Championship Clinched with Arizona Victory
Team Wins Every Stage of Prescott Rally with New Cosworth Engine
Prescott, AZ. Brian Scott (Pine, AZ, driver) and John Dillon (Thousand Oaks, CA, codriver) clinched the 2008 California Rally Series (CRS) championship by finishing first overall at the Prescott Rally, part of the United States Rally Championship (USRC) series. It was a two day battle with plenty of fierce competition, but at the end the record book shows they won every stage. The 100-plus mile event, sanctioned by the National Auto Sport Association (NASA), included a pair of 21 mile stages, some of the longest in the championship. The Prescott Rally took place on the 3rd and 4th of October.
The Prescott victory catapulted them into the lead of the national USRC championship. On the tail of a comeback win in Idaho and another podium finish at Gorman Ridge, the team holds a 90 point advantage going into the final round of the U.S. national championship at International Rally New York. "The CRS championship is important to us, but it's just the first step. Our goal now is win the U.S. title," explained Scott. "With our team's experience, the Subaru's handling, and the torque and horsepower of the Cosworth, we think we can pull it off."
"We put a new Cosworth engine in the car [a Subaru WRX STi] in August after the Gorman Ridge Rally," reported crew chief Doug Chernis. "It really broadened the power band. You can see it in the results^×the guys finished almost five minutes ahead of the nearest competition." In addition to preparing the car at his Mesa, AZ shop (Race Technik), Chernis also campaigned a Subaru at Prescott with Craig McNaire as his codriver. Dillon laughed about it later: "I can't remember the last time we had to race against our crew chief!" Chernis brought along several guys to help with the servicing of both vehicles, including Wayne, Nick, J.T., and Gary.
"Man, what a difference an engine makes!" gushed the driver. "We were doing well over 110 MPH several times, and the Cosworth just kept pulling. If I hadn't had to brake for little things like narrow cattle guards and tight corners, we'd still be accelerating!"
"I felt a bit off my game at the start, but it soon passed and we got into a steady rhythm," noted the codriver. "Brian and I both love this event, even though the roads at the top are really narrow and have huge drops." (The dirt roads of the Prescott Rally start along the cliff edges above Jerome, an old mining town.) "Although I'm sure I slowed him down a little, you can tell I didn't slow him down much!"
On the surface you might think it was easy for the team, but behind the scenes they faced challenges. Most importantly, a recalcitrant starter nearly derailed them twice, when they couldn't get the engine to fire. "We've been chasing the problem since July," said the crew chief, "but it's so intermittent we haven't been able to nail it down. Before going to New York, we're going to replace everything in the circult."
Mother Nature also played a factor. The team raced hard on the opening stages to secure a first-on-the-road position for Friday night, knowing that dust would be a real issue after sunset. "Our strategy worked beautifully, though of course it's a lot harder than it looks to be the fastest guys out there," said Dillon. The weather kicked in again just before the last two stages on Saturday when rain dumped across the region. Amazingly, the team proved to be even faster, beating their own times on the repeated stages despite the mud. With about four miles to go on the last stage, the left rear tire started going down, but Scott kept the squirming under control to the finish. They changed the flat tire on the transit back to Prescott, only to be caught behind a slow moving van on the twisty highway down from the summit. "She was so slow I worried about checking in late to the final time control, but we kept calm and made it with ten minutes to spare. All the way down the mountain I was calculating time and distance remaining and how many lateness penalties we could take and still win. Hey, it's a codriver thing!"
Dillon closed, pointing out that "The guys in New York are wicked fast, so we'll have our hands full back east. Of course, if championships were easy, everyone would have one. We're looking forward to the battle!"