2010 Olympus Rally
Round 3 of the Rally America Championship
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Welcome to the Pacific Northwest for Round 3 of the Rally America Championship.
It’s here that Canadian and American titans of the sport clash in pursuit of crucial championship points. Also on the line are a coveted few invitations to X Games 16 in Los Angeles. It may not all be decided here, but with only 6 events on the national schedule every event counts.
Following his dramatic win at Round 2, 100 Acre Wood, Ken Block is looking to carry momentum into Round 3. At Olympus 2009 he had a frustrating rally, plagued with mechanical issues. Will his new Monster World Rally Team Ford Fiesta exorcise the demons of the past and hand him a victory?
Standing in his way is former teammate Travis Pastrana of the Subaru Rally Team USA. Travis has one win and one DNF going into this event, he’s also the reigning American champion with a decisive overall win in the 2009 Olympus.
Then there are the Canadians. Patrick Richard is a multi-time North American champion, Andrew-Comrie Picard always applies the pressure in his NOS Energy Mitsubishi Evo and then there’s the current Rally America points leader Antoine L’Estage in the Rockstar Royal Group Mitsubishi Evo 10.
The venue for this battle will be two days on the coast of Washington state, which features roads that can be just as unforgiving as the weather. Just staying on the road can be a challenge, especially at speeds of up to 120 miles per hour.
Day 1 service is out of the tribal village of Taholah. The roads in this native reservation can be brutal to cars and drivers alike.
On Special Stage 1: Wreck Creek. Ken Block and co-Driver Alex Gelsomino are first on course in the Ford Fiesta, but it’s Subaru #199 Travis Pastrana and Christrian Edstrom that take the stage win. 10 seconds behind is the Canadian team of Antoine L’estage and Nathalie Richard.
Nathalie’s Brother, Canadian Champion Patrick Richard, is off to a slow start in the rally with a distant 10th off the stage. He’s testing a new setup in his Canadian Championship car this weekend, but its unclear if the issue is the car or driver.
Only one stage in and it’s already trouble for the Monster World Rally Team. Fresh from WRC Turkey, co-driver Alex Gelsomino accidentally follows WRC time control rules and uncharacteristically checks the car in early to service. This incurs #43 an automatic 3-minute penalty -- a titanic setback for the team.
Back out to Stage 2, a re-run of Stage 1: This time Block Comes back with a decisive stage win, followed by Pastrana and L’Estage.
Block’s Fiesta is based on a euro-spec rallycross car, and its shorter suspension travel is giving the car a beating on these bumpy roads.
Now onto Stage 3: Tahola East.
Seems Travis Pastrana isn’t ready to give this one to his former teammate, he takes his second stage win of the day, widening his margin for overall victory.
Antoine L’Estage isn’t far behind. The Quebequis driver is playing second fiddle to Pastrana, a strategy that is working well for his overall points standings. He has yet to take a single overall win this season, but his consistent results have earned him a strong lead in the overall Series.
Trouble for another Canadian driver, Andrew Comrie Picard. His Evo has a big off on the stage, forcing him to retire early.
Pat Richard had his own off-road excitement on Stage 3. We’ll let him explain.
This debacle delays Richard a full 20 minutes for repairs. He’s not the only one that went off.
By Stage 4: Crane Creek, the rain has made soup of the roads. Giving the drivers an additional challenge they may not have been asking for.
Patrick Richard finds the speed he was looking for, and finishes the stage with a second place finish, just behind Pastrana. Meanwhile, L’Estage looses the pace and has a sixth place result.
The big mover is up-and-comer Dave Mirra. He snatches a third place stage finish, he best result of the day so far.
The conditions play their part and the Olympus rally claims three more cars, putting the total retirement count up to 9.
Now onto Stage Five, Tahola run in reverse.
Travis Pastana continues his run of stage wins.
Down the field, another familiar face is making his mark on this event. Ramana Lagemann, former Subaru factory driver from back when the series was managed by the SCCA, is building up an impressive lead in the Super Production class. This car was a last-minute replacement, since his new Mitusibshi EVO wasn’t quite ready. But it appears as though the car previously driven by Piotr Wiktorczyk is serving him well.
Meanwhile, it doesn’t appear as though anything is going well for the Monster World Rally Team. The Ford Fiesta has mechanical issues and the team is forced to retire.
After a brief service back in Tahola, the cars are back to re-run the previous three stages.
It was on Stage 8 when things started to get interesting. Antoine L’Estage finally takes his first stage win of the day, tied with Pastrana down to the tenth, ending the teams fist day of competition on a high note.
Another battle is brewing in the 2 wheel drive class between Chris Duplessis in the Volkswagen GTI and Dillon Van Way in a Ford Focus.
And that’s a wrap for Day 1. In total, 11 cars failed to finish.
Travis Pastrana leads the pack with a total cumulative time of 48:37 over nearly 65 stage miles.
Day 2 moves to the self-proclaimed Oyster Capital of the world, South Bend, Washington. These roads are faster than the rough roads of Day 1, with pea gravel just waiting to hurl unexpecting drivers off steep exposures.
Following an overnight re-seed, Pastrana kicks off the first stage of the day. Stage 9, a relatively short 5 mile run though logging land.
Seemingly unstoppable, Pastrana continues his stage domination with another outright win.
But who’s this in second place? Dave Mirra. Earlier in the day we spoke with Mirra about his bout with Bacterial meningitis. This is his first event back after being hospitalized for the dangerous disease.
That renewed focus has served him well. Along with co-driver Martin Headland, Dave is turning out a surprisingly strong performance in his factory-supported Subaru STI.
After the only service of the day, the rally starts to head out to the town of Brooklyn, Washington. This is a spot on the map that consists of just one business, the historic Brooklyn Tavern. It was built in 1927, when logging first took hold of the North River Valley.
It’s also at the head of one of the most famous Rally roads in the country: The Brooklyn Stage.
To get to Brooklyn, first teams have to make it through Special Stage 10: Smith Creek East: the same road used by locals to get to their favorite watering hole.
Here, Travis Pastrana and Antoine L’Estage tie the stage yet again, as privateer Bill Bacon and his Evo take what is his best result of the day: a third place stage finish.
Stage 11 is the first run on the historic Brooklyn stage. Over the years, its steep exposures have claimed more than a fair share of cars. Last year Pastrana was so fast, he broke the local stage record. This year, it’s a repeat, as Pastrana manages to be a full 10 seconds faster than L’Estage, with Richard coming in a close third.
Another Open Class competitor, Mark Fox, suffers a Blown Turbo, ending his bid
Richard carries his speed from Special Stage 11 into the return pass, Stage 12, with an outright stage win: 2 seconds faster than Pastrana. L’Estage, who we see here, sets the third best time.
By Stage 13, a reverse run of Smith Creek, only a crash can stop Pastrana’s overall victory. That fate didn’t fall to the Subaru Rally Team USA, instead, it was 2-wheel drive competitor Dillon Van Way who took a spill in his Ford Focus.
Pastrana ties Richard for the stage win on 13, securing the second overall win of the season for #199 and another visit to the to the podium.
L’Estage gave it a good fight, placing him in a second place finish.
The biggest victory of the weekend, goes to Dave Mirra in third. After battling a potentially debilitating disease just weeks ago, he returned to the Rally America Championship to claim his first overall podium.
Next up on the Championship is the Oregon Trail Rally. This 3-day event kicks off at Portland International Raceway on May 14th 2010, then heads to the arid eastern part of the state in the roads around Mount Hood.