Subaru Motorsports USA’s Travis Pastrana has continued his scintillating start to the 2021 American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National season, establishing an early lead of the DirtFish Olympus Rally ahead of team-mate Brandon Semenuk.
The winner of both the Sno*Drift and 100 Acre Wood Rallies earlier in the season, Pastrana started round three as the man to beat and duly proved it as he and co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino set a strong pace in their WRX STI.
Quickest on the opening stage, Deckerville Reverse, by 1.3 seconds over old nemesis Ken Block, Pastrana was edged by Semenuk on the following Plug Mill Reverse test but a poorer time from Block allowed Pastrana’s lead gap to swell to 4.4s.
Getting a second stage win of the two-day rally on SS3 Stillwater Reverse allowed Pastrana to increase his advantage by a further 2.4s to head Semenuk and John Hall by 6.8s at first service.
But the wet weather which has blighted the rally today has created some difficulties, as rally leader Pastrana explained to DirtFish.
“[It’s] very, very different [to recce], there’s slime,” he said.
“When we recce’d it was probably the best traction we’ve seen up here so it definitely fits into Brandon’s wheelhouse, it’s going to be a hell of a time to hold him off.”
Semenuk made similar remarks about the stage conditions.
“It was a lot slippier than I expected. Sometimes at Olympus the rain doesn’t affect the roads too much but just everywhere was pretty slippery,” said Semenuk.
“My first loop maybe wasn’t as good as it should’ve been or could’ve been but I think if I get into a rhythm here I could create a pretty good battle with Travis so that’s the idea.”
Block – driving a Subaru for the first time in 12 years after a one-off outing in a Škoda last month – did well to lost just 1.3s to Pastrana on his first rally with the Vermont SportsCar-built machine. But he slipped back on the two stages thereafter, dropping to third with an 11.6s deficit to the rally leader.
Behind the trio of Subarus lurk a gaggle of R5s, headed by Hyundai junior driver Josh McErlean. On his first US rally start, the i20 R5 pilot has set the fourth-fastest time on all three stages to hold that same position overall, albeit 1m12s down on the more powerful WRX STI of Pastrana that leads.
McErlean does have some familiar competition in Irish compatriot and fellow Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Callum Devine though. Devine, driving a McKenna Motorsports Ford Fiesta Rally2, is 19.1s behind McErlean after three tests but did manage to get within 0.5s of his rival’s time on SS2 Plug Mill Reverse.
Devine also leads the McKenna Motorsports charge as reigning ARA National Champion Barry McKenna is absent for personal reasons. The team’s second car, driven by Ryan Booth, is in sixth place and 18.9s behind ARA rookie Devine on his first event with the latest generation of M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Jeff Seehorn is used to running as high as fourth and running as best of the rest behind the title contenders, but due to the increased competition in Washington the Subaru driver is all the way down in seventh at this early stage, 26.6s shy of Booth’s Fiesta.
He, in turn, has a 38.1s cushion over Paul Rowley’s Fiesta R5 after both drivers were seventh and eighth fastest respectively on all three of the loop’s stages.
John Coyne had been ninth after the opening stage in his Ford Fiesta R5 but he was shuffled down the order as the loop wore on, first by Geroge Plsek and then Matthew Dickinson.
Dickson leads this pack in ninth with his Subaru, a slender 0.3s up on Plsek’s Mitsubishi with Coyne also just 3.9s further behind in his Ford Fiesta R5.
Derik Nelson leads the two-wheel-drive class in 12th overall, himself just 2.9s behind Coyne in his Subaru BRZ.
Leading positions after SS3
1 Travis Pastrana/Rhianon Gelsomino (Subaru) 21m20.7s
2 Brandon Semenuk/John Hall (Subaru) +6.8s
3 Ken Block/Alessandro Gelsomino (Subaru) +19.9s
4 Josh McErlean/Keaton Williams (Hyundai) +1m12.0s
5 Callum Devine/James Fulton (Ford) +1m31.1s
6 Ryan Booth/Andy Hayes (F0rd) +1m50.0s
7 Jeff Seehorn/Glen Ray (Subaru) +2m16.6s
8 Paul Rowley/Dominik Jozwiak (Ford) 2m54.7s
9 Matthew Dickinson/Glen Ray (Subaru) +3m10.8s
10 George Plsek/Krista Skucas (Mitsubishi) +3m11.1s