Defending champion Pat Richard wins Maine Forest rally BETHEL, ME. (July 30, 2005) - Defending North American champion Pat Richard claimed his second overall victory of the season at the Maine Forest rally this weekend, after a tight battle ...
Defending champion Pat Richard wins Maine Forest rally
BETHEL, ME. (July 30, 2005) - Defending North American champion Pat Richard claimed his second overall victory of the season at the Maine Forest rally this weekend, after a tight battle between Group N Subarus that continued into the final stages.
"I was going flat out," said Richard at the finish on Saturday.
The Canadian saw a minute lead gained early in the race shrink to just seconds by the mid-way point as World Rally champion Stig Blomqvist clawed his way back into the hunt after a mechanical problem.
There has been speculation throughout the season about how hard the veteran Blomqvist has been pushing as he captured win after win in the Group N class. This mid-season contest finally saw him forced to show his hand and the Swede admitted he had to drive hard to keep up.
"It's not just like being here on holiday," Blomqvist said Saturday. "Pat is quick and you can't lose any time to any problems."
Blomqvist and co-driver Ana Goni started Saturday's stages well behind the leaders after the mechanical fault left the veterans down on power. But Richard and sister co-driver Nathalie faced their own trouble, losing nearly half a minute of their lead in the sixth stage alone after they limped through it with a broken driveshaft.
After a crucial service break, the two teams went head-to-head, with Richard and Richard emerging the clear victors. In the final stages of the rally, the team pulled away to finish 42.7 seconds ahead of their rivals. It is their second overall win of the season. They claimed a decisive victory at the snowy season opener, Sno*Drift.
Finishing third overall was Ken Block with co-driver Alex Gelsomino in a Group N Subaru. It is the first overall podium finish for the team.
The stage roads were rough and many competitors battled flat tires. Although dust was expected to be a concern, a light wind kept the course clear.
"I don't think I slowed down because of the dust on those last stages," said Matthew Johnson who, along with co-driver Wendy Nakamoto, claimed the Production-GT class win.
Fourth place overall and the Open class win went to Ramana Lagemann in a 1997 Ford Escort Cosworth.
Paul Choiniere, last year's overall winner and an early favorite for the 2005 Maine Forest rally, was out of the race after the first leg when a blown head-gasket in his Open class Hyundai Tiburon forced him to withdraw.
Also out was crowd favorite and Group N contender Travis Pastrana, a motocross pro who has shown considerable promise as a rally driver. He spun off the road during the fourth stage and took heavy damage to his Subaru.
The Maine Forest rally, along with the other seven rounds of the 2005 Rally America Championship, will be broadcast on the Outdoor Life Network this fall.
Minneapolis-based Rally America holds the sanctioning and marketing right to the Rally America Championship.
The next round, the Ojibwe Forests rally, takes place August 26 and 27 in Bemidji, MN.