PASTRANA WINS NEW ENGLAND RALLY; L'ESTAGE PROBABLE X GAMES WILD CARD NEWRY, Maine July 14, 2007 - Subaru Rally Team USA's Travis Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom claimed their second victory of the season at the sixth round of the...
PASTRANA WINS NEW ENGLAND RALLY; L'ESTAGE PROBABLE X GAMES WILD CARD
NEWRY, Maine July 14, 2007 - Subaru Rally Team USA's Travis Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom claimed their second victory of the season at the sixth round of the Rally America National Championship, while second-place finisher Antoine L'Estage is expected to be the latest driver to receive an invitation to the 2007 X Games rally competition.
"We needed this," said a relieved and happy Pastrana as he pulled his Subaru into the final control of the race. "It's good for the championship for us."
Pastrana and his Subaru Rally Team USA teammate Ken Block battled bad luck and engine trouble early this season to slip into second and third-place in the championship standings and both considered this race an opportunity for redemption.
Defending Canadian champion L'Estage and co-driver Mark Williams wound up just seven seconds behind Pastrana and Edstrom after two days of fast-paced action through the rugged northeastern terrain. The two teams swapped stage wins throughout the race, at times separated by only fractions of a second for the overall lead.
In addition to crucial mid-season points, competitors at this race were vying for a shot at the biggest rally contest on the continent. The top finishing, not-already-qualified driver in the New England Forest Rally was to receive a "wild-card" invitation to the 2007 X Games on August 5.
As winners of the 2006 X Games rally competition, Pastrana and Edstrom were the first to receive their invitation for this year's X Games, but L'Estage -- a rare figure on the U.S. scene -- had said he hoped to attend the contest this year. He was an alternate in 2006, and never had the chance to take the start in his Hyundai Tiburon.
"For now, I'm more happy with a good result here than thinking about the X Games," said L'Estage at the finish. "Hopefully, we'll find the proper budget to go there; I don't think it'll be easy, but we'll try."
L'Estage began the race cautiously optimistic he could take an overall win, but with car trouble at the mid-point on Day 2 and the X Games in the balance, he adopted a conservative strategy to the finish.
"I was not taking any chances," said L'Estage. "But we'll have the chance again to have a clean fight."
Rounding out the podium were Block and co-driver Alessandro Gelsomino, who had hoped to challenge for the lead but were slowed by mechanical trouble late on Day 2.
Matt Iorio and co-driver Ole Holter held steady throughout the race to finish in fourth, but nearly didn't get to claim their points. The engine in their Subaru failed before they could complete the final transit section and they had to accept help from competitors to get to the end.
Andrew Pinker and co-driver Robbie Durant managed to claw back into the top five on Day 2 after ending the first day in ninth place. Bad luck struck them early in the contest when they had three flat tires on their Syms Subaru in the first four stages.
It seemed none of the leaders escaped this race without challenges. Rally car racing is notoriously tough on cars and the extremely fast pace at this event proved brutal for the front-runners.
On Day 2, Pastrana and Edstrom arrived at the midday service trailing a cloud of oily smoke; L'Estage and Williams were complaining that their car was overheating; and Block and Gelsomino said their car was down on power. Service crews were able to return all their teams to the race.
The lure of the wild-card spot prompted several teams to change classes for this contest. PGT drivers Kenny Bartram and Matt Johnson both stepped up into the faster Open class. After struggling early in the race to adapt to their more powerful cars, they finished seventh and eighth, respectively.
Stephan Verdier and co-driver Scott Crouch claimed the PGT win in their Subaru, while Cary Kendall and Scott Friberg won the Group 5 class in a Dodge SRT-4. Christopher Duplessis and co-driver Martin Headland brought their Volkswagen GTI in first in the Group 2 class, and Nick Lehner and Don DeRose claimed the Production class win in their Honda Civic SI.
Race favorites Paul Choiniere and Jeff Becker failed to finish, with apparent engine trouble on Day 1.
Notably absent from the event was Tanner Foust, who opted to sit this one out due to a scheduling conflict with his other competition series -- Formula Drift. Also absent were Andrew Comrie-Picard and Ramana Lagemann, who both elected not to race rather than risk damaging their competition cars so close to the X Games.
WRC champ Colin McRae, Pastrana, Block, Choiniere, Foust, Iorio, Pinker, Comrie-Picard and Lagemann have already qualified for the X Games. In addition to the driver named here, two others will be selected from the racing community at large.
Complete television coverage of the Rally America Championship airs on ESPN2. The X Games rally competition will be broadcast live on ABC on August 5.