Hoonigan Racing's Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino took their first overall win of the season at the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally (STPR), round four of the 2013 Rally America National Championship, held on May 31-June 1 in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania.
The victory marks the duo's second STPR Rally overall win and it comes at a critical time when Block needed a victory to close the gap to current Rally America National Championship points leader, David Higgins and Craig Drew from Subaru Rally Team USA.
Block and Gelsomino were able to win 12 of 16 STPR Rally stages in their 2012 Ford Fiesta H.F.H.V. without much of the mechanical problems that have plagued the team since the beginning of the season.
"The weekend went really well," said Block, "The first three (Rally America) events of the year went really horrible for me. I am really happy to come here at STPR and have an event with some good luck."
Block never relinquished the STPR Rally lead from the event's first stage and built a solid margin over second place finisher, David Sterckx and Karen Jankowski, this year's top finishing Super Production Class drivers.
After winning the last two Rally America rounds, Subaru Rally Team USA quickly lost ground when they broke a steering arm on stage 3 that knocked them out of contention. The team returned to competition on Saturday using SuperRally rules, which allows a team to compete for Championship points after a time penalty, and began Saturday in the 21st position and drove outright to salvage a third place overall podium finish.
Higgins also benefited when FY Racing's Adam Yeoman and Jordan Schulze's engine seized on stage 10. At that time Yeoman held second overall and appeared to be holding the position until the drastic engine failure.
David Sterckx and Karen Jankowski's overall podium paralleled their hard fought Super Production Class victory. Sterckx overcame a number of mechanical problems to keep adding to his STPR lead and as a result Sterckx will now assume the top of the Super Production Class standings from Evan Cline who skipped STPR in favor of attending the next round.
"It was a good win especially after the last year we had," said Sterckx "We also started this season really bad, but after the second event we got better and now have won two events in a row. We have to keep it this way to win the Championship."
Rally America's youngest rally driver, Mason Moyle, with co-driver John Hall took second place to land on their fourth Super Production podium, and Garry Gill (winner of an India National Rally Championship round in a two-wheel drive car) with co-driver Paddy Robinson took third place for his first U.S. podium.
In only their second Rally America event Australians Brendan Reeves and Rhianon Smyth won the Two-Wheel Drive (2WD) category in their 2012 Ford Fiesta R2 despite Reeves dealing with a cold that sapped his stamina. Reeves led the category from the beginning and stayed just ahead of Scion Racing's Andrew Comrie-Picard and Jeremy Wimpey. Reeves impressively finished fourth overall besting his fifth overall finish at the Oregon Trail Rally.
"The car performed excellent and we were trying to push to keep third place overall, but Higgins had to spoil that fun," said Reeves. "It's a great win and we'll see if we can keep racing in Rally America this year."
Comrie-Picard survived three broken transmissions, a roll during testing, but more importantly finished second place to preserve his 2WD National standings lead. Amazingly, Dillon Van Way and Andrew Edwards, also came through a rough rally event to take third place despite a broken drive shaft, turbo power loss and a fused clutch.
James Robinson and Jordan Guitar rebounded from not finishing at the Oregon Trail Rally to take the B-Spec Championship round win at STPR. Robinson keeps Honda on top of the B-Spec Manufacturers' Championship while leading his B-Spec category.
Ford maintains third place in the overall Manufacturers' Championship, but gained some ground on Subaru, which leads both the overall and the Super Production categories. Ford will overtake Scion for the Two-Wheel Drive category in the Manufacturers' race with this STPR win.
In the Jack Sherwood Forest Rally for Regional competitors, Justin Prichard and Ryan Scott won in their Subaru Impreza, while Mark Piatkowski and Robert Maciejski took the Finger Lakes Regional Rally.
Rally America is proudly supported by Subaru of America, Ford Racing, VP Racing Fuels, Honda Development Research, GrimmSpeed, Exedy Racing Clutches and Teleblend.
About Rally America:
Based in Williston, VT, Rally America, Inc. sanctions the Rally America National Championship which consists of at least six national-level events located at a variety of venues across the country, from Portland, Oregon to Newry, Maine. Top competitors in the Rally America National Championship reach speeds of well over 100 mph driving highly modified street cars such as Mitsubishi Evolutions, Subaru WRX STI's, Ford Fiestas and Scion XD's on natural-terrain courses consisting of gravel, dirt, ice or snow. For more information regarding Rally America's National Championship or the sport of performance rally, visit www.rally-america.com
STPR Rally photo gallery: http://www.rally-america.com/events/2013/STPR/gallery/photos
2013 STPR Rally Top 10
Pos Class Driver/CoDriver Time
1 Open Ken Block / Alex Gelsomino 1:44:11.8
2 Open David Sterckx / Karen Jankowski 1:54:28.1
3 Open David Higgins / Craig Drew 1:54:55.2
4 2WD Brendan Reeves / Rhianon Smyth 1:55:39.8
5 2WD Andrew Comrie-Picard / Jeremy Wimpey 1:58:11.7
6 Open George Plesek / Alex Kihurani 1:58:17.7
7 Open Peter Fetela / Dominik Jozwiak 1:59:47.6
8 Open Art Gruszka / Lukasz Wronski 2:00:35.5
9 2WD Dillon Van Way / Andrew Edwards 2:02:49.9
10 SP Mason Moyle / John Hall 2:03:24.0
Mandatory photo credit for all photos: Alex Haugen
2013 STPR Rally Winners: Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino
Super Production winners David Sterckx and Karen Jankowski.
Brendan Reeves and Rhianon Smyth win 2WD Class.