David Higgins won his third consecutive Rally America National Championship title on Saturday at the Lake Superior Performance Rally in Houghton, Mich. after Ken Block, his closest competitor for the overall title, crashed his car less than one mile from the Stage 12 finish line.
"I just hit a slippery patch going over a crest and there was no grip, so I went off into a little fence and a little tree," Block told Rally-America.com, just after the accident. "That's the hard part about this rally when it's like this: there's no forgiveness if you find a loose spot."
Neither Block or his Team Hoonigan co-driver Alex Gelsomino were injured in the crash but were unable to finish the 17-stage race, while Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew went on to claim the day's win.
The LSPR event, the longest-running race in the Rally America series, is known for its hills and sandy roads, which were particularly wet and muddy for this weekend's conclusion to the 2013 series. This year's LSPR was impacted by the recent federal government shutdown after the U.S. Department of Agriculture suspended Forest Service permits to run portions of the race on Ottowa Forest Roads, forcing organizers to plan a shorter alternate route and sending drivers back over some of the same roads from Friday's stages on Saturday. Higgins emerged with a 13.4 second lead after Friday's stages, and held a slight lead on Saturday before Block's crash in the twelfth and final stage.
"Obviously it's a shame the way it's ended but it's not a surprise because the pace that we were both going at this weekend, right from the start, it's been very very possible to happen to any of us," said Higgins, a Subaru Rally Team USA driver. "I'm just delighted that we were leading at the time anyway ... the car's been brilliant again and we've really enjoyed this weekend."
After a rocky start earlier in the season, Block had won the three previous events in the seven-round 2013 Rally America series, coming out on top at the Ojibwe Forests Rally, the New England Forest Rally, and the Susquehannock Trail Rally. Still, Block trailed 17 points behind Higgins in the overall standings coming into this weekend's race; Higgins won the Oregon Trail Rally and 100 Acre Wood Rally and finished second at the Sno*Drift Rally.
"I've been in the hunt for this championship three times before," Block told XGames.com "I've gotten two seconds and a third but I've never won it."
Block said he's been having a frustrating, topsy-turvy year, contrasting his Rally America wins against his disappointing year on the Global RallyCross circuit, including the four global X Games events, and at the X Games debut of the Gymkhana GRID event he helped develop.
"For the GRC I've qualified highest on average out of anyone else in the championship series and I've won more heats than anyone, but I just keep getting taken out in the first corner of the main event or having bad luck, like the last event where I got a puncture," sais Block, who will get one more chance at a GRC win as the 2013 series concludes on Nov. 7 in Las Vegas. "It is what it is: that's racing. All I can do is try to be the best that I can be and whatever happens from there happens ... I just wish I could come away with the win."