Saturday, June 1, 2013

Block/Gelsomino win STPR despite furious comeback from Higgins/Drew

(L to R) Alex Gelsomino and Ken Block with their victory plaques
at the victory celebration of 2013 STPR. Photo credit: Lori Lass
Block/Gelsomino Ford Fiesta wins STPR despite furious comeback from Subaru points leaders Higgins/Drew in Pennsylvania Forest

After starting in eighth position on Saturday morning as the result of 11 minutes in penalties from Friday’s mechanical problems, the Subaru Impreza WRX STI of David Higgins (Isle of Man, UK) and Craig Drew (Bristol, UK) stormed back to finish third at the 37th running of the Waste Management Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally.

But it wasn’t enough to catch international renown stunt driver Ken Block and his co-driver Alex Gelsomino (both Park City, UT), who scored a ten minute overall win in his Ford Fiesta H.F.H.V, his first of the season, his second at STPR, and the 25th of his Rally America career.

Even though the first place position was not in doubt all day, Higgins and Block drove hard over the dusty Pennsylvania State Forest roads near Wellsboro, battling each other as if they were contesting for the lead. Of today’s none stages Block won five stages and Higgins won three, each driving more than 130 mph on the fastest sections or road, and thrilling the thousands of spectators who came out to see the event.

Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino blast past a rock cluster on their way to victory
 in their Ford Fiesta on Day 2 of the 2013 STPR. Photo credit: Lori Lass
“We saw the way that Higgins’ Subaru was carving up the field from his eighth place position, and we couldn’t risk giving him any chance, even though we had the big lead. We were happy to be running so well – these Pennsylvania roads are some,” said Block.

“We are so far behind in the points – he had 61 and we had 26 going into the event – that we had to win to stay competitive for the title chase, but he got by a lot of cars to finish third. Our next rally, the New England Forest Rally the end of next month, will be a definitive battle for this year’s title.  We will have to win again to stay alive,” said Block.

Of the original 54 starters, 39 cars finished the rally, which consisted of 115 miles over 16 competition stages in Pennsylvania’s Northern Tier.  Although thunderstorms were threatening all weekend from the west, it never rained in Wellsboro during the two-day event.

Other class winners included David Sterckx and Karen Jankowski, from Los Angeles, victorious in the Super Production class and second overall in their Subaru STI; and Brandan Reeves and Rhianon Smith (Australian), winner of the 2WD class and fourth overall.

The Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally was first conducted by the Finger Lakes Region, SCCA in 1977, with the assistance of members of other sports car clubs in the Rochester, N.Y area.  Members of these clubs (Triumph Touring Club, Corvair Owners Club, MG Car Club and others) had experience with previous performance events such as the Snowblower and Lunar Lunge which ran out of Rochester as early as 1965 and were part of the M.O.N.Y. series (Michigan, Ohio and New York), the forerunner of the SCCA ProRally series.

In the United States, performance rally teams have a driver and co-driver (or navigator) for each car, and the competitors race in segments (or stages) on closed public roads, trying to get from the beginning to the end of the stage as fast as they can.  Unlike other forms of motorsports, there is no practice allowed, and teams are only allowed one pass to review the course at the public speed limit before the event. In competition, the navigator then barks out the route instructions while the drive proceeds – sometimes at speeds exceeding 100 miles-per-hour – through forest, desert, and logging around at events around the country.  The cars, all street legal to allow driving on public roads between racing stages, are compact and sub-compact cars with varying amounts of performance modifications depending on the class they are running in.  The sight of these cars, running at speed through the woods to beat the clock, makes exciting spectating for the fans who come out to watch performance rally.

In the Jack Sherwood Forest Rally for Regional competitor (stages #1 - #8), Justin Prichard (Granville, OH) and Ryan Scott (Columbus, OH) won in their Subaru Impreza, while Mark Piatkowski (East Brunswick, NJ) and Robert Maciejski (Bay Shore, NY) took the Finger Lakes Regional event (stages #9 - #16).

Complete results at