HOUGHTON - Ken Block and David Higgins spent the first 11 stages of this weekend's Lake Superior Performance Rally on the edge.
Saturday, Block fell off and Higgins rode it all the way to the top of the podium and the Rally America national championship.
"The pace we were going at, it was very, very likely one of us was going to end up that way," Higgins said.
The Subaru rally team with driver David Higgins of Wales, at right, and co-driver Craig Drew of England poses for pictures at the victory ceremony for the 19th Lake Superior Performance Rally Saturday at the Copper Country Mall in Houghton. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
The Welsh driver by way of the Isle of Man won LSPR in 2003 and clinched his third straight national title alongside co-driver Craig Drew (Bristol, England) in their Subaru Impreza.
He was locked in a close battle with Block, from Park City, Utah, for both the LSPR and national titles until Block lost control a mile from the finish of Stage 12 at Arvon Tower, rolling over several times and ending his race.
"I'm gutted with how today ended," said Block in a press release from his car manufacturer, Ford. "We were really charging hard and were actively closing the gap on David (Higgins). Unfortunately, I didn't have that corner marked in my notes as dangerous and I was going flat-out. I got caught out. It's definitely not how I wanted to end the season, especially with the championship within reach, but that's how racing goes some days.
Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino were unharmed.
At the time of the incident, Block trailed Higgins by 7.7 seconds. With the wreck, Higgins' lead instantly became two-and-a-half minutes over Quebec's Antoine L'Estage.
"The first thought is to see if they're OK, and after that, the next thought is relief," Higgins said.
It ended with Subarus in the top three places, Higgins claiming a final margin of 3:41 over L'Estage and third-place driver Dillon Van Way of Lafayette, La. more than 11 minutes behind.
Higgins said their own car had a 'moment' on the same stage but they could afford "zero caution, because of what was at stake."
Higgins took the lead back from Block, the winner of the last three RA national events, late Friday. Block reported low-hanging fog in the woods and poor visibility.
"Some people react to that and slow down, and we took that as an opportunity to take more risk and make some time," Higgins said.
It was a rough weekend for several local favorites. The FY Racing team of Adam Yeoman (Hancock) and Jordan Schulze (Lake Linden) blew an engine midway through Friday and could not continue, while Mason Moyle of Houghton failed to finish after catching a rut and going off-course Saturday.
Moyle did finish the season second in the Super Production class.
The national series will be back in the Copper Country for the 20th LSPR in October 2014 and the RA season begins anew in downstate Atlanta in January.
"You're not champion for very long," Higgins said.