Subaru Rally Team USA driver Travis Pastrana has earned a decisive victory at Michigan's Sno*Drift Rally, round one of the 2009 Rally America National Championship, at the wheel of his 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Pastrana, the three-time defending Rally America National Champion, controlled the rally from start to finish, winning eleven of the twenty competitive stages on his way to a margin of victory of nearly two minutes. Pastrana's Subaru teammate Ken Block was forced to retire after a spin damaged the engine on his Subaru early on day one. Meanwhile, new Subaru Rally Team USA signee BMX legend Dave Mirra drove a clean rally to finish 6th Overall, his best ever Rally America result to date.
The Sno*Drift Rally was held on over 130 miles of snow- and ice-covered roads in northern Michigan. Constantly changing weather and road conditions historically make this rally extremely challenging. The forest roads were covered with fresh snow over layers of ice each morning. Rally America rules also prohibit the use of spiked or studded ice tires at Sno*Drift, placing a premium on road traction.
The victory at SnoDrift is sweet redemption for Pastrana after being stripped of a likely win at last year's Sno*Drift Rally, when he collided with a deer while leading the rally with just eleven miles to go. "It's a great way to start the season, coming away with maximum points under my belt," said Pastrana. "But every mailbox looked like a deer on that last stage!"
After spending a season sitting with former WRC champion co-driver Derek Ringer, Pastrana has reunited with his long time co-driver Christian Edstrom. Ringer will continue with the team and co-drive for Dave Mirra in 2009. Pastrana and Edstrom quickly got back to business together, winning five of the first eight stages to end day one with a commanding lead of over fifty seconds. On day two, Pastrana was able to extend his lead dramatically with six more stage wins to finish over one minute and forty-nine seconds clear of rival Tanner Foust.
Pastrana may have had another challenger at his heels had his teammate Ken Block, with co-driver Alex Gelsomino, had not encountered problems early. Block won the first stage and then kept pace with Pastrana on the next three stages. However, an impact from an incident on stage five resulted in an overheated engine and subsequent retirement on stage six. "We had a quick spin where we stayed on the road and ended up pointing in the right direction, we hardly lost any time," explained Block. "Then before the start of the next stage we checked the car and realized the front bumper was missing. We didn't think it was anything major, but either something must have been damaged or snow became built up around the radiator causing the engine to overheat."
Dave Mirra had a less eventful rally: the BMX legend and burgeoning rally driver drove smart and trouble-free to achieve a 6th Overall finish, his best ever Rally America National Championship result. Mirra's rally program will expand in 2009, with increased support from Subaru of America Inc. and Monster Energy, that will see him join Subaru Rally Team USA drivers Ken Block and Travis Pastrana at all nine rounds of the 2009 Rally America National Championship as well as X Games 15. Mirra will compete in the new Super Production Class and debut a 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX STI early in the race season.
"Although it's a shame that Ken and Alex weren't able to finish the rally, their competitive stage times up until their DNF, along with the strong finishing results of their teammates, are a good reflection of our Impreza platform working so well in such difficult conditions and indicated that SRT USA was on point with setup for our cars," mentioned James Han of Subaru of America Inc. Adds Han, "The series competition looks very solid [this year], especially within the Open and SP Classes. It should be very exciting."