Block Seals First US Win Since 2014
Ken Block has won the Lake Superior Performance Rally for a third time, ending a run of over seven-and-a-half years without a win in a national championship rally on United States soil.
The Hoonigan Racing Division driver dominated the event, round seven of the American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National Championship, from start to finish with 15 stage wins out of 15 and a winning margin of over a minute on SS5 alone.
The win, his first on home soil since the 100 Acre Wood Rally of 2014, was earned by 9m35.4s. Block has not competed regularly in American rallying in recent seasons. His path on LSPR was eased by new champion Travis Pastrana and his Subaru USA team-mate Brandon Semenuk, plus 2020 champion Barry McKenna, all not attending the rally.
The only drama of Block’s rally was on the opening stage of the event when he picked up a front-right puncture, resulting in him beating McKenna Motorsports’ Tom Williams to the stage win by just 0.2s.
Williams looked like he would be Block’s main rival at first, but a nose-first landing on SS4 broke the underside of his Ford Fiesta Rally2 and forced him out of the rally.
It then became a battle between Paul Rowley and Joseph Burke in the older Fiesta R5s for second place, with Burke initially given a time card penalty that was later revoked. That put Rowley ahead and he built up a lead of 44.7s over the Friday evening loop as Burke lost time with faulty lights in the dark.
When the crews returned to action on Saturday that gap was quickly closed back down, with Burke only taking two stages to get ahead of Rowley as the latter suffered from an intermittent misfire that couldn’t be fully diagnosed.
Rowley then responded though, and his second place was secured at the end of Saturday’s second loop when Burke exited the rally with suspension damage. It marked the first time Rowley has reached an overall rostrum in his rallying career.
Burke’s retirement promoted Subaru WRX driver Dave Carapetyan to third, a position he managed to hold on to by a handy amount after Williams’ team-mate Kyle Tilley was given a 2m30s penalty.
Over the final loop Tilley was closing in on Carapetyan, and the NASCAR driver would have been able to snatch a top-three result from just his second competitive rally were it not for his penalty. A time penalty broke up the battle for fifth between Mitsubishi drivers Will Graham and George Plsek, but in the end the latter’s 2m20s of added time didn’t make an impact on the result as he failed to make the start of the final stage anyway. Graham meanwhile also won the Limited four-wheel-drive class.
Mike Hurst (Ford Capri) worked his way into the lead of the Open two-wheel-drive class going into the final loop, ahead of Tim O’Neil (AMC AMX) and the penalized Kevin Schmidt (Mazda RX7). Once again a penalty proved critical in a key battle, as Hurst beat O’Neil to victory by 13s. O’Neill had completed the 121.9 competitive miles of the rally half a second slower than Schmidt, but a 30s penalty hung over Schmidt’s head and dropped him to fourth in class behind early leader Ryan George (BMW M3).
Leading finishers after SS15 1 Ken Block/Alex Gelsomino (Subaru) 1h45m25.5s 2 Paul Rowley/Darragh Mullen (Ford) +9m35.4s 3 Dave Carapetyan/Ryan Scott (Subaru) +12m33.7s 4 Kyle Tilley/Tim Whitteridge (Ford) +14m51.0s 5 Will Graham/Claudia Barbera (Mitsubishi) +15m13.1s 6 Mark Piatkowski/Aaron Crescenti (Subaru) +18m32.7s 7 Mark Williams/Steven Harrell (Subaru) +20m18.4s 8 Dylan Gondyke/Zach Stewart (Subaru) +20m32.2s 9 Geoff Weide/Derric Throne (Subaru) +21m27.0s 10 Chris Barribeau/Alex Ferencz (Subaru) +21m37.5s