Pastrana opens up commanding Ojibwe lead
Travis Pastrana has opened up a commanding lead over Ken Block at the head of the Ojibwe Forests Rally, winning all four of the first loop's stages.
Pastrana, the leader of the 2021 American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National series, has a golden opportunity to all but assure himself of a sixth US rally title this weekend with both of his closest rivals, Barry McKenna and Brandon Semenuk, not taking the start in Minnesota.
But despite not really needing to beat Block's similar Subaru WRX STI, Pastrana put the hammer down and destroyed Block by 19.8 and 20.1 seconds on the first two stages respectively.
On the shorter Thorpe Tower and Refuge stages Pastrana's advantage wasn't as dominant, but the Subaru Motorsports USA driver still managed to steal another 6.4s from his rival to lead the rally by 46.3s, halfway through Friday.
Block got to within 1.1s of Pastrana on SS3 but otherwise hasn't been able to live with his old rival's pace, and is actually closer to third-placed Ryan Booth than he is Pastrana's lead.
Booth is 44.7s behind Block in the McKenna Motorsport Škoda Fabia R5+, setting third fastest times on each of the stages so far.
On his ARA debut, Tom Williams is fourth overall - mirroring Booth in setting the same position (fourth) on every stage - and 1m10.6s ahead of the similar Ford Fiesta Rally2 of John Coyne who joked: "I was missing my afternoon nap, I guess I was taking it on the stages."
Most of the leading positions are well spread out already, with half a minute between Coyne and sixth-placed Enda McCormack and then another minute between McCormack and two-wheel-drive leader Seamus Burke.
But Mark Piatkowski is in a tight overall and class battle with Ele Bardha, leading his fellow Subaru driver by just 8.2s in eighth overall. Bardha has been quicker than Piatkowski on three of the stages, but lost 12.3s to his rival on SS1 which has so far proved difficult to overturn.
Bucky Lasek rounds out the early top 10, while one of the expected frontrunners Paul Rowley failed to make it far into SS1 in his Ford Fiesta.