With only two events remaining in the 2007 Rally America National Championship season, defending series champion Travis Pastrana trails Australian Andrew Pinker by one point heading into Rally Colorado on September 22 and 23.
Entering this weekend’s rally in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the top three drivers in the 2007 Rally America standings are separated by just nine points. After seven of nine events, RockStar Energy Drink Syms Racing Rally Team driver Pinker and co-driver Robbie Durant lead the standings, 100-99, over Subaru Rally Team USA’s Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom.
Ken Block and co-driver Alessandro Gelsomino are just eight points behind their Subaru Rally Team USA teammates Pastrana and Edstrom, while Pinker’s RockStar Energy Drink teammates and X Games gold medalists Tanner Foust and Chrissie Beavis are fourth with 58 points.
Pastrana, the 2006 Rally Colorado champion, returns to the fast and dusty Rocky Mountain roads fresh from a win at the Ojibwe Forests Rally in Minnesota.
“Colorado is a tough rally because you can see most of the road in front of you since there aren't trees or a lot of blind crests, so drivers feel more invincible,” Pastrana said. “Rally Colorado has an amazingly high drop-out rate because everyone is pushing so hard and they end up crashing or damaging their car.”
With back-to-back series titles in his sights, the 23-year-old must balance his aggressive driving style with the need to earn valuable championship points.
“It is very important for us to win, but we can’t afford to make any mistakes,” Pastrana admitted. “Pinker and Block are the two drivers that I have to be most concerned about for the championship, so how many chances Christian and I take depends a lot on where we sit in comparison to them. Ken seems to like faster roads, and Pinker does better on the more technical parts. Rally Colorado has both, so this could be interesting.”
In just their first full season of Rally America competition, Pinker and co-driver Durant have never competed at Rally Colorado. However, according to Pinker, the team’s lack of experience and limited technical data on the roads will be only a slight disadvantage.
“One saving grace is that there are a couple of repeat stages, so at least it will only be new to us the first time around,” Pinker explained. “As far as the new stages and tyre choice, (Pastrana and Block) have the heads up and experience on that. It just means I need to try a bit harder, that’s all.”
Pastrana and Pinker are not the only drivers with a shot at the championship. Block and co-driver Gelsomino remain in contention for the 2007 title, although they must rely on help from other competitors in order to emerge as the series champions.
“With just two events left, there isn't much we can do besides winning both events,” Gelsomino noted. “We are going into two rallies where we were very competitive in 2006. We need to win them both and still have Foust or Pinker place second in front of Travis for us to win the championship. Tough job, but it is possible.”
Foust, who won Rally Colorado’s Performance GT class in 2005, is hoping that a strong performance this weekend will help redeem a season that stalled after a strong start. Winless in points-paying events this year, Foust also recognizes the role he plays in teammate Pinker’s battle for the series title.
“With my PGT background, I’m used to not having all the horsepower at altitude, and I’m used to the style of the roads,” said Foust, who sits fourth in the Rally America point standings. “I’m fighting for the podium overall now, but the better I do as a point spoiler, the better chance Andrew has of winning it overall.”
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