Subaru Canadian Rally Championship Presented By Yokohama
Round 7 of 2001 championship


LA MALBAIE, Que. (Nov. 1/2001) - Tom McGeer clinched his fifth Canadian rally driving championship on Friday at the Rallye International de Charlevoix in Quebec after Subaru Canada team-mate Pat Richard, the only person who could catch him in the overall standings, dropped out of the event.

Richard - leading at the time - hit a large rock, which bent the steering and suspension of his Subaru Impreza WRX. The damage caused him to slide off the road soon afterwards and he was unable to get going again.

"All the pressure is off now," said McGeer, who held a lead of one minute, seven seconds over Jon Nichols at the end of the first of three days of competition. "The championship was the whole reason for being here. But I can't relax. I want to win and there's a lot of nasty corners out there."

This is the second straight year that McGeer has clinched the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama, at Charlevoix, with one round still remaining on the calendar (the Tall Pines in Ontario on Nov. 24).

The 41-year-old driver from Georgetown, Ont., previously won the championship in 1990, 1992 and 1993, as well as 2000. Partnered by navigator Mark Williams, he has won four of the six rallies so far this year in his Subaru Impreza WRX.

It was not an entirely trouble-free day for McGeer, though, as he experienced some turbo boost problems. The lead changed hands several times.

McGeer was fastest on the first of Friday's six special stages, the high-speed portions of the event, held on gravel roads temporarily closed to the public. But he then lost boost and fell to fourth before the turbo could be replaced.

U.S. visitor Ramana Lagemann took over the lead, but slid off the road and damaged his Ford Escort Cosworth. That put Richard, from Vancouver, in front - until he hit the rock. Quebec champion Nichols, from Lachine, then led briefly in another Impreza WRX, only to be slowed by a flat tire.

McGeer reassumed the lead on stage four and stayed ahead until the end of the day. He completed the six special stages, a total of 110.8 kms., in one hour, five minutes, four seconds for an average speed of 102.17 km/h. A further 11 special stages are to be held on Saturday and Sunday.

Behind McGeer and Nichols, U.S. driver Tom Lawless held third place in a Mitsubishi Lancer, ahead of Jean-Sebastien Besner, of Montreal, also in a Lancer. Andrew Havas, of the U.S., was fifth in a Mazda RX-7, followed by another Lancer, driven by Sylvain Erickson, of Gatineau, Que.

John Buffum, an 11-time U.S. rally champion and two-time Charlevoix winner, was badly delayed early in the event when a radiator hose split on his Hyundai Tiberon, but he climbed back to 13th place. Former Quebec champion Yves Barbe, making his first appearance in a Mazda 323 GTR, retired with a blown turbo.

Charlevoix is the country's longest and most prestigious performance car rally. It is Canada's official candidate for world championship status.