The Salem News - Article

RALLY IN THE 100 ACRE WOOD: Block hopes to defend title

by Dwayne McClellan
Staff Writer

Three-time defending champion Ken Block has to be considered the favorite to retain his title this weekend in the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood.

"Ken does very well here," said Andrew Comrie-Pickerd, "so he's got the target on his back."

Forty-two cars and their teams have signed up to participate in the Feb. 27-28 2009 event, according to Tom vonHatten, event chairman.

Block and his co-driver, Alex Gelsomino, who have been partners since 2005, acknowledge their success and attribute that to their teamwork, cars and the good rally roads. The two said they are some of the best rally roads in America.

"It's a fast rally, and we like fast rallys," Gelsomino said Wednesday night during check-in at the Holiday Inn Express. "Even if the roads are wet you get consistent gripping."

The two, as well as the other drivers and co-drivers, received course directions and descriptions Wednesday night. They study them and drive over them in street vehicles at speeds no more than 35 miles an hour.

"That way we can make some changes or additions to the directions to help us," Block said. "By practicing on the roads it has helped make rallying safer."

Then, he said, on Friday and Saturday, it's driving as fast as you can.

Block said the co-driver is a key to rallying, and believes Gelsomino is the best there is. The directions may look confusing, but by studying them and developing a two-way communication, it's not that difficult, he said.

An L or an R means a left or right turn, which is followed by a number between one and six and then a larger set of numbers. The first number is rating the degree of the turn; a 1 means a hairpin and six a slight bend. The second set of numbers measures the length of the straightaway.

"The co-driver is basically the ears and eyes for the driver," Gelsomino said. "It's like you're the manager of the car and letting the driver know what's coming up."

"You can't make a mistake or you'll end up going the wrong way or worse," Block said.

- Guides to the 100 Acre Wood can be found at The Salem News, area convenience stores, the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce and various businesses around the county. More information is also available in the Feb. 24 edition of The Salem News and at