Pastrana Second at STPR; All-Night Repair Helps Semenuk’s Title Hopes

Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally, the fast, notoriously dangerous Pennsylvania round of the American Rally Association, set up a thrilling finale to the ARA championship season as Brandon Semenuk and Keaton Williams bounced back from a crash to earn critical points against rival Ken Block. Travis Pastrana and Rhianon Gelsomino earned their fifth podium of the year with a second-place finish, holding onto third place in the ARA title race.

The STPR event, returning after two years off the ARA National calendar, opened with a six-stage Friday schedule split into two three-stage loops. Semenuk and Block were neck and neck after the first stage, with Block taking a half-second stage win, while Pastrana went off the road with a half-spin and dropped more than twenty seconds to the lead pair. On SS2, Semenuk appeared poised to take the lead after beating Block through the first split but went off the road on a slippery double-apex left-hand corner.

His car slid off the road and down into a ravine, hit a tree that sheared off the trunklid and crushed the right rear quarter panel, and ultimately came to rest perched on its nose in a stand of trees. Semenuk and Williams were uninjured, but with the #180 WRX STI damaged and their main rivals rapidly building a lead towards a fourth victory of the season, the odds of a positive STPR result looked slim at best.

With Semenuk’s return unclear and Pastrana more than 30 seconds back of the lead through two stages, strategy shifted to damage control – Pastrana would be ready to pounce if Block made an error, but would try to avoid damaging the car to bring home the best possible event finish for the team.

Meanwhile, the crew worked to recover Semenuk’s car from the trees on SS2. After the #180 WRX STI was assessed by officials to confirm that the cage was undamaged, team management made the decision to try to repair the car to give Semenuk and Williams the chance to fight for Power Stage points on Saturday. The Vermont SportsCar crew pushed flat-out through the night to address the damaged sheetmetal, replace the bumpers and hood, reattach the severed trunklid and rear wing, and perform a full mechanical inspection and reprep. When the car finally fired up again in the early morning hours, Semenuk was back in the rally.

With Block holding a minute lead over Pastrana heading into Saturday and Semenuk out of the running for significant event points, the focus of the event fell to to maximizing bonus points on the Power Stage, SS15. All three drivers pushed hard, with Block ultimately coming away with a stage win and 5 points while Semenuk and Pastrana tied for second and each earned 4 points. Block would maintain his lead through the finish for his fourth win of the year, with Pastrana and Gelsomino taking second for their fifth podium finish of the season.

When the dust settled, the heroic fix and Semenuk’s critical four Power Stage points kept him within striking distance of new championship leader Block for the title at October’s season-ending Lake Superior Performance Rally. Thanks to the ARA championship format which takes each driver’s six best event scores plus all Power Stage points, Block can win the championship at LSPR with only an event victory, while Semenuk would need a win plus a top-three finish on the Power Stage to secure enough points for the title.

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