Ken Block has won the Southern Ohio Forest Rally, his second American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National championship victory in succession, while erstwhile series leader Brandon Semenuk retired with a broken wishbone.
Ever since debuting a Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC on the 100 Acre Wood Rally back in March, Block and Alex Gelsomino have looked a serious threat for this year’s title.
A collision with a deer on the final 100AW stage demoted him to second before a 12G crash on the Olympus Rally put Block under huge pressure to respond.
But he did so with aplomb on last month’s Oregon Trail Rally and his form continued into Ohio with a flawless victory – leading from start to finish to shade reigning ARA National champion Travis Pastrana by 38.4 seconds.
Block won 13 of the 19 stages, although he was edged to powerstage glory by Pastrana’s Subaru.
Pastrana was the only driver who could live with Block throughout the contest but he and Rhianon Gelsomino ultimately didn’t have a firm enough answer for the Hyundai’s pace.
Their event was significantly better than that of Subaru Motorsports USA team-mates Semenuk and Keaton Williams though.
Semenuk had a bad first loop on Friday as he struggled as the first car on the road, made what he reckoned was a bad tire call and spun his WRX STI. That put him over a minute down after just four stages – a margin that was always going to be impossible to overcome.
But his weekend turned from a bad one into a terrible affair on the powerstage as a rear wishbone broke on landing two miles from the end of the stage and the damage caused proved too great for him to continue – forcing him into his first non-score of the season.
Semenuk’s pain was however Will Hudson’s gain as the youngster swooped in to claim an overall podium – as well as the RC2 class win – on his very first start in a Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Patrick Gruszka secured a personal best ARA National result of fourth in his Mitsubishi Mirage RS Proto, profiting from the demise of both Dave Carapetyan and Enda McCormack who had both been ahead of him before incredibly retiring on the same stage.
Michael Hooper was a similarly excellent fifth in his Lexus IS350, grabbing the O2WD class honors in the process, while Mark Piatkowski’s return to his Sno*Drift Rally-winning Subaru yielded a sixth place finish and the NA4WD class win.
Piatkowski was involved in a close race with Ford Escort Mk2 driver Seamus Burke and eventually got the better of his rival by a narrow 7.8s.
Dave Wallingford brought his Ford Fiesta R5 home in eighth overall ahead of 15-year-old Lia Block who stunned to take a fantastic ninth in her Ford Fiesta R2T – finishing 20 minutes behind her rally-winning father.
That result also placed Block third on the O2WD podium, while behind her was Timothy Rooney who rounded out the top 10 in his Subaru.
Alejandro Perusina had looked on for two ARA Regional wins in a row, holding a four-minute lead in his Toyota Rav4 after the first day.
But Perusina wouldn’t start the second leg, leaving Adam Kimmett’s path clear to steal the win in his Subaru Impreza.
Jonathan Kramer was close to three minutes down at the end in second while Ryan George won the Regional two-wheel-drive class.
ARA National points standings
1 Pastrana 78 2 Semenuk 72 3 Block 69 4 Tom Williams 43 5 Piatkowski 42 6 Gruszka 34 7 Kyle Tilley 31 8 Philip Wearn 20 9 Barry McKenna 19 10 Derek Nelson 18