September 1st, 2008
Subaru Rally Team USA driver Ken Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino have finished their debut event in the hotly contested Production World Rally Championship (PWRC) at the Repco Rally New Zealand this weekend. The duo drove their Subaru Impreza WRX STI to a 13th overall finish among the 24 PWRC entrants. New Zealand was anything but easy for Block who struggled to get accustomed to the Group N specification Subaru which differs greatly from his Open Class Subaru used in the Rally America National Championship.
Rally New Zealand is known for its fast flowing gravel roads and amazing landscapes. The rally takes place on New Zealand’s North Island, and is centered in the city of Hamilton. Rally New Zealand is the 11th round of the World Rally Championship and represents one of eight rounds on the WRC calendar that include the PWRC drivers.
Subaru Rally Team USA is contesting as the 2008 PWRC as a “team entry”, allowing the team to enter either Ken Block or teammate Travis Pastrana on the six nominated PWRC rounds. Block will also contest Rally Japan and Rally Great Britain later this year. The 2008 Repco Rally New Zealand represents Block’s third WRC career start but it marks his first event officially entered in the Production World Rally Championship.
Rally New Zealand was nearly over for Block before it began. A short way into special stage one Block ran wide in his Subaru and tapped a soft dirt bank on the edge of the road that launched his rally car up in the air. Upon landing hard, the hub on his left rear wheel was damaged, leaving the wheel nearly dangling off the car and preventing Block from progressing any further on the stage. Block was towed into service and would restart day two under WRC “superally” regulations, which allows driver’s to continue the rally after stopping on-stage, but with time penalties assessed for each missed stage that day. The damage to the car was minimal, and the Subaru Rally Team USA technicians had no trouble getting the car fully re-prepped for day two. The time penalties incurred however would put Block well down the leader-board and out of contention for a competitive result.
Block went on to successfully complete the over 125 stage miles included on days two and three and eventually finished 13th among 24 entered PWRC drivers. In the overall results Block finished 30th among 87 total entries. “This rally was a bit of a struggle. We had to contend with the new control tire that the PWRC uses as well as the different car spec from my Rally America car,” explained Block. “The tight schedule this year prevented me to doing any pre-event testing in this car and we spent most of the weekend just fine tuning the setup and handling, it definitely got better toward the end of the rally but I felt I was still nowhere as fast as I could be. But I enjoyed the roads here and it served as a great warm up to Rally Japan in October.”
Subaru Rally Team USA will be back in action in two weeks time, at Rally Colorado, the penultimate round of the 2008 Rally America National Championship. SRT USA driver Travis Pastrana with co-driver Derek Ringer currently lead the series with Block and Gelsomino residing third in the standings. Block will compete in his next PWRC event at Rally Japan in late October.
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