Rally of the Voyageurs preview

PARRY SOUND, ONT. (Sept. 28/2000) - Canada's top rally teams resume battle this weekend, in one of the tightest championship fights in years, after a summer break of almost three months. Tom McGeer, Sylvain Vincent and Frank Sprongl, the top...

PARRY SOUND, ONT. (Sept. 28/2000) - Canada's top rally teams resume battle this weekend, in one of the tightest championship fights in years, after a summer break of almost three months.

Tom McGeer, Sylvain Vincent and Frank Sprongl, the top three drivers in the 2000 Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama, are eager to get back into action at the Rally of the Voyageurs, to be run out of Parry Sound, Ont., on Saturday. It is the sixth of eight rounds in the series.

The last round was the Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs, held in the Gaspe region of Quebec in early July. That event was won by McGeer, paired with navigator Mark Williams, in a Subaru Impreza. The win put McGeer, a three-time Canadian champion, into the overall lead in this year's standings.

McGeer, of Georgetown, Ont., has 70 points, four more than the 66 of fellow Impreza driver Vincent, of La Plaine, Que., who has finished every rally this year on the podium. Six-time national champion Sprongl, of Mississauga, Ont., is third overall with 52 points. A victory is worth 20 points.

Sprongl was the winner of the past two Voyageur rallies. He too has won twice in 2000, but has had bad luck as well. He did not start the Baie-des-Chaleurs due to problems with his Audi Quattro. He is expected to run a different car this weekend, a Ford Escort Cosworth, for the first time in Canada.

A total of 39 cars are entered in this weekend's rally. Other favorites include American driver Karl Scheible, making a rare visit to Canada with his Mitsubishi Lancer E5. He is the top seed and will be the first driver on the road (cars leave at intervals of one minute).

Toronto's Keith Townsend, third at the Baie-des-Chaleurs, will also be driving a Lancer (E4). And Jon Nichols, of Lachine, Que., the four-time champion of the Group 2 class (for two-wheel-drive cars), will be back in action in his VW Golf for the first time since a crash at the Rallye Perce-Neige in February.

Cars will leave from the Parry Sound Mall at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The first of the special stages, the competitive portions of the event on roads temporarily closed to the public, will take place at Dumont Road, 30 kilometres north of Parry Sound, off Highway 69, a little after 10 a.m. Spectators are welcome.

Fourteen special stages will be held through the day, accounting for 159 kilometres of a total rally distance of 540 kilometres. The teams are expected back in Parry Sound at about 10 p.m.

Full details about the route and spectator access are available from the Kitchener-Waterloo Rally Club at its website, www.kwrc.on.ca.

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