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May 19, 2009 - Subaru Rally Team USA driver Travis Pastrana is back atop the Rally America National Championship standings after winning the 2009 Oregon Trail Rally this past weekend. Pastrana, the three-time defending Rally America National Champion strode to victory in Oregon with a faultless drive behind the wheel of his 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX STI rally car, winning by nearly one minute. Pastrana and his co-driver Christian Edstrom have now won three of the first four Rally America rounds and are in prime position to challenge for a fourth consecutive championship with five rounds remaining.
The 2009 Oregon Trail Rally, round four of the 2009 Rally America National Championship, featured over 100 miles of competition on a course that included a mix of twisty, hard-packed forest conditions and wide-open farming roads. The event kicked-off with a night of fan-friendly mixed-surface stages at Portland International Raceway and then moved east to the Mt. Hood area for the remainder of the weekend. The conditions were sunny and bright, making for dry and dusty roads and a visibility challenge for teams.
Pastrana took the lead early on Day Two, and then set a blazing pace later in the day to increase his gap substantially. With a comfortable margin over challengers Tanner Foust and Andrew Comrie Picard, Pastrana was able to cruise to victory on Day Three while a battle ensued behind him for the remaining podium positions. "It was a near-perfect rally for us, we fought hard early to establish a lead and then were able to take it easy through the rest of the weekend," explained Pastrana. "Our Subaru was flawless again, and we have made good progress in finding more speed and drivability with our 2009 STI. My Subaru was an absolute blast to drive this weekend!"
Pastrana now vaults to the lead of the 2009 Rally America National Championship and is in an excellent position to challenge for his fourth consecutive Rally America National Championship. "In the past couple years I've had good success at each of the five remaining rounds, "said Pastrana. "The pressure is off just a bit now but this year the competition is much harder and the battles are tighter so I'm sure it won't be easy!"
The pressure is now shifted onto the shoulders of Pastrana's Subaru Rally Team USA teammate Ken Block and his co-driver Alex Gelsomino who ran into more bad luck at Oregon. The duo was forced to retire from the rally after sustaining damage to their front left suspension after going off the road due to a tire puncture. "Under braking after a high speed section the car suddenly didn't want to turn and in an instant I realized it was due to a sudden, and very bad, front left tire puncture. I had no choice but to go off the road and over a ditch, which damaged the front left suspension," explained a dejected Block. Block has failed to finish three of the first four events but his strong win at the 100 Acre Wood Rally and his commanding speed in each rally give him hope of fighting back. Block re-entered the Oregon Trail Rally on Day Three, for exhibition only, and won all five stages, proving again he has the speed to win.
In the Super Production (SP) Class the story was attrition. Nearly all of the top SP Class finishers encountered problems and failed to finish. But Subaru Rally Team USA driver Dave Mirra with co-driver Derek Ringer stayed trouble-free and drove a smart rally at the wheel of their 2009 Subaru WRX STI to finish first in the SP Class and 6th Overall. During post-race inspection, however, a minor specification infraction on Mirra's car led race officials to penalize the #40 car of Mirra and Ringer one SP Class position, dropping him to 2nd in SP Class. "There were some great battles early on but then as everyone started to have trouble I just backed off and found a comfortable pace," said Mirra. "I've gotten much more comfortable with the new 2009 STI and feel I was much more consistent with my driving. The best is yet to come."
Subaru Rally Team USA now transits back to the east coast for the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally (June 5-6) and then on to the New England Forest Rally (July 17-18).
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Subaru Rally Team USA is proudly supported by Subaru of America, Inc., Subaru Tecnica International (STI), Subaru Performance Tuning (SPT), DC Shoes, BFGoodrich Tires, RECARO, Alpinestars, Motul, Exedy, GReddy and Vermont SportsCar. Visit www.subaru.com/rally for Subaru Rally Team USA photo galleries, news and team information.