The Salem News - Article


RALLY IN THE 100 ACRE WOOD: Block wins fifth straight

by Dwayne McClellan
Staff Writer
newsstaff@earthlink.net

Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino were driving a Ford Fiesta and using Pirellis tires for the first time on gravel roads. But the end result was the same as the two finished with their fifth straight win in the two-day Rally in the 100 Acre Wood.

"I enjoyed winning this race probably more than any other time," Block said in a post-race interview at Salem City Administrative offices Feb. 27. "Racing like this is something that I enjoyed as a kid, now I'm getting to do it full-time."

The pair's win this year wasn't easy. Block said he had a little luck on his side and was able to take advantage of some misfortunes of other racers. He finished with a time of one hour, 27 minutes and 27 seconds over the 14 stages Saturday. His time was 20 seconds better than the second place team of Antoine L'Estrange and Natalie Richard in their 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer EVOX. Taking third was William Bacon and Peter Watt in their 2006 Mitsubishi EVO IX.

Race officials said it was the first time since 2004 that a Subaru car wasn't on the winners' podium. Block had been driving a Subaru but switched to a Ford Fiesta this year.

Block and Gelsomino, his co-driver, started the second day more than a minute behind rally leader Travis Pastrana, who was ahead after Friday's rally events north of Salem.

"I was getting a little frustrated that night (Friday), but I thought I would get up and it would be a new day where I could go all out," Block said.

Block was able to gain some ground after L'Estrange dropped to third place due to a water crossing visibility issue and a puncture on the second stage of the day.

Pastrana continued to hold the lead until his Subaru left rear control arm broke Saturday on the Super Special Stage in Potosi, and he was unable to continue. Block then took the lead.

L'Estrange pushed to catch Block and posted comparatively close stage times with him, but Block held off L'Estrange in the end for the win.

"It is a pretty good feeling to get the Fiesta home in first," Block said.

Having secured his consecutive second-place finish this season, L'Estrange, from Quebec, now leads the Rally America Championship with 34 points. Privateer Bacon joined L'Estage on the podium again despite having some difficulties with his Mitsubishi's new set up, but Bacon's consistency has now put him second in the overall championship standings with 28 points.

The father-son team of Travis and Terry Hanson won the Super Production class by over two and a half minutes over their closest rivals.

Attrition was heavy in Super Production, with several crews retiring throughout the rally with various mechanical issues. Tim Rooney and Dennis Hotson placed second in class followed by Wazoo Racing's Tim Penasack and Alex Kihurani.

In the Two-Wheel Drive Class, Chris Duplessis and Catherine Woods remained dominant with another win in their 1990 Volkswagen Golf. Duplessis had reported alignment problems on the first day of the rally, but finished 10th overall with a nearly six minute spread over reigning Group 2 Champ, Dillon Van Way. John Conley and Keith Rudolph finished third.

The Rally in the 100 Acre Wood also hosted the Rally America Regional Championship, where regional winners from 2009 gathered to shoot it out for top honors. This year, the husband-wife team of Henry and Cynthia Krolikowski won the showdown for the Central Region in an Open Class 2000 Subaru Impreza.

The next national event on the Rally America calendar is the Olympus Rally in Olympia, Wash., April 24-25. This year there will be six forest events from Maine to Washington, before X Games 16, plus three new European style rallycross events.

MORE ON THE RALLY

An estimated 1,500 people were in downtown Salem Saturday to look at cars taking part in the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood, talk to drivers and co-drivers and watch the cars start on the second day of the event, according to chairman Tom VonHatten.

Estimates are that 2,000 people were at various spectator points over the course of the event. It was a successful two-day event in regards to spectators and driving competition, he said.

"I don't know how that compares to other rallies," VonHatten said. "But those are just stellar numbers. It just shows you that interest in rally racing is growing every year."

Von Hatten said there were 45 cars that started the event, and 37 finished.

"We feel that everything went well," VonHatten said.

There was one delay Saturday when extra time was used to set up a spectator point to accommodate those who wanted to watch the race and to ensure their safety.

"Safety of the fans is a number one priority," VonHatten said.

VonHatten said due to the growing number of people attending the different events, organizers will have to start planning and preparations earlier.

"More volunteers and more spectators put a little more demand on us, but we do what we have to," VonHatten said.