Rally America Title Fight Rages On
WILLISTON, Vt. – The 2013 Rally America National Championship season began in disarray when the Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team of Antione L’Estage and Nathalie Richard dramatically took the opening round win by overtaking the Subaru Rally Team USA on the very last stage of the Sno*Drift Rally.
The win placed a stamp that this year was not going to be easily controlled by the two-time Rally America defending champions, David Higgins and Craig Drew, but a series of mechanical problems and mishaps plagued the Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team the next two rounds that ultimately saw L’Estage and Richard crash at the Oregon Trail Rally and effectively ended their chances of adding another Rally America title.
Higgins and Drew quickly re-captured the Championship standings lead at the second round and built what appeared to be an insurmountable points buffer as the mid-season event, the Susquahannock Trail Performance Rally (STPR), took its turn in the Championship spotlight.
Subaru Rally Team USA had already won the last two rounds and STPR was theirs for the taking.
But Hoonigan Racing’s Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino, who returned to Rally America competition after a two-year hiatus and a favorite to win the Championship this season, drove a reasonably trouble-free STPR Rally to take their first win of the season. It was a major turn around for their year since Block and Gelsomino previously fell behind in the points standings due to an unfortunately long string of mechanical problems that forced the team to salvage points by using SuperRally rules.
The points were hard to come by, but Block and Gelsomino were able to finish the Sno*Drift and Oregon Trail Rally (the team DNF’d at the 100 Acre Wood Rally) to nab points in hopes of not letting the Subaru team run away with the standings. At the STPR Rally the mechanical bug afflicted Subaru Rally Team USA in a rare suspension mishap that forced the team to SuperRally for their first time.
That left Block and Gelsomino to cruise to an STPR Rally victory, a must win situation for the team that effectively extended their mathematical possibility of snatching the 2013 Rally America National Championship title.