Rallye International de Charlevoix preview

Rallye International de Charlevoix preview

Subaru Canadian Rally Championship Presented By Yokohama Round 7 of 2001 championship McGeer Hopes To Clinch Season'S Title At Canada'S Biggest Rally LA MALBAIE, Que. (Oct. 31/2001) - Canada's most grueling and high-profile car rally takes...

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

McGeer Hopes To Clinch Season'S Title At Canada'S Biggest Rally

LA MALBAIE, Que. (Oct. 31/2001) - Canada's most grueling and high-profile car rally takes place this weekend in the Charlevoix-Saguenay region of Quebec.

Tom McGeer hopes history will repeat itself in the Rallye International de Charlevoix, a three-day competition which gets underway on Friday (Nov. 2). He and navigator Mark Williams won the event last year and, in doing so, clinched the overall 2000 Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama.

McGeer returns to Charlevoix in a position to take his fifth national driving title. He has won four of six events this year and leads the standings by 27 points over Subaru Canada team-mate Pat Richard. Even if he were to finish second to Richard, he would still clinch the title with one event remaining.

The Rallye International de Charlevoix, held since 1987, is viewed as Canada's most important rally. It is a candidate for world championship status and, as such, it is longer and generally faster than other events in this country.

Whereas most Canadian rallies are single-day events without any practice, this one stretches over a week. The teams were given three days, starting Monday, to do "reconnaissance" runs on the rally roads (at legal speeds) and prepare "pace notes." This should help the drivers go much quicker in competition.

The 30 cars will be officially sent on their way at a ceremonial wave-off at 8 p.m. on Thursday (Nov. 1) in La Malbaie outside the Manoir Richelieu, which will serve as rally headquarters. True competition gets underway early Friday morning on gravel roads in forests north of the town.

Over three days, the teams will cover a total distance of 1,296 kms., of which 346 kms. will be special stages - the high-speed portions of the event, held on roads temporarily closed to the public. The rally wraps up back in La Malbaie at about 3.15 p.m. on Sunday.

A novel feature of the rally - sometimes seen internationally but never before in Canada - will be the special stage at the Hippodrome at St-Aime-des-Lacs, where pairs of cars will compete side-by-side on parallel courses. Normally, cars run the special stages individually at one-minute intervals.

This rally is being run to the standards of motorsport's worldwide governing body, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, which is sending an official observer to assess its possible inclusion in the world championship.

Canada hosted world championship rallies five times in the 1960s and 1970s, but the last such event was the Criterium du Quebec in 1977. Indeed, the world championship has not visited North America since a U.S. event in 1988.

McGeer, 41, of Georgetown, Ont., has won twice before at Charlevoix, in 1998 as well as 2000. He drives a much-modified 400-horsepower Subaru Impreza WRX.

This year's entry includes one other past winner, 11-time U.S. champion John Buffum (who triumphed in 1990 and 1999), as well as a number of overseas visitors. Buffum, 56, from Vermont, drives a Hyundai Tiberon.

The overseas contingent is headed by Auguste Turiani, of Monaco, who competes under the pseudonym "Tchine." A veteran of more than 70 world championship events, he will drive a Mitsubishi Lancer, as will Belgium's Dominique Julien. Another Belgian, woman driver Fanny Duchateau, will be in a Seat Ibiza.

Richard, 28, from Vancouver, is the one driver who can still beat McGeer in the championship. Like his team-mate, he drives a Subaru Impreza WRX, but his is a less powerful version, with about 290 hp, entered in the Group N class.

Richard, who has twice been second in Canada this year, recently had his first podium finish in the U.S. when he took third place in the Lake Superior Rally.

Local favorites include recently-crowned Quebec champion Jon Nichols, of Lachine, in a Subaru Impreza WRX; former Quebec titlist Yves Barbe, of Laval, in his first appearance in a 350-hp Mazda 323 GTR; and Sylvain Erickson, of Gatineau, and Jean-Sebastien Besner, of Montreal, both in Mitsubishi Lancers.

-CAR-

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