Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino are OK after crashing out of a crucial lead during the first day of the 2022 Lake Superior Performance Rally.
Block, who led the first six stages of the rally, had managed to put nearly 25 seconds between himself and second place Brandon Semenuk before an off on the seventh stage took him out of the rally.
The head Hoonigan in charge is leading the 2022 American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National Championship over Semenuk by two points coming into this weekend, and a win would have sealed his first ever US rally championship.
Competitors who returned to service after Block said that he had gone off on a right turn into a ditch at the end of a slick straight that was difficult for many of the other cars to stop on.
Travis Pastrana was the first driver to come across Ken off the road.
“I mean, the stages were pretty diabolical out there,” Pastrana told DirtFish, “Ken was putting an ass whooping on us, he had a pretty good lead on Brandon, and a huge lead on myself, so we were shocked.
“It was slick, don’t get me wrong, we almost joined Ken.”
“We were on the brakes coming up over the crest, and it was just ice. I don’t know if it was actually ice or if it just felt like ice, but either way the mud was just slick as snot out there.”
Semenuk found himself sitting first at the end of the day after Block’s off.
It is still unclear if Block’s car will be ready to compete in Super Rally Saturday.
Despite the change in luck, Semenuk knows this is still a dangerous rally, and he’s not celebrating yet.
“We’re playing it smart,” he said.
“Obviously, we want to want to win the championship and take it home for Subaru, so [being smart] is getting the car back, whatever that takes with the points we need. That’s the target.”
Semenuk’s lead of thirty seconds over teammate Travis Pastrana is a good cushion, but still not having a single win yet this year, Pastrana won’t give up easily.
Further back in third place is Tom Williams in his Ford Fiesta Rally2, who traded times back and forth with the Fiesta R5+ of Allen Dobasu earlier in the day as both drivers adapted to the slippery, wet conditions.
In the end though, Williams was able to start pulling away as he got into the groove and managed to put a two minute lead on Dobasu, who sits just off the podium in fourth.
Texas Dave Carapetyan was a favorite to win the LN4 class, as well as the championship itself on Saturday, but ended up crashing out of the class lead early in the day when he slid wide into the trees on a particularly slippery section of the stage.
Carapetyan and co-driver KJ Miller were okay, but unable to continue.
“Honestly,” Carapetyan said after returning to service, “I think I'm most gutted about this because our notes were super good, I was really stoked about them.
“KJ was 100% on it from the start of stage one, and then stage two, we started, and I was like, ‘the car’s broken. For sure. I don't know what's wrong.’
“And I realized, ‘oh, it didn’t break, it’s ice. I remember, that's what this feeling is.’
“So yeah, we're out there playing ‘Lion King on Ice.’ I was Mufasa obviously, big-time Simba guy over here,” he joked pointing to Miller.
“We had all of the slippys marked, but it only takes missing one to slide off into the trees in a giant fireball.”
Taking over class lead would be Grzegorz Bugaj in his 2011 WRX STI. Jeff Seehorn had been aiming to take Bugaj’s top spot but ended up losing a head gasket on the second loop and having to retire.
Bugaj sits in fifth overall now, with Tim Whitteridge second in LN4 class and sixth overall four minutes behind him.
Rounding out the LN4 podium and taking seventh overall at the end of day one would be Mark Piatkowski, who has the possibility of two LN4 championships in a row if all goes well tomorrow.
The mud-terrain Maxxis tires of the LN4 Championship-leading Honda Passport driven by Chris Sladek powered the SUV through the thick mud of the second loop with ease, and Sladek was able to hold eight overall, and sit just off the LN4 podium in fourth.
The 2WD class was led by Michael Hooper and his Lexus IS350, which despite having a few clutch issues was able to hold off the front-wheel-drive competition that often can have an advantage in slick conditions.
The top 10 overall was rounded out by Dave Wallingford’s R5 Fiesta.
The L2WD Cup Battle is still raging toward the back of the field. Nick Allen leads Roberto Yglesias by a few minutes, but Yglesias’s position would put him as the winner in the Cup if things stayed how they are.
Santiago Iglesias sits third in the class, while the other two Cup contenders, Alex Ramos and Paul Dickinson sit fourth and fifth respectively.
The Regional Rally is currently being led by Ivo Draganov, who won on the also infamously slippery Sno*Drift Rally at the start of the year. Draganov holds a roughly 45 second lead over second-place Dylan Gondyke.
The Mazda RX-7 of Kevin Schmidt sealed itself as the fastest 2WD regional car in third, sitting only about a minute from second, with Sumit Panjabi and Nick Morris taking fourth and fifth regional respectively.