August 26th, 2007
Subaru Rally Team USA driver Travis Pastrana has won the Ojibwe Forests Rally with his Subaru teammate Ken Block close behind in 2nd Overall. Pastrana, driving a 2007 Subaru Impreza WRX STI, led the Ojibwe Forests Rally, round seven of the Rally America National Championship, from the very first stage and went on to win seven of the event’s fifteen stages while atop the leaderboard. The win puts Pastrana, the defending Rally America National Champion, firmly back in the title hunt with just two rounds remaining.
The Ojibwe Forests Rally featured over 150 miles technical sandy gravel forest roads in northern Minnesota, around the town of Bemidji. The event is a favorite amongst rally drivers for its demanding fast and flowing roads and numerous night stages. “I think Ojibwe is one of the last “old style” events left on our calendar. Night stages, up to four stages in a row without any service and a huge 23 mile stage at the very end of the event are all ingredients that make an exceptionally challenging and fun event for us,” explained Alex Gelsomino, co-driver for Ken Block.
After winning the opening stages Pastrana quickly amassed a comfortable lead of over 40 seconds on Subaru driver Tanner Foust, with Block and Foust’s teammate Andy Pinker over a minute adrift. However, midway through the final day a tire puncture cost Pastrana over thirty seconds, and nearly the rally lead, leaving him with only a slim eleven-second cushion over the now hard-charging Tanner Foust. But on the final and longest stage of the rally, Foust hit a stone in the road that severely damaged his Subaru, forcing him to stop and make repairs. Meanwhile Pastrana suffered another tire puncture but lost minimal time and was able to take the Overall victory, his third of the season and second in a row. Block would finish in second, passing the stricken Foust, while series leader Andy Pinker suffered mechanical issues all weekend but was able to finish 3rd.
“That was an ‘everyone had bad luck’ rally,” said a champagne soaked Pastrana at the finish ceremony. “I’m the luckiest unlucky person in the world today! We came into this rally with the sole objective of getting the win and we had the rally in our control until the flat tire changed everything! But we were able to come away with the win even after our troubles, and we are back in the hunt for the championship!”
Ken Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino’s goals were nearly the opposite of those of Pastrana. Having never finished the Ojibwe Forests Rally after attempts the last two years ended in hard crashes, Block just wanted to finish. “I’ve had really bad luck at this event the past two years, two of my biggest crashes were here and they were both on the first day of competition. So I really wanted to just take it easy this time, not push and finish all of the stages,” explained Block. “Our Subaru ran perfectly, we had no problems and we were in a position to capitalize on everyone else‘s misfortunes. The roads here are amazing, definitely amongst my favorite roads I have ever competed on.”
With the strong result here, Pastrana and Block have closed the gap to series leader Andrew Pinker. Although Pinker currently holds a slim points lead over Pastrana, only the best seven results count at the conclusion of the Rally America National Championship season, and if the season ended today Pastrana would be Champion. Subaru Rally Team USA heads next to Rally Colorado, Sept 22-23, with the final round the Lake Superior Performance Rally on Oct 26-27.
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