For the fourth year in a row, Subaru Rally Team USA driver Ken Block has won the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood event, hosting round two of the 2009 Rally America National Championship in dominating fashion. Block was uncatchable behind the wheel of his 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX STI on the fast Missouri roads, cruising to victory by over forty seconds. Subaru teammate Travis Pastrana was Block's only competition early on, but his challenge was cut short when he went off the road while pushing hard to match Block's pace, leading to car damage that forced him to retire from the rally. Subaru Rally Team USA's new third driver, BMX legend Dave Mirra, was the biggest surprise of the event with his debut in the new Super Production Class, finishing second in class and leading the class for nearly the entire rally.
The Salem-based Rally in the 100 Acre Wood event in Missouri is a high-speed gravel rally featuring fast roads that are a favorite of many rally drivers. Ken Block especially favors this event and it clearly shows with four straight dominating wins. The rally, set in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, is known for highly variable weather conditions. Most of this year's rally was dry and fast but a sudden flash snowstorm affected the final stages of the event.
As expected, Ken Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino got off to a flying start winning three of the five stages on day one to achieve a comfortable lead of over one minute. They maintained that lead throughout day two with mistake-free driving, cruising to victory by over forty seconds. "I love the flow of the stages of this event, I love the high speeds," exclaimed Block at the finish. "My Subaru was really set up perfectly and that gave me the confidence to go flat-out on the real high-speed sections."
With four wins in a row at the 100 Acre Wood Rally Ken Block now shares a record with his mentor, American rally legend John Buffum, who won this event four times in a row from 1977 to 1980. "To share a record of any sort with [John] Buffum is incredible," mentioned Block. "I don't think I'll come close to any of his other records, though!"
Block's new Subaru teammate, BMX legend Dave Mirra, raised eyebrows with his debut in the recently introduced Super Production (SP) Class, a new category for 2009 that features minimally modified, production-based cars. Mirra showed impressive speed at the start of the rally in his Subaru WRX STI, finishing day one in third Overall and leading the SP Class comfortably. Mirra was the fastest in-class on eight of the event's fourteen competition stages. Unfortunately, Mirra narrowly missed out on a class win when he slowed on Stage 14 to ensure he stayed on the road due to a flash snowstorm in that area. Fellow SP class challenger and veteran Subaru privateer Matt Johnson capitalized on the treacherous road condition and beat Mirra for the SP class win by just three seconds. "I felt really comfortable in the SP-spec Subaru, and it was really encouraging to see our stage times were right up there with the Open Class cars," explained Mirra "I've got a lot of confidence now and I know I can fight for the SP class championship this year and maybe even mix it up at the top of the standings for some Overall points too."
Three-time defending Rally America Champion Travis Pastrana vowed to challenge Block this weekend, and it looked as if the two drivers would be locked in a tight battle. After taking the early lead from Block on stage 3, Pastrana made an error on Stage 4 that sent his Subaru off the road. Although Pastrana and his co-driver Christian Edstrom walked away unharmed, their Subaru was too damaged to continue.