Subaru Rally Team USA driver Travis Pastrana came out on top of a hard fought battle at the Olympus Rally, round three of the 2009 Rally America National Championship, to earn his second win of the season. Pastrana, with co-driver Christian Edstrom, drove a faultless rally in their 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX STI rally car but needed to go flat-out on the final stages of competition to pull away from a strong field of challengers, winning by a convincing forty seconds. Pastrana’s Subaru teammate Ken Block led the rally after Day One but an engine problem sidelined him midway through the final day. Bad luck also befell Subaru Rally Team USA’s newest team member, BMX legend Dave Mirra, who damaged his STI in a spin late in the rally while sitting in 2nd place in the Super Production class.
The 2009 Olympus Rally featured over 100 miles of sinuous, tree-lined logging roads near Aberdeen, Washington. The typically unpredictable Pacific Northwest weather was absent throughout the event allowing calm dry conditions to persist. Although the Olympus Rally is relatively new to the Rally America calendar, having returned to the national series in 2007, the event has a memorable past. It was first run as a national event in 1973 and served as a stop on World Rally Championship calendar from 1986 to 1988.
Pastrana found himself in 3rd position in the Olympus Rally at the conclusion of the first day, trailing rally leader and teammate Ken Block by over twenty seconds. On Day Two, Block dropped out of the hunt for victory early with engine trouble, leaving Pastrana locked in a tight battle for overall victory with Canadian driver Andrew Comrie Picard. “It was a great battle, our stage times were really close with ACP (Andrew Comrie Picard), we even tied on a stage to the tenth of a second,” explained Pastrana. “But I managed to pull out a small lead and keep it for most of the day, then charged hard on the last few stages for the win. It’s a great feeling to win with such strong competition.” Having secured two wins from three events, Pastrana now sits tied for 2nd Overall in the Rally America National Championship points standings.
Ken Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino had their sights set on their third victory of 2009 after winning the previous Rally America round, The Rally in the 100 Acre Wood, as well as the non-championship Rally New York USA event. Block leapt into the lead at the start of the Olympus Rally, winning half of Day One’s eight stages to amass a lead of over twenty seconds. However, Block’s impressive run was halted early the next day when his Subaru experienced engine trouble, forcing him out of the event. “Although we hit some bad luck my confidence is boosted from our stage times on the first day where the competition was so good and everyone was going flat-out. The next round in Oregon has roads similar to Olympus so I’m sure we will have the speed again there,” said Block.
BMX legend Dave Mirra debuted his new Super Production (SP) class 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX STI at the Olympus Rally. The SP class is a new Rally America competition category introduced this year and features minimally modified, production-based cars with the backing of prize money from Subaru of America. Mirra, along with former WRC Champion co-driver Derek Ringer, took a conservative approach to the rally while getting accustomed to the new car and spent most of the rally residing in 2nd overall in the SP class standings. Towards the end of the rally, Mirra ran wide hitting a bank and incurring three flat tires plus some light damage to his Subaru. After changing out two of the three flats with the on-board spare tire units and limping to the stage finish, Mirra retired from the rally. “I was driving conservative with the new STI and getting faster as the rally progressed,” explained Mirra. “The new STI has a lot of potential and I just need some more miles with it to get fully confident.”Subaru Rally Team USA will visit the Pacific Northwest again next month for the Oregon Trail Rally, based in Portland, Oregon and Hood River to the east on May 15-17.
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