Travis Pastrana leads the Ojibwe Forests Rally by just five seconds over Ken Block at the end of day one.
“It’s the first time I’ve been leading after day one in, well, over a year,” Pastrana told DirtFish after the eighth and final stage of the day.
“We came out swinging, everyone usually feels out the first stage and we knew that stage well, this was my 14th time doing it. We started out with a nine second lead and we have a five second lead now after a bunch more stages, lost a bunch of stages by less than a second, so we’re in the hunt!
“These guys are doing a great job, we learned a little bit about the front splitter, and we’re just happy to being going into tomorrow in the hunt with a good chance, and we have to win this one.
“Day two, last year Ken was able to take some time out of me when we were both in equal cars, I think the Hyundai definitely works better in the ruts, whereas I think we can take some more time out of him where the rally is smoother.
“It’s gonna be a tough race either way to win, we’re going to go like hell and we’re going to do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Stage five brought good fortune to Pastrana as well as Block, who shredded a tire and once again fell back another 11s.
“I went into stage five knowing that Travis beat me by 10 seconds on that stage earlier today, and I just decided to drive flat out,” Block said.
“It was going really well, I was up on the splits, but unfortunately I clipped a rock on the inside of a turn two thirds of the way through the stage, and I ended up with a puncture.
“So I drove on a rim for three miles probably, maybe more. But Alex and I just put in the best drive that we possible could, and I just went for it, and I only ended up losing nine seconds to Travis.
“The championship is on the line, the race is on the line, so we’re doing everything we possibly can to be as quick as possible.”
Brandon Semenuk finished the day in third after a puncture on the first loop and further issues in the second loop.
“On the fifth stage we hit something on the left hand side in a rut, and it was just inevitable, it just kind of took us in, Brandon could literally do nothing. So we punctured the wheel and it pulled us to the side where we clipped – it must have been a low branch or something, just enough to break the hinges on the rear wing. Then we were just trying to manage the issue and hold it all together.
“Challenging day but we’re still third, we’re still here for points. We have to be smart to win this championship so we’re just going to be smart and see what tomorrow brings.”
Behind Semenuk is LN4 class leader Klim Fedoff, who had been battling to take time off of “Texas Dave” Carapetyan after losing read brakes on the first loop.
Fortunately for Fedoff the team was able to fix the car at service and get it back out for the championship points.
Carapetyan finished shy of 10s behind Fedoff, losing most of that time on the final stage of the day.
Seamus Burke’s V6 Escort and Michael Hooper’s Lexus IS350 are still battling for the 2WD win sitting 24s apart after the first day, with the latter starting to take chunks of time out of Burke on the last few stages.
Lucy Block, Spencer Sherman, and Chris Sladek finish out the top 10 in that order, with 11th place Nathan Odle being the lone finisher outside of the top 10 National entries, and the only L2WD National entry left after a hard wreck from Alex Ramos on the fourth stage.
Pat Gruzska was able to rejoin the rally after a retirement due to fire on Stage 2 which took him out of the top five, but under Super Rally he cannot post times until tomorrow.
The regional rally is being led of course by the AP4 Toyota Rav4 piloted by Alejandro Perusina and Andres Bautista. The pair are in a league of their own with their machine sitting 3m31s in the lead over the still fast second place Jecob and Michael Despain.
The Despains were able to move up from starting in seventh across the eight stages as they gained time on competition and kept the car running while other competitors faced attrition. Just 22s off them in third is Chris Barribeau who held second during most of the day, losing it once to Mark Williams, before regaining it and being overtaken by the Despains.
Meanwhile Ryan George’s M3 is running away with the 2WD Regional lead, sitting over three minutes ahead of nearest 2WD competitor, Nicholas Bukky.
Overall, the story of this rally has been attrition so far, with just 30 of the 43 entries finishing without a retirement on day one.