Ken Block has closed the gap to his American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National championship rival Brandon Semenuk after a win on the Ojibwe Forests Rally.
Block went into the day in second place behind Travis Pastrana, and gained four of the five second deficit he had back on the day opening stage nine, but an off-turned-retirement on stage 10 was the end of Pastrana’s chances of a win, as the car was undrivable.
With most of the day ahead of him, and a nearly three minute lead over the now second place Semenuk, Block backed off and rode out the rest of the rally risk free to ensure a gold medal at the end of the day.
“I feel like I won the crapshoot here somehow,” Block told DirtFish after the final stage at the Soo Pass Ranch Saturday evening. “It didn’t start off that great, but ended better than I expected.
“I really needed this for the championship battle, I really wanted to win New England because I knew that rally so well. And I knew that winning that would’ve put me in a better position to win the championship, but the win here made up for that.”
Second place behind Block by nearly three minutes was Semenuk and Keaton Williams. Despite the duo’s best efforts, the lack of experience on the rally, combined with multiple issues, made things difficult as they tried to keep pace with Block and Pastrana.
“It was a tough weekend for us again,” Semenuk told DirtFish. “Basically from stage one, just never really got a chance to push on and just nursed some car damage the first day.
“We never really got the chance to have a clean stage and really battle with those guys.
“Day two, we weren’t fighting with the guys up front and were just taking it easy, tried on the powerstage, we had a decent stage, I felt like I left maybe a little time in there but overall we were pretty happy with the stage.”
Unfortunately for Semenuk, an SOS on the powerstage early on would mean that though he pulled over 15 seconds out of Block, powerstage points would not be awarded, and most of the field would receive notional times.
The SOS came from an accident on the same corner Pastrana went off on, but this time it was the LN4 class second-place Klim Fedoff who fell victim, and though he and co-driver Oscar Romero were OK, they were unable to exit the vehicle.
Eventual class winners Dave Carapetyan and co-driver John Hall were next on the road and stopped to help peel back the windshield and get his opponents out of the car, and the entire stage was transited.
Carapetyan, who also finished third overall, told DirtFish it had been a challenging weekend from the start.
“We’ve been battling some overheating issues with the car all season, so we took New England Forest Rally off, did a ton of work and came in really strong.
“Yesterday the first set of stages was great, second loop of stages we started things started getting ugly again, and then today we’ve been nursing the car all day.
“We were being completely transparent with Klim, every stage we were like, ‘hey this is what we’re doing, this is what you should do if you want to beat us,’ and he was doing it!”
Unfortunately for Fedoff, that off would be the end of his rally, and would open up the second step on the LN4 podium to the Honda Passport of Chris Sladek and John Sharps, who also took eighth overall.
Fourth and fifth overall went to first and second in 2WD, Seamus Burke and Martin Brady keeping the lead over Michael Hooper and Claudia Barbera.
“We always have a good battle,” Martin Brady said at the podium. “Mike always keeps us honest. We know he’s never too far behind us.”
The two teams traded off having minor problems across the weekend, but after a few close calls Hooper backed down and preserved the car, managing the gap well for the rest of the day.
Lucy Block with DirtFish’s Michelle Miller in the co-driver’s seat were able to pull off a sixth place overall in their Fiesta Rally3, and Spencer Sherman and Boyd Smith took seventh behind them.
As previously mentioned Sladek took eighth, and the father and son duo of Nathan and Eliot Odle took ninth, as the final finishers outside of super rally.
Outside of those, the 10th spot went to Pat Gruszka, who was in super rally after a fire on SS2 Friday.
The Regional rally win was taken by the fan favorite Toyota Rav4 AP4 driven by Alejandro Perusina, and co-driven by Andres Bautista.
Though the pair are still learning the car in their fourth rally in it, they impressed by putting in times that would have landed them in the top three Nationally on some stages had they been entered there.
“It was our first race out here at Ojibwe, so we were not really sure what to expect,” Perusina said.
“The roads were fast, wet, sandy, different than anything we’ve ridden on before, but the weekend honestly was really stressful. We had some issues at the start of the race limped through the first half of the day, and we were just struggling g with ourselves, some stuff with the car, but today was fun!
“We’re here, we finished, the car is all straight, we’re happy, but it was definitely a hard, long stressful weekend.”
Second to Perusina was the BMW M3 of Ryan George about 15 minutes behind. George was the fastest 2WD car by over five minutes, and was followed to the podium by Jordan Harberer and Drew Staples.
The Ojibwe Forests Rally’s conclusion means there’s only two more chances for teams to get National points on the board, with Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally in about a month, and Lake Superior Performance Rally closing the season in October.