Round 8 of 2000 championship CLASS TITLES TO BE DETERMINED AT RALLY OF THE TALL PINES

BANCROFT, ONT. (Nov. 22/2000 © Several titles will be on the line on Saturday in the Rally of the Tall Pines, out of Bancroft, Ont., the eighth and final round of the 2000 Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama.

The overall crown has already been clinched by Tom McGeer, of Georgetown, Ont., and his navigator Mark Williams, in a Subaru Impreza WRX, but the championship chase remains tight in a number of individual classes.

A main focus will be the Production GT category © for larger showroom stock cars © which has featured a season©long see©saw battle between 27©year©old Patrick Richard, of Vancouver, B.C., and Brian Scott, from Michigan.

Following his fourth class win of the year, in the recent Rallye International de Charlevoix, Impreza driver Richard has a two©point lead (41©39) over Scott, who runs an Eagle Talon. A win is worth nine points.

In the Production Sport class © for mid©sized cars © Scott Comens also took his fourth win of the season at Charlevoix. The Kitchener, Ont., driver now has a lead of four points over B.C.'s Dave Koszegi. Comens drives a Chrysler Neon; Koszegi runs a Subaru GL.

The Group 2 championship © for modified two©wheel©drive cars © is also up for grabs. Alberta's Gord Olsen leads Karoly Toth, of Mississauga, Ont., by six points, but Olsen will not be at the Tall Pines, having badly damaged his VW Golf in a crash at Charlevoix.

To snatch the title, Toth © who runs a GM Optima © must take the class win and that will be no easy task. He will have to beat Jon Nichols, of Lachine, Que., a four©time Group 2 champion who has missed most of the 2000 season, but is returning for this rally in his VW Golf.

Overall, McGeer © who has won four of the seven rallies so far this season © has an insurmountable points lead over fellow Subaru Impreza driver Sylvain Vincent, of La Plaine, Que.

But if past history is any guide, the driver to beat this weekend should be Frank Sprongl. He has won the past six editions of the Tall Pines © every year since 1994 © in his Audi Quattro.

The Audi's motor blew up at a rally in May and Sprongl, a six©time Canadian champion, had to switch to a less competitive car. But a new engine was due to arrive from Germany this week and he should be back in the Quattro once again.

A total of 48 cars are entered in the Rally of the Tall Pines, including one of the top U.S. drivers, Karl Scheible, from New York. Scheible, who drives a Mitsubishi Lancer, only has to start Saturday's event to clinch the North American Rally Cup, which combines U.S. and Canadian results.

The Tall Pines is widely regarded as one of the trickiest rallies in North America. The roads are generally snowy and icy, but there are not yet any snowbanks along the side to absorb the impact of off©course excursions.

The one©day rally will be based out of Bancroft. Teams will drive a total of 575 kilometres, including 185 kilometres of special stages, the competitive portions of the event on roads temporarily closed to the public.

Ôncroft,at 2 p.m., and Castledine Corner, 25 kilometres south of Bancroft, at 7.15 p.m. The cars should return to Bancroft at about 11 p.m.