Pastrana extends lead
Subaru Rally Team USA Travis Pastrana continued to extend his lead of the icy 2010 Rally America season-opener during the Saturday stages.
After 12 stages, Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom had a more than a minute lead over Canadian challengers Antoine L'Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard.
The top drivers say they're treading carefully to hold position in the icy conditions. Pastrana said he's getting so much wheel-spin that while the speedometer is reading 100 mph, he's pretty sure has barely hit 50 mph.
"It's just a sheet of ice out there," said Pastrana.
In third place were Bill Bacon and co-driver Peter Watt in their Mitsubishi Evo IX, while Subaru Rally Team USA's Dave Mirra and co-driver Derek Ringer moved up to fourth-place in their new Open class car after ACP spent about seven minutes stuffed into a snow bank.
"I have been racing for 10 years and won both of the major snow events, but I've never seen anything like this," said Comrie-Picard. "The ice is absolutely unbelievable."
Comrie-Picard and Wimpey slid into a snow bank on Stage 9 and were stuck until rally novices Craig Decker and co-driver Adam Craig – pro mountain bikers who are running their first national event this weekend – stopped to help them out.
The father-son team of Travis and Terry Hanson were in fifth-place overall and leading the Super Production class.
The top two-wheel drive team was Chris Duplessis and Catherine Woods in a 1990 Volkswagen GTI. The duo were the only two-wheel drive car in the top half of the field. Duplessis is an extremely talented two-wheel drive competitor who cut his teeth as an instructor at the Team O'Neil rally school.
Ken Block was reported out of the contest after the seventh stage late Friday. Early reports were that he suffered a mechanical failure.
"We had some sort of component in the suspension break," Block told WorldRallySport.com. "It's really unfortunate because I was driving conservatively and was in third place and just trying to finish."
Monster World Rally Team driver Ken Block had a strong start to the event, winning the first stage and maintaining a consistent top-three pace. Spectators on the seventh stage reported that Block's Ford Fiesta took a spin.
In the United States, Block is driving a Ford Fiesta originally prepared for the European Rally Cross series by the Swedish Olsbergs MSE team. The car debuted with driver Kenny Brack at X Games this summer. Block will compete in an M-Sport Ford in selected rounds of the World Rally Championship this year.
Some 52 cars took the start in Atlanta, Michigan, on Saturday morning. But the icy conditions were taking their toll on the field.
The first teams out on Friday were Heath Nunnemacher and co-driver Mike Rossey in their 2002 Subaru WRX, and the Group 2 Volvo of Ian and Jay Topping. Neither car made it through the first stage. Both returned on Saturday to run the Day 2 regional.
Sno*Drift is one of the few true snow rallies in the world. Located in the region of the 45th parallel -- the halfway point between the equator and the North Pole – and the weather here at this time of year is bitterly cold. For the 2010 running of the event, the course roads are covered in glare ice. Teams cover 130 miles of competitive stages over two days.
Rally car racing is considered the extreme sport of automobile racing and is often described simply as “real cars, real roads, real fast.” This all-season motorsport sees drivers and their co-drivers take modified road cars to the limit as they achieve blistering speeds over courses that cover more than 100 miles of gravel, dirt or snow-covered roads.
This year there will be six forest events from Maine to Washington, before X Games 16, plus three new European style rallycross events after X Games -- all based in Southern New Jersey.
Top teams in the series are also invited to compete in the Summer X Games, the leading action sports event broadcast live on ABC and ESPN.
About Rally America
Based in Golden Valley, Minn., Rally America sanctions the premier rally racing series in the United States, the Rally America National Championship Series. In 2010, Rally America will conduct six National Championship events at venues across the country, from Olympia, Wash., to Bethel, Maine, and three European style rallycross events in New Jersey.