Subaru Rally Team USA driver Travis Pastrana wrapped up his winning 2009 Rally America season with yet another victory this weekend at the year-end Lake Superior Performance Rally.

“This was a great rally for us,” said Pastrana. “It’s one of my favorites because it’s a more technical rally than some of the others on the circuit and it’s great to drive.”

Heading into this event, Pastrana had already secured the Rally America driver’s title for 2009 and said his objective was to earn as many stage wins as possible. With nothing to lose, he admitted he drove hard and took plenty of risks to win all but two stages – falling only about four seconds short of an outright sweep over more than 120 miles of racing.

In second place were Canadians Antoine L’Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard. The team occasionally competes south of the border, largely in pursuit of the North American Rally Championship, which counts events from both Canada and the U.S. Despite a two-minute penalty for a jumped start on Friday, the team put in a consistent performance to land on the podium.

“I’m happy overall,” said L’Estage. “Now we’re going into the final Canadian event of the year leading the North American Rally Championship and that’s what we’re here for.”

In third place overall and taking the Super Production class win, despite an ailing engine, was the Subaru Rally Team USA crew of Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino. The duo have been running in a borrowed Super Production class car for the final rounds of the championship after a bad wreck that put their Open class Subaru out of commission.

“It’s been a horrible year for us,” said Block, who finished the season fourth in the points. “Blown turbos, car overheating, mechanical issues… I’ve been driving the best I ever have and I feel I just can’t get anything to go my way.”

The crowded Super Production class saw Heath Nunnemacher and co-driver Mike Rossey take second place, followed by Pat Moro and co-driver Ole Holter in third. The podium finish wasn’t enough for Moro to overtake Jimmy Keeney in the points for the 2009 class win. Keeney and co-driver Melissa Keeney finished fourth in class at this event to take the Rally America Super Production class championship for 2009.

A stroke of bad luck saw Piotr Wiktorczyk out of the hunt for the class title before the race could begin; his engine blew during practice.

The Polish team of Andi Mancin and co-driver Maciej Wislawski battled engine trouble at this event to finish in fifth-place overall. The result wasn’t what Mancin had hoped for, but it was enough to earn him runner-up status in the 2009 championship after challenger Andrew “ACP” Comrie-Picard and co-driver Jeremy Wimpey suffered a blown engine late on Day 1. ACP wound up third in the Rally America standings for 2009.

In two-wheel-drive, 17-year-old driver Dillon Van Way locked up the two-wheel drive Rally America title with a start here this weekend.

All results are considered informational pending official race processes.

The fall colors are brilliant in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula at this time of year. It was cold and drizzly on Friday as cars headed out for the opening stages, with snow reported in some areas. It was a picture-perfect autumn day when the rally finished Saturday.

As the season ender, this rally also plays host to the Rally America awards banquet, presented by BFGoodrich Tires, at the Rockhouse Grill & Tavern on Sunday. Awards for the season will be handed out at the Sunday ceremony.

Considered the extreme sport of automobile racing, rally car racing 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. Among the marques typically represented in Rally America events are Subaru, Mitsubishi, Dodge, Ford and Volkswagen.

Top teams in the Rally America National Championship series are also invited to compete in ESPN’s annual Summer X Games competition, the leading action sports event broadcast live on ABC and ESPN.

Rally competition resumes January 29-30 with the 2010 Rally America season opener, Sno*Drift, in Atlanta, Michigan.

Photo: Lars Gange



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