Canadian Antoine L’Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard claimed victory on the Rally of the 100 Acre Wood, but a fine fourth place finish by Super Production crew Travis and Terry Hanson sees the pair retain the championship lead, as four-time Rally America Champion Travis Pastrana made a fleeting appearance at the event.
After retiring from the recent Sno*Drift rally, both Antoine L’Estage and David Higgins were looking to deliver top quality performances on the 100 Acre Wood event, and get their championship challenges back on track.
From the outset L’Estage set a good pace, one which would see him maintain the lead throughout and eventually claim victory at the ceremonial rally finish in Salem. L’Estage and his co-driver Richard dominated proceedings with fastest times on ten of the events fifteen stages on their way to the rally win.
Britain’s David Higgins, co-driven by Craig Drew, once again made the trip to the U.S.A from Wales to compete for the Subaru Rally Team USA outfit. His performance over the two days saw him finish 17.7 seconds behind a in-form L’Estage at the finish, but the points would be a valuable haul for Higgins’ championship assault after retirement on the Sno*Drift.
Higgins’ Subaru Rally Team USA team-mate Dave Mirra rounded out the podium positions, with Marshall Clarke at his side.
Mirra couldn’t match the pace of the leading crews, but delivered a solid performance to ensure that he is the only driver with a one-hundred percent podium finishing record for 2011, and this feat is one to be emphasised by the fact that this was only the second event in which Clarke had sat alongside Mirra.
A last minute entry by Travis Pastrana gave cause for some considerable excitement amongst the spectators at the 100 Acre Wood event, but his challenge in the ex-Colin McRae Subaru Impreza WRX STi was short lived.
Pastrana crashed heavily on the second stage of the rally, rolling several times and leaving the car too damaged to continue. Speaking of the incident, a humbled, yet ever-cheerful, Pastrana said “There’s no excuse for going off on the first day”.
The victory by L’Estage was the first by someone other than Ken Block since 2005, and one which saw the charging Travis Hanson continue his solid early season form.
Hanson and his father Terry won the Sno*Drift, and another trouble free and sensible drive saw the pair succeed once again where others failed, as they took victory in the Super Production class with a fourth place overall.
Ramana Lagemann and co-driver Chrissie Beavis held first in the Super Production class in the early stages, but a heavy crash put them out of the rally.
Lagemann and Beavis endured a massive accident on the eighth stage, but thankfully despite the stage being cancelled, the pairing walked away from the incident.
Hanson profited from the Lagemann retirement, to claim the class victory ahead of Lauchlin O’Sullivan, who delivered a marginal victory of some 0.6 seconds over third place Roman Pakos.
The two-wheel drive class saw Wyatt Knox annihilate the field, with a victor of almost three full minutes over second placed Chris Greenhouse, and third placed Dillon Van Way.
The next round of the Rally America National Championship is the Olympus Rally at the end of April.
The Ocean Shores, Washington, based event will be held from April 30th until May 1st.
Photo credits: WorldRallySport.com