Inexorably, a little bit more every year, people are paying attention to the unbridled wildness of open-road performance rallying, which would still be on the fringes of American motorsport if it wasn’t for the aggressively promoted involvement of Subaru Motorsports USA and its factory rally team, which boasts star power that other genres of racing likely wish they could boast. The X-sports phenom (and, briefly, NASCAR Camping World truck pilot) Travis Pastrana and co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino stormed to an overall win in last weekend’s opening round of the American Rally Association season at the DirtFish Olympus Rally in Washington state. The win came aboard one of the WRX STIs that Vermont SportsCar, which operates the Subaru team, builds from the ground up in a shop whose parts design and machining capabilities can stand alongside any shop from NASCAR or IndyCar.
Rallying through the hinterlands of the Pacific Northwest usually means sodden, muddy roads from incessant rain. Defending Olympus champ Barry McKenna and his Ford Fiesta WRC team were forced to sit out the event due to a family issue, leaving the Open Class for Pastrana to contest with Subaru teammate Brandon Semenuk, who crashed hard during the closing stage and handed second overall to the privateer STI of newly formed Hoonigan Racing and driver Ken Block. The ARA trail now moves on to the Southern Ohio Forest Rally in mid-June.