Subaru's Lovell, Lagemann, Air Force Reserves' O'Neil, on podium for ProRally at Falken Tire Pikes Peak International Hillclimb. COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Mark Lovell stood by his Subaru Impreza WRX moments after winning the Pike's Peak ...
Subaru's Lovell, Lagemann, Air Force Reserves' O'Neil, on podium for ProRally at Falken Tire Pikes Peak International Hillclimb.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Mark Lovell stood by his Subaru Impreza WRX moments after winning the Pike's Peak International Hillclimb and after a bit, a smile big enough to erase a frustration-filled early season spread across the British driver's face.
"The pressure was on us coming in," said Lovell, who had finished just one rally event this season -- a second-place finish at Rim of the World. "This was great for us and to make it a double (referring to his second-straight win at the PPIHC) is just amazing."
Lovell set a new PPIHC Open class record with a time of 11:39.63, beating his own record of 11:52.69 set a year ago. His Subaru teammate, Ramana Lagemann, followed close behind with a time of 11:43.65, a time that was also better than the previous record. It was a run that Lagemann badly needed, considering he had only one, fifth-place finish to show for his year's work leading up to the PPIHC.
Lagemann's run wasn't without some excitement however. About a mile from the summit, Lagemann's WRX began sputtering and almost stalled at a few of the hair-pin turns at the end of the 12.52-mile stage. Post-race evaluation later revealed a loose wire harness as the culprit.
"We didn't know what it was out there," said Lagemann. "It went way down on power and started smoking a bit, and went into fail-safe mode. We just kept it going along."
"We came in here as a team wanting to finish one and two. It didn't really matter how we ended up as long as we got first and second and we got it done."
The finishes were a badly-needed boost of momentum for Team Subaru, which had not won any events this year. The boost came when Lauchlin O'Sullivan recorded his second DNF in as many events by striking a very solid object at Glen Cove with his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, nursing the car to within 800 yards of the finish, teammate David Higgins' Lancer Evolution suffered serious driveline problems at the "W's" portion of the stage, but he soldiered on for essential manufacturer class points, crawling to the summit in first gear. With the win and second-place finish, Team Subaru closed the gap considerably in the Class Manufacturer point standings. With the 35 points earned at PPIHC, Subaru Rally Team USA now trails Team Mitsubishi Motor Sports America in the Open class standings, 85-56.
In Group N, Wolfgang Hoeck validated last year's stunning PPIHC win with his own record-breaking performance on Saturday. Hoeck, in his 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VII, posted a time of 13:21.61, breaking his old mark of 13:51.51.
"There was some doubt to the time we posted last year because of some timing and scoring issues," said Hoeck. "So I really wanted to see if I could run the times again. It wasn't a trouble-free run, we picked up some dirt in the wheel wells, but Julie (Lin - his wife and co-driver) kept pushing me to the top and we made it. It was a great run."
Wyeth Gubelmann, with co-driver Therin Pace, finished four seconds behind Hoeck, both of whom were competing in only their second events of the season. Shane Mitchell and co-driver, Paul Donnelly, tightened up the Group N point race between them and Mark Utecht/Jeff Secor by placing a strong third leaving just one point between the two teams.
Secor said that he and Utecht were just glad to finish the intense stage with its razor-edge drop-offs and majestic heights. "I didn't ever see God," said Secor. "But I'm pretty sure I heard him a couple of times."
New to the SCCA ProRally Hillclimb field this year was the exhibition only, two-wheel drive class, consisting of two regular Group Five competitors. While Doug Shepherd's run in his 2003 Dodge SRT-4 did not count for ProRally Championship points, his time of 13:19.09 bested all of the cars in the all-wheel drive Group N class and proved, along with Chris Havas' solid 14-minute rookie run, that 2WD SCCA ProRally cars have a place at the Peak.
It wasn't the first time on the Peak for Shepherd. After a several-year absence, Shepherd made his long-awaited seventh dash to the summit.
"This was probably second best," said Shepherd. "The fastest I ever went was in 1989 when I had a Production GT Daytona. We were under thirteen minutes and had similar track conditions to what we had today. But today was a blast."
Havas, in his 2001 VW Golf, finished with a respectable time of 14:10.32.
From here, the 2003 SCCA ProRally Championship heads to the great Northwest and Hillsboro, Ore., for the Oregon Trail Rally , the fifth round of the Championship, July 12-13. For more information regarding Oregon Trail, visit www.scca.com or www.oregontrailrally.com.
-scca pro racing-