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Pastrana two stages away from Olympus victory

Travis Pastrana holds a comfortable 1m19s advantage at the head of DirtFish Olympus Rally over old rival Ken Block with two stages left to run.

Pastrana had been locked in a close fight with Subaru Motorsports USA team-mate Brandon Semenuk on the Washington event’s first leg, only for Semenuk to be caught out on the final stage of Saturday and retire from the contest.

That relieved the pressure from Pastrana, who subsequently began Sunday’s leg of four stages with 47.3 seconds in hand over Block who is rallying a Subaru for the first time since 2009.

But Pastrana and Rhianon Gelsomino didn’t drive as if they had a rally to lose, setting the fastest time on the first pass of Nahwatzel on Sunday morning by a staggering 24.5s from Block to extend their lead advantage to over a minute.

He then went fastest again on Cougar Windy by 7.2s to nudge his weekend tally to five stage wins from nine tests.

“Brilliant first stage, we used some old notes on this from a couple of former team-mates and we struggled bad in here,” Pastrana assessed to DirtFish.

“We’ve got a pretty good lead so just trying not to mess up but that’s almost caused us to mess up, so think we’re just going to go all out the rest of the time!”

Block, while no doubt disappointed to lose yet more time to Pastrana, can be satisfied with his progress and indeed position as he continues to learn the characteristics of the machine he will campaign for the rest of the season.

“It’s going OK,” Block said at the end of SS10.

“I think we had a little too hard a tire choice this morning and didn’t quite have the grip that I wanted but the stages are fun and a little different than yesterday that’s for sure but really beautiful.”

Behind him, Josh McErlean continues to lead the RC2 class in the Hyundai i20 R5 usually piloted by Enda McCormack, and is looking secure in the final podium position too with a brace of third-fastest times.

While he was unable to match his sensational stage-winning performance from Saturday afternoon, McErlean remains on course to score the first ever overall podium of his senior rallying career after grabbing his maiden outright stage victory yesterday.

McErlean is 1m41.1s adrift of Block but isn’t under threat from behind either; Ryan Booth’s Ford Fiesta Rally2 trailing by 2m23.4s.

“I’m just trying to get in a groove,” said Booth. “Just trying to feel the grip out and seeing what we can do.”

Compatriot Callum Devine who, like McErlean, had been making his US rallying debut this weekend had been fourth overall but retired from the rally after setting the fifth-fastest time on Nahwatzel.

“We’ve been having a little bit of an engine problem and a technical problem so we’ve been down on power all weekend,” Devine said at service.

“The guys are working hard but we lost a right bit of power there in that last stage, managed to get it through and into service. We’ll see if the guys can get to the bottom of it because it’s a tricky one, we just can’t put our finger on it.

“It’s a bit of a shame.”

Devine’s demise paved the way for John Coyne to climb up to fifth spot in his Ford Fiesta R5, seeing off a close challenge from two-wheel-drive leader Derik Nelson and Mitsubishi-driving George Plsek who felt his car was down on power.

Seamus Burke is eighth in his Mustang-engined Ford Escort Mk2, close to two minutes ahead of Travis Nease’s Mitsubishi with Matthew Brassfield completing the overall top 10 in his Subaru.

Semenuk hasn’t restarted on Sunday following his accident on Saturday’s night’s final stage, Wildcat. His WRX STI clipped part of the bridge and the damage was too sufficient for him to return.


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