Pastrana Takes Rally America Championship With LSPR Win

Subaru Rally Team USA driver Travis Pastrana clawed into the lead in the final stages of the Lake Superior Performance Rally on Saturday to take the win ? and his second Rally America driver?s title.

?It was pretty tight,? said an enthusiastic Pastrana at the finish line. ?We won. We didn?t crash, and we won the championship too? I?m pretty pumped.?

With four overall wins in 2007, the motocross rider turned rally star was the driver to beat this season as he fought for the title into the last seconds of the final round.

?That last stage might have been one of the best I?ve ever driven,? he said.

Coming into this ninth rally in the series, it would be winner take all. Pastrana and his Subaru Rally Team USA teammate Ken Block were tied for points in the overall championship standings, behind Rockstar Energy driver Andrew Pinker. A victory by any of these drivers would secure them the championship.

When Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino were forced out of the contest on Day 1 after a disappointing off-road excursion that damaged the front-end of their competition car, the championship hopes of the Subaru factory team rested with Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom.

Equally determined were the fiercely competitive Pinker and co-driver Robbie Durant, and his Syms Rockstar Energy teammates Foust and co-driver Chrissie Beavis.

Pinker appeared off the pace from the early stages, while Foust ? who was looking for his first win of the season at this final round ? set blistering times early on.

Pinker wasn?t able to make up for lost time on Day 2, and victory slipped away from Foust in the final stages when he suffered a flat tire. In the end, Foust was second, just 3.5 seconds behind Pastrana. Pinker finished third.

?It was close, but no cigar,? said Pinker, who wound up second overall in the driver?s championship. ?We?ll get it next year.?

The native Australian has been competing in the United States for two seasons now, and said the level of competition here is as good as any he?s seen in his global travels.

?This is as competitive as any national championship in the world,? he said.

Foust entered this contest hot off a victory in his other championship, the Formula D drifting series. This rally season was his first at the front of the field in the fiercely competitive Open class and he proved up to the challenge. Although he was out of championship contention by the end of the season, he and co-driver Chrissie Beavis secured the gold medal at the Summer X Games Rally Car Race.

?For the Rockstar and Syms team, it?s a great accomplishment in our first year,? he said.

Despite transmission trouble, Matt Johnson and co-driver Jeremy Wimpey put in an incredible performance to win the Production GT class and secure the class championship. The duo were fierce competitors all year, suffering two big crashes as they pushed the limits en route to the title.

In two-wheel drive, Doug Shepherd and co-driver Karen Wagner led the STPR field to finish first in their Group 5 2003 Dodge SRT 4.

In addition to the overall Rally America title, this event is critical to the new MaxAttack! Triple Crown Rally Series for two-wheel drive. The two previous events in the Triple Crown Rally Series were the Oregon Trail Rally and Rally West Virginia and the first-ever series winner was be decided this weekend. The winner was not immediately available.

Tom and Don Burress took the Group 2 win at this event in their Volkswagen Rabbit, while Arkadiusz Gruszka and Grzegorz Dorman finished first in Group N. Production class went to the sibling team of Jan and Jody Zedril in their Mitsubishi Lancer.

The contest is typically very challenging, and attrition rates are often high. The unpredictable wintry weather of Michigan?s Upper Peninsula means conditions are changeable and the course has a legacy as one of the toughest on the continent.

Early scores and championship results are unofficial, pending final officiating processes.

Rally car racing is considered the extreme sport of automobile racing and is often described simply as ?real cars, real roads, real fast.? This all-season motorsport sees drivers and their co-drivers take modified road cars to the limit as they achieve blistering speeds over courses that cover more than 100 miles of gravel, dirt or snow-covered roads. The Rally America national championship consists of nine events nationwide.

Rally America, a Minneapolis, Minnesota based corporation, holds the sanctioning and marketing rights to the Rally America Championship and also organizes the marquee X Games Rally Car Race.

Complete television coverage of the 2007 Rally America Championship and the 2007 Summer X Games airs on ABC and ESPN. The action resumes in January with the season-opening Sno*Drift Rally in northern Michigan.

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