Williston, VT — The 2013 Rally America National Championship season began in disarray when the Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team of Antione L’Estage and Nathalie Richard dramatically took the opening round win by overtaking the Subaru Rally Team USA on the very last stage of the Sno*Drift Rally.
The win placed a stamp that this year was not going to be easily controlled by the two-time Rally America defending champions, David Higgins and Craig Drew, but a series of mechanical problems and mishaps plagued the Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team the next two rounds that ultimately saw L’Estage and Richard crash at the Oregon Trail Rally and effectively ended their chances of adding another Rally America title.
Higgins and Drew quickly re-captured the Championship standings lead at the second round and built what appeared to be an insurmountable points buffer as the mid-season event, the Susquahannock Trail Performance Rally (STPR), took its turn in the Championship spotlight.
Subaru Rally Team USA had already won the last two rounds and STPR was theirs for the taking.
But Hoonigan Racing’s Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino, who returned to Rally America competition after a two-year hiatus and a favorite to win the Championship this season, drove a reasonably trouble-free STPR Rally to take their first win of the season. It was a major turn around for their year since Block and Gelsomino previously fell behind in the points standings due to an unfortunately long string of mechanical problems that forced the team to salvage points by using SuperRally rules.
The points were hard to come by, but Block and Gelsomino were able to finish the Sno*Drift and Oregon Trail Rally (the team DNF’d at the 100 Acre Wood Rally) to nab points in hopes of not letting the Subaru team run away with the standings. At the STPR Rally the mechanical bug afflicted Subaru Rally Team USA in a rare suspension mishap that forced the team to SuperRally for their first time.
That left Block and Gelsomino to cruise to an STPR Rally victory, a must win situation for the team that effectively extended their mathematical possibility of snatching the 2013 Rally America National Championship title.
That STPR victory sets up an interesting scenario for Ken Block. If he is able to drive to an overall win at the next three remaining Rally America rounds he WILL win the Rally America National Championship by a single point!
As it stands each overall victory awards 22 points to the top spot and 17 points to second place. Each driver is allowed to toss their worst event result. Assuming Ken Block wins the next three events, and both Higgins and Drew dropped their worst result (Block drops the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood DNF and Higgins drops the STPR third place result), Block will win the Rally America title with 113 points to Higgins 112 points!
“Going into STPR I actually wasn’t aware of the mathematical possibility that I was still in contention for the title this season,” said Block. “We did have a bunch of bad luck mechanically the first half of the season and I’m happy that we were able to put that behind us with the win at STPR. Obviously I still plan on going as hard as I can for the remaining races to try and win the Championship this year and this news only helps motivate me further.”
It is worth noting that Higgins and Block still need to keep an eye over their shoulder as other drivers lurk to derail this scenario with their own dreams of taking an overall win.
Indonesia’s Rifat Sungkar has proven in just his short time with Rally America that he has the skills and machinery to make it on the podium. Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard have not given up on returning to the U.S. rally stages and are currently signed up to compete at the New England Forest Rally, the next round of the Rally America National Championship on July 26-27 in Newry, Maine. The New England Forest Rally was previously won by Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard with the Subaru Rally Team USA taking second place.
Rally America is proudly supported by Subaru of America, Ford Racing, VP Racing Fuels, Honda Development Research, GrimmSpeed, Exedy Racing Clutches and Teleblend.
About Rally America:
Based in Williston, VT, Rally America, Inc. sanctions the Rally America National Championship which consists of at least six national-level events located at a variety of venues across the country, from Portland, Oregon to Newry, Maine. Top competitors in the Rally America National Championship reach speeds of well over 100 mph driving highly modified street cars such as Mitsubishi Evolutions, Subaru WRX STI’s, Ford Fiestas and Scion xD’s on natural-terrain courses consisting of gravel, dirt, ice or snow. For more information regarding Rally America’s National Championship or the sport of performance rally, visit www.rally-america.com.