Travis Pastrana leads the Ojibwe Forests Rally after Friday’s six stages but ARA National points leader Barry McKenna has eroded his advantage with a string of fastest times.
Subaru Motorsports USA driver Pastrana won two out of the first three stages to hold a lead of just under 20 seconds over McKenna’s Škoda Fabia Rally2 halfway through the rally’s first leg.
But McKenna – who won SS3 just before service – refused to let Pastrana’s Subaru WRX STI disappear out front and despite fearing Pastrana’s intimate knowledge of the Crossroads test (SS1/4) would work against him, the Irishman snatched three seconds from the leader on the 10-mile stage.
McKenna then made it three stage wins in a row on Spur 2 Revisited, clawing another four seconds away from Pastrana who was again second quickest.
That stage-winning streak became four as McKenna took another two seconds from Pastrana to tee up an epic battle on Saturday between the pair, who are now split by just a handful of seconds.
It was an inspired drive from McKenna who has openly admitted it’s Brandon Semenuk that he needs to worry about for the championship; and Semenuk is already comfortably behind after six of the event’s 14 stages.
But Pastrana’s pace had dropped on the second loop, with Subaru team-mate Semenuk – just six seconds slower across the loop of three stages – and Fiesta R5 pilot Ryan Booth much closer on the timesheet.
Semenuk and Booth were locked in an epic battle for third place, but the scrap was somewhat defused by a strong time from Semenuk on SS4.
Booth had begun the loop a second ahead, but Semenuk – now less restricted by the responsibility of opening the road on the second pass of the stages – was 12s faster on Crossroads 2 to edge ahead.
He was then another second faster on SS5 before further extending its advantage on Friday’s final stage to hold a margin of 17s over Booth heading into Saturday.
Behind, Piotr Fetela has retained fifth place in his Ford Fiesta Proto with Jeff Seehorn’s 2015-spec Subaru WRX STI tucked in behind. Seehorn got the better of Fetela on SS4 but lost out on the following two stages to slip to over 10 seconds behind his Polish rival.
Irish driver John Coyne inherited seventh place when Patrick Moro’s Chevrolet Sonic exited the contest on Crossroads 2. Moro left the road with what is believed to be a steering issue.
That relieved the pressure on Coyne, who now finds himself in no man’s land; not quite able to live with the leaders but comfortably quicker than the leading two-wheel-drive cars behind him in his Ford Fiesta R5.
It’s still Seamus Burke that leads that contest in his 1977 Ford Escort, but it’s incredibly close. Chris Greenhouse took a whopping nine seconds out of Burke on SS4 in his Dodge Neon SRT4 and another two on SS5 to draw level.
But a time that was two seconds faster on Friday’s final stage helped Burke hold the class lead and eighth overall. Greenhouse is only 2.9s behind, while 4WD Limited class leader Robert Sanders has been shuffled down to 10th in his Subaru.
Results after SS6
1 Pastrana (Subaru) 44m53.1s
2 McKenna (Škoda) +10.7s
3 Semenuk (Subaru) +52.8s
4 Booth (Ford) +1m09.6s
5 Fetela (Ford) +2m51.2s
6 Seehorn (Subaru) +3m19.2s
7 Coyne (Ford) +5m18.1s
8 Burke (Ford) +6m27.0s
9 Greenhouse (Dodge) +6m29.9s
10 Sanders (Subaru) +7m13.6s