And what a start Dave Mirra got to the season – yes, he won his first rally, the 2009 Team O’Neil Rally, at the wheel of his 2007 Subaru Impreza WRX STI rally car. Although it wasn’t a round of the Rally America series, nevertheless Mirra, with Derek Ringer as co-driver, dominated the New Hampshire-based snow rally. Mirra/Ringer set fastest time on all but one of the event’s eight stages and finished with a lead of 50 seconds.
The O’Neil Rally win came a little more than one year after Mirra began his burgeoning rally career. In 2008, he had been named the 2008 Rally America Rookie of the Year and had earned a Bronze medal at the X Games 14 Rally Car Racing event.
Also, the win foreshadowed the upcoming season and apparently was good practice. Mirra/Ringer finished 6th in the aptly named Sno*Drift Rally in Atlanta, Michigan, which was the first round of the Rally America series.
The overall Sno*Drift results saw a change from the previous year for the other two team drivers. Travis Pastrana, reunited with his long-time co-driver Christian Edstrom, led the whole event and won easily. It was a far better result for Pastrana than 2008 when he hit a deer that put him out of the rally. Not surprisingly, at the end of the event, he was quoted as saying: “It’s a great way to start the season, coming away with maximum points under my belt. But every mailbox looked like a deer on that last stage!” Ken Block, with Alex Gelsomino as his navigator, ran wide in a corner and damaged the front end of their car, which led to the engine overheating and a DNF.
In the second event, the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood in Salem, Missouri, the results were the exact opposite. Block/Gelsomino took the win while Pastrana/Edstrom were non-finishers after crashing the car on the 4th stage. Mirra finished in 7th position.
With Pastrana and Block both equal in points after the first two events, the championship was clearly going to be a battle between these two tough competitors.
However, in the next two events – the Olympus Rally in Pomeroy, Washington, and the Oregon Trail Rally in Portland, Oregon – Block/Gelsomino failed to finish either, while Pastrana/Edstorm won both, which gave them a healthy points lead.
In the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally (STPR) in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, Block/Gelsomino came back strongly and took the win over Pastrana. Their positions were reversed again in the next round at the New England Forest Rally in Newry, Maine. It became clear that unless Pastrana failed to finish the next two rallies, he would garner his 4th championship title.