NOS Energy Drink driver Andrew “ACP” Comrie-Picard is in the lead heading into Day 2 of Rally Colorado after his Subaru Rally Team USA rival Travis Pastrana took huge penalties for hitting chicane elements late Saturday.

Comrie-Picard and Pastrana had been trading stage wins, with Pastrana 20 seconds ahead by the end of the day. But a moment of distraction saw Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom barrel through three pylons in a chicane on Saturday’s final stage. The misstep cost the duo seven minutes in penalties and dropped them from first to 8th place overall.

“We had a shaky start with a few small mechanical issues that held us back and we were starting to reel Travis in stage by stage,” said Comrie-Picard, who is accompanied by guest co-driver Jeremy Wimpey at this event. “We’d rather fight to the finish without the penalties, but we’re pleased to be in the lead.”

Pastrana has already secured the 2009 title- with just two rounds remaining, nobody can catch him in the points. But Comrie-Picard is among a tight pack of top drivers who are still battling it out for the remaining spots in the top three.

Pastrana’s Subaru teammate Ken Block also took a one-minute penalty on the chicane, bumping Polish driver Andi Mancin into second place after the Day 1 stages.

Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino were in third place after the opening day, more than two minutes ahead of the fourth-place team of Nathan Conley and co-driver Todd Moberly.

Block is competing in the Super Production class this weekend. His Open class rally car is out of commission after a big wreck at Round 7, and they have taken over Dave Mirra’s ride for this event. Mirra is sitting his round out due to a conflict with his BMX competition schedule.

“I just want to do well in the car and get the best out of it,” said Block.

The lower-spec car is a big change for Block, whose aggressive style demands the high power available in his Open class car to pull him out of corners. Even so, he still managed to set the fastest time on the first stage of the rally and by the end of Day 1, he was well ahead of the other drivers in the class.

A very fast driver, Block has struggled this season to find a pace that earns him reliable finishes and he has DNF’d more rallies than he’s finished. He’s currently in third place in the championship, behind Mancin.

With the wildcard entry of Block in the Super Production class, regular contenders are planning their strategy. Pat Moro and local driver Jimmy Keeney are fighting hard. If Moro can earn second-place in the class this weekend, he’ll enter the final round of the championship in a tie for the class lead with Piotr Wiktorczyk — who is absent from this round.

In the two-wheel drive class, Monument, Colorado’s John Conley is in the lead, ahead of reliable performer Dillon Van Way from Carencro, LA.

The Rally Colorado event poses unique challenges to rally teams. Many teams were complaining that they were down on power or overheating during the high desert stages Saturday. The high altitude and subsequent lack of oxygen at this event saps the rally cars’ power. Despite this drain, the event has a reputation of being a one of the fastest in the Series featuring many high-speed sections on flowing roads. Teams expect variable weather and there has been dust on Day 1. The high altitude, coupled with fast straights places the high horsepower Open class cars at a distinct advantage.

The rally is headquartered in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, known as “Ski Town”, USA. The small mountain community that’s home to numerous world-class ski and snowboarding events is also home to the largest ski jumping complex in America — used for training by the US Olympic Ski Jumping Team.

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 2009 Rally America National Championship series consists of nine exciting events that take place in a range of challenging weather and road conditions in a season that extends from February to October. Throughout the year, teams take on everything from the forest logging roads in Minnesota, to the Pacific Northwest forest and coast paths.

Top teams in the series are also invited to compete in the Summer X Games, the leading action sports event broadcast live on ABC and ESPN.

Click to see Travis Pastrana’s time penalty interview:

Photo Credit: Kevin Hahn/Rally America



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