This weekend Salem, Missouri was the scene of the most competitive line-up of teams in United States rallying in years.
Barry McKenna, Brandon Semenuk, Ryan Booth, Travis Pastrana, and of course, Ken Block.
For the 100 Acre Wood Rally, round two of this latest American Rally Association season, all five drivers were added to seeded draw. This compares with only the Subarus and McKenna being in it for the entirety of last season.
“Yeah this was incredible competition this weekend,” says Brandon Semenuk. “Obviously with Travis who’s won the championship five times, Ken who’s won this rally seven times and then Barry the overall championship winner last year, the competition’s stacked.”
After one of yesterday’s stages Pastrana described the stiff competition as “just like 2006,” when he was battling against some huge names for the Rally America championship.
“You had Tanner Foust and Ken Block and Andrew Pinker and Antoine L’Estage and everybody,” he recalls of ’06. “It was just an amazing group and then for whatever reason it seemed like they got less and less until there was two to three guys battling.”
This latest 100 Acre Wood Rally was reminiscent of years prior for Pastrana though, and he couldn’t have been more excited.
“To have five guys in the seeded draw with equal cars capable of winning this event and, I tell you what, everyone drove absolutely awesome.
“I mean, Brandon Semenuk drove an amazing rally and ended up fourth off the podium: that hasn’t happened in US rally in quite some time.”
Another competitor who was around for this era was second-place finisher Block, who had different memories of ’06.
“Well 2006 I won this rally!,” he jokes. “It felt good, it’s fun racing with Travis again.
“There’s some other great competition out here, Barry and Brandon are great and there’s a ton of R5s which is just so cool to see.”
While the competition remained the same, the event itself has changed for the better since ’06 according to Block.
“So compared to 2006 this is light years ahead of what it was,” he says. “I mean, half the time we showed up to the stages in 2006 there wouldn’t be a clock!
“And now we have this great RallySafe hardware and great clocks and just the whole organization is incredibly better and the whole level of competition is way better.”
One new tradition Block wasn’t keen on, however, was the $1 bet.
“No I don’t bet with Travis,” he says, “I learned not to do that a long time ago! It’s never ended well for me.”
“It’s really funny,” Pastrana adds. “The last time Ken and I bet $500 a point, and we went to the last race really close. I won the last race, he crashed out so that ended up being 23 points or whatever it was so you can do the math.”
Understandably, Block wouldn’t partake this time, but he still managed to make things difficult for his competitors.
“So he said no but then Ken went and won the first stage,” Pastrana explains, “so we’re not sure what to do because the bet was really between myself, Brandon and Barry and we’ve always had that but since none of us won I guess none of us get the dollar,”
Semenuk adds: “I don’t really know how that works to be honest because Travis didn’t actually win the stage but he’ll probably still get a $1 out of me.”