Travis Pastrana has maintained his 100% record in the 2021 American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National season by winning the second round, the 100 Acre Wood Rally, ahead of the returning Ken Block.
Pastrana finished 29 seconds ahead of Block – who drove a Škoda Fabia R5+ from McKenna Motorsports – with reigning ARA Champion Barry McKenna taking third in his Ford Fiesta as he debuted the latest generation of World Rally Car in the United States.
Subaru Motorsports USA’s Brandon Semenuk had to settle for fourth on stages he won in 2020 when the event ran as the Show Me Rally.
Right from the off, the battle between Subaru’s Pastrana and Semenuk and Block and McKenna was the one to watch, but it was Block that took an early lead – outpacing McKenna by 0.5s as he pursued his eighth 100AW Rally victory
On SS3 McKenna moved to the front and stayed there as he established an overnight advantage of 12.2s ahead of Pastrana, who won two stages to McKenna’s three.
Saturday started strongly for McKenna too as he nudged his lead up to 21.9s two stages into the day, only for it all to unravel thereafter. A front-right puncture robbed the Irishman of 2m43.8s as he limped to just the 54th fastest time.
The debacle dropped him to fourth, but a spirited fightback on the remaining five stages of the rally ensured he would snatch the final step of the rostrum away from Semenuk who felt he was hampered by a road position of fifth on Friday and then briefly battled radiator issues on Saturday.
McKenna’s drama released Pastrana out front who suddenly had a 42.1s advantage to protect over Block, who was adapting to a non-Ford machine for the first time on a rally since 2009.
Pastrana backed off across the final loop with nothing to gain but everything to lose, eventually losing almost half of the 54.5s cushion he had built for himself ahead of the final three stages.
But in securing victory in Missouri, Pastrana took his second 100AW win – to add to his success in 2016 – to put himself in an enviable championship position that’s in stark contrast to his 2020 season which began with a burnt-out car.
A rear driveshaft issue and two punctures across Saturday hampered Block’s assault on what ultimately proved to be a frustrating rally of ups and downs.
Despite a late change in co-driver when his regular navigator was snowed in and couldn’t make it to Missouri, Jeff Seehorn had a good run on his first event of the year, scooping a lonely fifth place in his Subaru.
He finished over six minutes behind Semenuk’s more potent works example but was equally over five minutes ahead of the battle behind him which was constantly evolving as the rally progressed.
A plethora of drivers were in contention for that sixth spot throughout the two days of competition, but in the end it was John O’Sullivan who secured it in his Ford Fiesta R5.
He was aided by the demise of Alek Bialobrzeski who retired his Subaru towards the end of the event, and O’Sullivan edged his Irish compatriot John Coyne by 1m12.16s while Coyne only had 10.3s over eighth-placed Michael Hooper in his Lexus IS350.
Enda McCormack took ninth overall in his Hyundai i20 R5 but was left to rue a puncture and a consequent lateness penalty of 1m40s which ultimately cost him seventh spot. Patrick Brennan rounded out the top 10 in his Ford Fiesta Proto.
Ryan Booth was expected to be a feature at the front and was included in the pre-event seeded draw, but the Ford Fiesta R5 pilot ran into mechanical gremlins on the second stage and was forced to retire as a result.
But with his power distribution unit problem fixed for Saturday, Booth returned to action and set several top five stage times as a sign of what might have been.
Final positions after SS14
1 Travis Pastrana/Rhianon Gelsomino (Subaru) 1h23m07.6s
2 Ken Block/Alessandro Gelsomino (Škoda) +29.0s
3 Barry McKenna/Leon Jordan (Ford) +1m14.1s
4 Brandon Semenuk/John Hall (Subaru) +1m38.5s
5 Jeff Seehorn/Glen Ray (Subaru) +8m23.8s
6 John O’Sullivan/Cameron Carr (Ford) +14m22.6s
7 John Coyne/Andres Bautista (Ford) +15m35.2s
8 Michael Hooper/Kevin Allen (Lexus) +15m45.5s
9 Enda McCormack/Liam McCormack (Hyundai) +16m18.2s
10 Patrick Brennan/Ryan Dunham (Ford) +18m01.0s