Travis Pastrana has rolled out of the New England Forest Rally on the penultimate stage, meaning David Higgins stands on the verge of victory on his first rally since 2019.
Subaru Motorsports USA’s Pastrana and the team’s ex-driver Higgins were locked in a battle for the win on Saturday afternoon following the demise of Barry McKenna to first a puncture and then a mechanical failure, and Ken Block to a broken transmission.
It was advantage Pastrana as the American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National points leader had nine seconds in hand over Higgins who was driving a Ford Fiesta WRC for the first time.
But that all changed on the super-quick, 3.17-mile blast through Morton Cutoff as Pastrana rolled his Subaru less than a mile from the end of the stage.
Both he and co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino are unharmed but it’s a massive opportunity squandered for Pastrana who was set to make another huge championship gain with McKenna already out of the running.
It is however a gift that Higgins, Craig Drew and the entire McKenna Motorsport team will gladly accept as the 10-time US rally champion is now just one stage and 3.8 miles away from a historic victory.
Higgins leads Pastrana’s team-mate Brandon Semenuk by 34.4s ahead of that final stage, with Marty McCormack now up to third place in the McKenna Škoda Fabia R5+ as he won the second run through the short Morton Cutoff stage.
The rest of the runners made similar positional gains to McCormack because of Pastrana’s error and McKenna’s mechanical troubles, meaning Paul Rowley is now up to fourth overall in his Ford Fiesta R5 ahead of John Coyne’s newer Rally2 variant.
Gaps are speading out between the Irishmen though, with over a minute separating Rowley and Coyne and 50s splitting Coyne and sixth-placed Patrick Brennan.
Arek Bialobrzeski, Enda McCormack, two-wheel-drive leader Seamus Burke and Mark Piatkowski complete the top 10 with one stage remaining.
1 Marty McCormack/Barney Mitchell (Škoda) 2m30.5s
2 John O’Sullivan/Barry McNulty (Ford) +9.6s
3 John Coyne/Nick Dobbs (Ford) +13.9s
4 Enda McCormack/Liam McCormack (Hyundai) +15.1s
5 Paddy Brennan/Niall Burns (Ford) +16.3s
6 Brandon Semenuk/John Hall (Subaru) +17.5s
Leading positions after SS13
1 David Higgins/Craig Drew (Ford) 1h19m44.0s
2 Semenuk/Hall +34.4s
3 McCormack/Mitchell +3m10.1s
4 Paul Rowley/Dominik Jozwiak (Ford) +9m39.8s
5 Coyne/Dobbs +11m07.5s
6 Brennan/Burns +11m57.5s
7 Arek Bialobrzeski/Aris Mantopoulos (Subaru) +12m43.6s
8 E McCormack/L McCormack +13m15.7s
9 Seamus Burke/Martin Brady (Ford) +13m15.8s
10 Mark Piatkowski/Aaron Crescenti (Subaru) +15m17.0s