DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – Hoonigan Racing’s Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino built a commanding lead at the Ojibwe Forests Rally Friday and Saturday and finished first overall – the first ever career Ojibwe Forests Rally victory for Block and his third straight overall win in the Rally America National Championship.
Block drove a relatively problem-free event and enjoyed being first on the road with a dust-free ahead of him. The other teams were not as lucky as hope for rain never materialized to minimize the dust. Block pushed hard to establish his lead and finished 5:33.2 over second place Subaru Rally Team USA.
Block is in the midst of a furious comeback in the Rally America National Championship points standings. The Hoonigan Racing driver fell behind Subaru Rally Team USA at the beginning of the season with multiple mechanical failures, but has since won the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally, New England Forest Rally, and now the Ojibwe Forest Rally.
Though Subaru Rally Team USA still leads the standings the Lake Superior Performance Rally (LSPR) returns to the Rally America National Championship calendar setting the stage for Subaru Rally Team USA and Hoonigan Racing to decide who holds the Rally America title.
“I had some bad luck at the beginning of the year and it came to be that I needed to win four-in-a-row to win the Championship,” Block said. “I’ve done three of the four. I’m stoked to be in this position and looking forward to having a good showdown with (Subaru Rally Team USA) at the last event.”
Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins and Craig Drew had a chance to lock up the Rally America title, but battled through blinding dust on the first day of the event. A scary moment occurred on the second day when Higgins lost power steering and injured his hand, which painfully prevented him from shifting the car smoothly. In addition a vehicle rolled over Higgin’s ankle during a roadside repair and Higgins walked around service with a noticeable limp. But the team pressed on to a hard fought second place podium spot.
While the top two Ojibwe finishers were powerful all-wheel-drive Open Class rally cars, a Two-Wheel Drive (2WD) Ford Fiesta R2 took the third podium position. Australian’s Brendan Reeves and Rhianon Smyth drove a clean race and capitalized on the misfortunes of those above them to land on the overall podium and won the 2WD category in the process. This is Reeves and Smyth’s fourth consecutive 2WD victory.
“We came here to win, we don’t want to settle for second best,” said Reeves, “Rhianon has been great on the pace notes and the car has performed admirably.”
The 2WD podium was completed with Dodge Neon SRT4 driver Chris Greenhouse and co-driver Peter Watt in second place, and Scion Racing Rally xD’s Andrew Comrie-Picard and Jeremy Wimpey in third.
Greenhouse and Comrie-Picard traded positions multiple times during the event, but Greenhouse kept driving a clean race while Comrie-Picard dealt with flat tires and a rollover. Comrie-Picard currently leads the 2WD standings, but now needs to win at LSPR to take his first 2WD title. Greenhouse comfortably keeps third place in the 2WD standings.
In the Super Production (SP) Class, local Minnesota resident Nick Roberts took his first ever class win in his rookie season while using a new co-driver, Steve Quin. Roberts is a candidate for Rally America’s Rookie of the Year and this class win strengthens his bid.
“It’s pretty cool and surreal to win Super Production,” added Robert, “I went into the rally only expecting to battle for third place. But the team kept me going and I just hung in there. I keep pinching myself.”
Longtime 2WD driver Dillon Van Way with co-driver Andrew Edwards switched to the SP Class at Ojibwe for the first time and finished only 19.7 seconds behind Roberts. Rally America’s youngest driver, Mason Moyle with co-driver Ryan Scott, took SP third place for his fourth podium finish this season, and keeps his second place position in the SP standings.
Notable top national teams failed to finish the Ojibwe Forests Rally that gave others opportunities to capitalize. Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team’s Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard entered with a new Subaru rally car and held third overall until an electrical failure prevented the car from starting at stage 9 Indonesian driver Rifat Sungkar with co-driver Steve Lancaster suffered a head gasket leak on the second day that put them out of sixth place overall.
Attrition struck the SP Class when current SP points leaders David Sterckx and Karen Jankowski blew their engine on stage 1. The team reentered the second day and finished tenth overall, and 4th in SP. 2012 Super Production Champions Lauchlin O’Sullivan and Scott Putnam suffered a mechanical failure and were unable to continue on the second day of the event.
The first day of the Ojibwe Forests Rally was interrupted when the Ford Focus of Cameron Steely and Billy Irvin went up in flames on stage 5. The remaining portions of stage 5 and stage 6 were transited as fire fighters put out the brief blaze.
Michigan drivers Henry and Cynthia Krolikowski won the Paul Bunyan’s Ride and 10,000 Lakes Regional Rallies.
Team Honda Research engineer James Robinson with co-driver James Guitar took a sixth consecutive B-Spec Championship win in their 2009 Honda Fit.
In the Manufacturers’ Championship Ken Block’s overall victory helped Ford close the gap to Subaru who leads the standings. After Ojibwe Subaru leads with 112 points and Ford has 94 points. Each manufacturer must drop one event.