overall after 11 stages and were fighting to claw back into podium contention.
With Block out and contenders Andrew "ACP" Comrie-Picard and Tanner Foust absent from this round, a strong finish by Mancin could give him an edge in a tight points battle for the top-three.
In third place were Adam Markut and co-driver Christopher Gordon in their Super Production class Eagle Talon, while Lauchlin O'Sullivan and co-driver Karen Wagner were in fifth, and leading the two-wheel drive charge in their Dodge SRT-4.
The two-wheel drive competition at this event is strong, with the MaxAttack! sub-series concluding this weekend. MaxAttack! Drivers are competing not only for a podium finish, but a cash purse totaling $5,000.
Among the MaxAttack! competitors is the notable entry of Mark Utecht and Rob Bohn, who are driving a 2010 Ford Mustang under Ford's "10 Unleashed" promotion. The manufacturer selected 10 lucky drivers to live out their Mustang dreams in a factory-supplied car this year. More on the program can be found at www.the2010mustang.com. The longtime Mustang competitor said he was delighted to be one of the lucky few selected for the opportunity.
"Most amateur drivers dream about having a factory ride at some time," said Utecht. "I'm one of the few that get to say I've had one."
This event features a smooth and fast course through the region's beautiful forest and lakes. Cars began a Super Special stage on Friday afternoon at the Bemidji Speedway and then headed out for a series of forest stages where the glow of brake rotors and the gleam of headlights illuminated the dark forests. Competition continues Saturday until late in the evening.
About Rally America, Inc.:
Based in Golden Valley, Minnesota, Rally America sanctions the premier rally racing series in the United States, the Rally America National Championship Series. In 2009, Rally America will conduct nine National Championship events at venues across the country, from Portland, Ore., to Newry, Maine. Rally America competitors reach speeds well over 100 mph in modified street-legal rally cars on natural-terrain courses consisting of gravel, dirt or snow.