Barry McKenna has tripled the size of his lead of the 100 Acre Wood Rally after Friday’s running, heading Travis Pastrana by 12.2 seconds with Brandon Semenuk rounding out the overnight podium.
McKenna, who is piloting a new Ford Fiesta WRC for the first time in the American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National series, took the lead from the returning Ken Block on stage three before first service as he got acclimatized to his new car.
The reigning champion ceded 2.6s to stage winner Pastrana on SS5 when he briefly stalled, the second running of Crooked Coleman Tower, but won the two stages either side in the second loop to head into Saturday’s eight stages with a lead advantage that’s in double figures.
Although he dropped time to McKenna across the loop, Pastrana had a solid three stages as he overhauled Block’s Škoda Fabia R5+ on SS4 and kept McKenna honest. The 2021 Sno*Drift Rally winner is continuing to enjoy the ferocity of the fight at the front.
“It’s awesome, we’re all within 16-17 seconds, splitting stage times, the first three stages won by different drivers, man this feels awesome” he told DirtFish.
“I feel like it’s 2006 again. We’re sitting exactly where we want to heading into tomorrow, I didn’t want to be first on the road. I think second or third is ideal for tomorrow’s start.”
Pastrana’s old rival Block – who has won the 100AW Rally a record seven times – led after winning the first stage but has dropped back on the second loop behind Subaru Motorsports USA pair Pastrana and Semenuk on what is his first rally in something other than a Ford since 2009.
“We’re working on some set-up issues, I’m just not happy with it yet but it’s been a good battle today,” Block reflected.
“Lost a bit of time trying to figure out how to overdrive or underdrive this car but it’s a learning experience. Stages are incredibly fun, big jumps, enjoying it but I want a couple 100 extra miles in this thing to figure out the set-up!”
Semenuk, who himself was slightly off the boil on the first loop, was much stronger on the repeat pass as he set the second-quickest time on all three stages, leaping past Block on the day’s final stage to head the Škoda by 1.5s. He is 18.8s behind McKenna’s rally-leading 2.0-liter Fiesta.
“I know these dudes are going absolutely flat out and we’re at 110%,” Semenuk said.
“Our road position [of fourth] wasn’t ideal and we lost some time on the first leg there and we had good passes again in the second loop and our times started to show so I mean we’ll see what tomorrow holds.
“I don’t see my road position helping honestly but we’ll push on as hard as we can.”
Jeff Seehorn is in a lonely fifth overall, 2m20.5s behind Block but 1m40.9s ahead of Paulo Ferreira in sixth.
Seehorn is joined by Glen Ray in his Subaru as his regular co-driver was snowed in and couldn’t make it to Missouri. He picked up a 10s penalty at the end of the day for arriving to the regroup in Salem one minute late.
As they had been on the first pass, the times and results at the back end of the top 10 remain incredibly tight. Ferreira’s Mitsubishi E9 is just 14.3s up on Seamus Burke’s Ford Escort Mk2, with Alek Bialobrzeski’s Subaru another 9.1s behind.
A superb time on SS6 allowed John O’Sullivan to vault from 13th to ninth in his Ford Fiesta R5, leading fellow Irishman and R5 pilot Enda McCormack by 3.8s.
McCormack’s Hyundai is 6.4s ahead of Patrick Brennan’s Ford Fiesta Proto with Michael Hooper (Lexus IS300) and John Coyne (Ford Fiesta R5) 2.7s and 4.6s further adrift respectively.
Leading positions after SS6
1 Barry McKenna/Leon Jordan (Ford) 27m48.8s
2 Travis Pastrana/Rhianon Gelsomino (Subaru) +12.2s
3 Brandon Semenuk/John Hall (Subaru) +18.8s
4 Ken Block/Alessandro Gelsomino (Škoda) +20.3s
5 Jeff Seehorn/Glen Ray (Subaru) +2m30.8s
6 Paulo Ferreira/Ozgur Simsek (Mitsusbishi) +4m21.7s
7 Seamus Burke/Martin Brady (Ford) +4m36.0s
8 Arek Bialobrzeski/Aris Mantopoulos (Subaru) +4m45.1s
9 John O’Sullivan/Cameron Carr (Ford) +5m08.4s
10 Enda McCormack/Liam McCormack (Hyundai) +5m12.2s