day3_dsj_9928.jpgDefending champion Travis Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom won a battle of bad luck to come out on top at Round 7 of the Rally America National Championship, the Ojibwe Forests Rally in northern Minnesota Aug. 24-25. Teams battled blinding dust, mechanical problems and flat tires during the dramatic two-day contest.

“That was an ‘everyone had bad luck’ rally,” said Subaru Rally Team USA driver Pastrana. “I’m the luckiest unlucky person in the world.”

Pastrana and Edstrom ended Day 1 with a solid lead, but lost all but a few seconds of it to RockStar Energy Drink Syms Racing Rally Team driver Tanner Foust and co-driver Chrissie Beavis, due to a flat tire early on the second day. Foust drove hard to overtake the leader and victory was to be decided on the final stage, where Pastrana and Edstrom had another flat tire.

As it turned out, Pastrana’s luck was bad, but Foust’s was worse. After taking six stage wins over the two-day event, Foust had victory in his sights when he found himself disabled by the side of the road on the final stage with damage to a corner of the car. He and Beavis limped their car back to the finish, but wound up in 14th-place overall.

Pastrana’s Subaru Rally Team USA teammates Ken Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino finished in second place. This is the first time they have completed this rally, after crashing hard in each of the two previous years. Rounding out the top three were RockStar Energy Drink Syms Racing Rally Team driver Andrew Pinker and co-driver Robbie Durant, who had expected a poor showing after mechanical trouble earlier in the day apparently knocked them out of podium contention. While Pinker and Durant doused each other with celebratory champagne, their teammates Foust and Beavis were still struggling to get their damaged car back to the finish line.

“I’m gutted for Tanner,” said Pinker as he waited for his teammate after the podium ceremony. “It’s been a very lucky weekend for Travis.”

The third-place result leaves Pinker at the top of championship standings, with just the slimmest of margins over Pastrana. The fight for the title will be fierce in the final two races of the year.

The event marked a return to the series for Foust and Beavis, who earned the gold medal in Rally Car Racing at X Games 13 earlier this month. Foust, who is also a frontrunner in the Formula D drifting series, had to miss the two previous rounds of the Rally America championship due to scheduling conflicts. A poor showing at Ojibwe is devastating for his 2007 championship aspirations.

The Ojibwe Forests Rally features nearly 150 miles of stage miles spread over two days, with roads that are smooth and fast, but marked by soft, sandy spots that often spell trouble for teams. Dry conditions in the northern Minnesota area meant dust was a factor throughout the race. Teams struggled with poor visibility, especially during the long night stages.

The Production GT class team of Stephan Verdier and Scott Crouch also fell victim to bad luck. The duo had been poised to secure a top-five finish and a class win when they crashed out of the race late in the day.

The Group 5 win went to Kyle Sarasin and Mikael Johansson in their Ford Focus, while Josh Chang and Alexander Kihurani came out on top in Group N in their Subaru WRX. Christopher Duplessis and Martin Headland were the top Group 2 finishers in a Volkswagen GTi.

Among the notable retirements were PGT class fan favorites Matt Johnson and co-driver Jeremy Wimpey, who rolled their car early on Day 1; Stephan Verdier and Scott Crouch, who crashed while leading on Day 2; Tim Penasack and co-driver Scott Putnam, who also had an off-road excursion; and “Cowboy” Kenny Bartram and co-driver Dennis Hotson, who also had a rollover. There were no injuries.

Rally car racing is considered the extreme sport of automobile racing. This all-season motorsport sees drivers and their co-drivers take modified road cars to the limit as they achieve blistering speeds over courses that cover more than 100 miles of gravel, dirt or snow-covered roads.

The next stop for Rally America teams is Rally Colorado, the eight round of the national championship, scheduled for Sept. 22-23 in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

About Rally America
Based in Golden Valley, Minn., Rally America sanctions the premier rally racing series in the United States, the Rally America National Championship Series. In 2007, Rally America will conduct nine National Championship events at venues across the country, from Olympia, Wash., to Bethel, Maine. Rally America competitors reach speeds well over 100 mph in modified street cars on natural-terrain courses of gravel, dirt or snow. All Rally America National Championship events are broadcast on ESPN2 from July to November in 2007. Additionally, through a partnership with ESPN, qualifying Rally America drivers are invited to compete in the Summer X Games, the annual leading action-sport event that is broadcast live on ABC and ESPN. For more information, visit

Photo by Lars Gange



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