Subaru Rally Team USA driver Ken Block took a decisive win in the final event of the 2008 Rally America season this weekend in Michigan's upper peninsula to join teammate Travis Pastrana atop the championship standings.

"I'm glad to end the season with the win," said Block. "Now I've got some momentum going into next year, so I'm happy."

The victory this weekend at the Lake Superior Performance Rally brought Block into second place in the championship, while strong performances all-season long meant Pastrana had already secured the title before this final contest even began.

Motocross superstar Pastrana has made an incredible transition from two wheels to four over the past few years and was the season standout this year, taking podium finishes at all but two events. He also scored his second X Games Rally Car Racing gold medal this summer.

"Consistency was on my side this year," said Pastrana. "There are a lot of great drivers in the series, but budgets run out for a lot of guys before the end of the season and that's too bad."

Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino had a strong start to the season, winning a pair of events early in the year. But a string of DNFs dropped the duo back in the standings and they entered the Lake Superior Performance Rally in third place in the series.

The early stages on Friday saw Kyle Sarasin and his co-driver Mikael Johansson in a tight fight with Block and Gelsomino for the rally lead, but electrical trouble and heavy dust late in the evening saw the team fall behind and they couldn't make up for lost time. Sarasin and Johansson finished second place at this event to wind up third overall in the 2008 Rally America championship.

"It's good to finish on the podium," said Sarasin. "But it's a little frustrating to have three second-place finishes in a row – it's hard to catch those guys."

With the driver's title already sewn up before this event, Pastrana changed up his team. He asked legendary driver and longtime advisor John Buffum to join him this weekend in the co-driver's seat. The duo were aiming for a strong finish, but said their objective was to enjoy a fun weekend together in the car. Mission accomplished: Pastrana and Buffum finished the event third overall with wide smiles on their faces.

"My biggest plan for next year is to come back and reclaim this championship," said Pastrana. "I'm looking forward to an amazing battle next year."

Andi Mancin and co-driver Maciej Wislawski earned fourth place in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Mancin, who is a Polish championship contender, made his debut competition appearance in the Rally America championship at this event.

Fifth place in the event went to rally veteran Doug Shepherd and co-driver Karen Wagner in their Group 5 Dodge Neon SRT-4. The team were by far the fastest two-wheel drive competitors this weekend, finishing over five minutes ahead of their closest two-wheel drive rivals.

Patrick Moro and co-driver Mike Rossey took the Production GT class win in their Subaru WRX and secured the 2008 Production GT title.

The Group 2 class win went to Michel Hoche-Mong and co-driver Jimmy Brandt in their Volkswagen GTI. Their victory here also earned them the 2008 Group 2 title.

Tough luck put Andrew "ACP" Comrie-Picard and co-driver Marc Goldfarb out of the contest early on Friday. The duo had been among the contenders for the championship runner-up position, but a spark plug failure left them down on power and they rolled their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX while trying to make up time. They finished the season fourth overall, ahead of Rockstar Energy's Andy Pinker and Hankook-Rallispec driver Matt Johnson – who tied for fifth in the points.

The 2008 Rally America Production class championship went to brothers Jan and Jody Zedril, who were absent from competition this weekend due to a scheduling conflict with an event at home in Canada. The 2008 Group 5 driver's title went to John Conley, while the top Group 5 co-driver was Karen Wagner. Chris Duplessis earned top driver's points in the two-wheel drive category.

All results and titles are considered provisional pending official reviews.

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 2008 Rally America National Championship series consists of nine exciting events throughout the country in many different weather and road conditions. Throughout the year, teams take on everything from snow-covered trails of Michigan, forest-logging roads in Minnesota, coastal paths of the Pacific Northwest, fast but rocky challenges of New England, to the high-altitude roads of Northwest Colorado, and finally to its conclusion in the fall splendor of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The series returns to Michigan for the season-opener in January.

Photo by Lorne Trezise/Rally America 



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