Former Production World Rally Champion Niall McShea took a decisive win this weekend at Rally America’s Round 6, the New England Forest Rally.

McShea and co-driver Marshall Clarke, who arrived at the New England Forest Rally thanks to the backing of a group of Irish ex-patriots, finished more than a minute ahead of challenger Andrew Pinker to earn the coveted Last Chance Qualifier invitation for X Games 14.

It was not immediately clear whether the talented driver, who won the PWRC championship in 2004, planned to accept the opportunity to start the high-profile contest.

The result was a blow for Australian Pinker and co-driver Robbie Durant who had hoped to make their return to the contest after they were knocked out in the quarterfinals last year.

But once again, the team fell prey to the mechanical trouble that has plagued the team all season long. Pinker and co-driver Durant had been driving well until a broken gearshift lever cost him 30 seconds late on Day 1. They weren’t able to close the gap.

Third place overall went to Subaru Rally Team USA’s Travis Pastrana and co-driver Derek Ringer, who fought through mechanical trouble of their own to round out the podium.

The strong result moves Pastrana into the lead in the Rally America Championship, ahead of previous leader Andrew Comrie-Picard.

Comrie-Picard and co-driver Marc Goldfarb drop back to second in the standings after a weekend of mechanical trouble with their rarely run back-up car. The team said they opted to bring their 11-year-old Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV to the contest in order to save their newer Evolution IX for X Games competition.

A number of championship contenders failed even to finish the notoriously tough contest.

Subaru Rally Team USA’s Ken Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino were out on Day 2 after an off-road excursion, Matt Johnson and co-driver Jeremy Wimpey blew the motor in their Hankook-Rallispec Subaru, and Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard also called it quits late on Day 2.

By the end of Day 2, only 16 cars remained in the contest.

The Group 5 win went to Christopher Duplessis and co-driver Catherine Woods in their 1990 Volkswagen GTi, while Amy BeberVanzo and co-driver Ole Holter took the PGT victory in their 2006 Subaru WRX. Jen Horsey and co-driver Jim Dechamp took the Production win in their Mitsubishi Lancer.

To see more photos of the New England Forest Rally please click this link: http://www.rally-america.com/event.NEFR.2008.php?section=photos

The 12-driver field for X Games 14 next month is expected to include 2007 podium finishers Tanner Foust, Ken Block and Travis Pastrana; qualifiers Andrew Comrie-Picard, Matt Johnson, Antoine L’Estage, Kyle Sarasin, Pat Moro and Nathan Conley; at-large invitees Dave Mirra and Kenny Bartram, and Last Chance Qualifier Niall McShea.

Rally car racing is considered the extreme sport of automobile racing and is often described simply as “real cars, real roads, real fast.” 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 X Games 14 Rally Car Racing competition will take place on Sunday, August 3rd on ABC. Check www.rally-america.com for competition time closer to the event.

After X Games, the championship moves to Bemidji, Minnesota, for Round 7 – the Ojibwe Forests Rally.

Based in Golden Valley, Minn., Rally America sanctions the premier rally racing series in the United States, the Rally America National Championship Series.

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