Travis Pastrana is the new leader of the New England Forest Rally after a dramatic loop that claimed Ken Block and cost former leader Barry McKenna significant time.
Following Friday’s five tests, it was reigning American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National Champion McKenna who led Block by 13 seconds in his Ford Fiesta WRC.
That advantage was trimmed on Saturday’s opening test but McKenna hit back on SS7 to extend his lead to 14.1s. But Aziscohos would prove the undoing of both McKenna and Block.
For Hoonigan Racing Division driver Block, the outcome was worse. A broken transmission aboard his Vermont SportsCar-built Subaru WRX STI sidelined him at around the halfway point of the 11.94-mile stage and resulted in his second non-score in two events following a minor accident on Southern Ohio Forest Rally.
McKenna meanwhile could only punch in the 22nd quickest time, 2m24.4s slower than David Higgins who won his first stage of the weekend, to plummet down from the lead and into fourth place.
The reason for his time loss was a puncture four miles in, but the crew did get to the end successfully.
McKenna’s drama was exactly what points leader Pastrana required however as he snuck into the rally lead. The Subaru Motorsports USA driver had been making strong advances before his path was paved clear – winning the opening stage by over five seconds and closing to just 0.5s behind Block before the rally turned on its head.
Higgins, driving a Ford Fiesta WRC from McKenna Motorsport, doubled up on his SS8 stage win on the short Morton Cutoff test that concluded the loop but it’s Pastrana that leads, albeit by just 3.8s.
Pastrana’s Subaru team-mate Brandon Semenuk hasn’t been able to match Pastrana or Higgins’ pace on Saturday, but by avoiding trouble he is now into the podium reckoning, 26.1s down on the lead.
McKenna was back up to pace on SS9 but with a 2m09.9s deficit to Pastrana he will need some sort of issue to befall his rival in order to resume the lead he fought hard to earn.
Block’s demise has promoted US rallying debutant Marty McCormack in his Škoda Fabia R5+ into the top five, and he’s now 3m47s clear of sixth-placed Paul Rowley.
Rowley had looked under threat of being swallowed by 16-year-old Jax Redline on Friday; the off-road racer lurking just 1.1s behind the Ford Fiesta R5 driver in Block’s Escort Cossie V2.
However Redline went off on SS6 and lost over 36 minutes, dropping himself well out of contention and compounding a loop to forget for the Hoonigan squad and a tricky second day in rallying for Redline.
His misdemeanor instead left Rowley to worry about John Coyne, with Coyne bringing his Fiesta Rally2 to the end of the loop only 15.3s behind in seventh.
Patrick Brennan has moved his Fiesta Proto into the top 10 in eighth spot, 27.3s clear of Arek Bialobrzeski’s Subaru.
Two-wheel-drive leader Seamus Burke rounds out the overall top 10 in his Ford Escort Mk2.
1 David Higgins/Craig Drew (Ford) 2m22.7s
2 Travis Pastrana/Rhianon Gelsomino (Subaru) +0.6s
3 Barry McKenna/Leon Jordan (Ford) +2.1s
4 Brandon Semenuk/John Hall (Subaru) +3.7s
5 Marty McCormack/Barney Mitchell (Škoda) +5.6s
6 Paul Rowley/Dominik Jozwiak (Ford) +16.2s
Leading positions after SS9
1 Pastrana/Gelsomino 51m14.4s
2 Higgins/Drew +3.8s
3 Semenuk/Hall +26.1s
4 McKenna/Jordan +2m09.9s
5 McCormack/Mitchell +2m38.2s
6 Rowley/Jozwiak +6m25.2s
7 John Coyne/Nick Dobbs (Ford) +6m40.5s
8 Paddy Brennan/Niall Burns (Ford) +7m44.4s
9 Arek Bialobrzeski/Aris Mantopoulos (Subaru) +8m11.7s
10 Seamus Burke/Martin Brady (Ford) +8m31.5s