August 27th, 2008
Subaru Rally Team USA driver Travis Pastrana grabbed victory at the Ojibwe Forests Rally, round seven of the 2008 Rally America National Championship, after his Subaru teammate Ken Block crashed out of the event while leading with just miles before the finish. The victory further extends Pastrana’s championship lead and nearly guarantees him a third straight Rally America National Championship driver’s title. If Pastrana finishes 6th or better in either of the two remaining rounds he and his co-driver Derek Ringer will mathematically secure the championship.
The Ojibwe Forests Rally featured over 140 miles of 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.
The story of the rally started out with the dominating drive of Ken Block, whose championship hopes hinged on winning the Ojibwe Forests Rally and closing in on points leader Pastrana. Block and his co-driver Alex Gelsomino led the field from the second stage in his 2008 Subaru Impreza WRX STI and maintained a healthy lead over the hard charging Pastrana throughout the two-day event. “We were out-driven all day today and yesterday,” said Pastrana late Saturday. ”When we pushed to gain back time on Block he just pushed back, we weren’t able to catch him.”
Block held a 19-second lead on Pastrana heading into the final stage of the event, a daunting 22-mile stage, one of the longest stages in US rallying. It was a ‘must-win’ situation for Block, who knew that his gap to Pastrana on a massive 22-mile stage didn’t afford him the opportunity to drive conservatively.
“I had to win Ojibwe to stay in the hunt for the championship and I drove my best rally of the year only to have it go extremely bad on the last stage with only a few miles to go,” explained Block.
With just five miles left in the stage, Block went off the road and hit a tree at high speed, instantly ending his rally and nearly any hope of catching Pastrana in the points race. Both Block and Gelsomino walked away unharmed but extremely disappointed. ”I am devastated,” said Block. ”I did exactly what I needed to do to win here and set up a big title fight for the rest of the year but one mistake is all it took to end it all.” Block remains third overall in the Rally America standings.
Subaru Rally Team USA now heads straight to New Zealand for Round 11 of the FIA World Rally Championship where SRT USA driver Ken Block will be racing in the P-WRC event. Rally New Zealand is based in Hamilton and starts Thursday August 28th.
Subaru Rally Team USA is proudly supported by Subaru of America, Subaru Tecnica International (STI), Subaru Performance Tuning (SPT), DC Shoes, BFGoodrich Tires, Boost Mobile, Recaro, Alpinestars, Motul, Exedy, GReddy, PIAA and Vermont SportsCar. For team news and information please visit www.subaru.com/rally