PARRY SOUND, ONT. (Sept. 30/2000) © Tom McGeer drove to his third win of the season in the Rally of the Voyageurs in northern Ontario on Saturday and put himself within short striking distance of his fourth national championship.
McGeer led from the opening stage to the finish of the event, round six of the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama. "I don't think I've ever led all the way before. This was probably my most dominant win," said the 40©year©old driver from Georgetown, Ont., taking his seventh career victory.
With just two rallies remaining in the championship, McGeer need only finish seventh or better in either one to take his first national title since 1993. His navigator, Mark Williams, has now clinched the co©drivers' crown.
"It's been a long wait for another championship," said McGeer, who also won the Canadian title in 1990 and 1992. "This is a good situation to be in. I'm feeling happy and confidant."
McGeer completed 159 kilometres of special stages © the competitive portions of the rally held on roads, temporarily closed to the public, north of Parry Sound © in one hour, 39 minutes and 37 seconds for an average speed of 95.77 kph. He finished two minutes and 47 seconds ahead of runner©up, Karl Scheible.
"With a lead of almost three minutes, we were just cruising in the final stages, although that can be dangerous because it's easy to get lazy and make a mistake," he said. "It was a weird situation to be in."
McGeer, driving a Subaru Impreza WRX, had only one close call all day. He dropped two wheels off the road and into a ditch on what he described as a "nasty, narrow, 90©degree left©hander" on the fourth of 14 stages. "I stood on the gas pedal and was just able to scramble around the corner," he said.
On the next stage, which was the same road run in the opposite direction, second©placed Sylvain Vincent © McGeer's main championship rival © was caught out at this very same corner and crashed out of the rally. It was the first time all season that Vincent, also driving an Impreza, had not finished.
McGeer's other main rival, six©time Canadian champion Frank Sprongl, failed even to make it that far. He dropped out on the very first stage when the transmission failed on his Ford Escort Cosworth.
"It was a little disappointing," said McGeer. "I wanted to see how we would have gone against Frank for the full rally. But from a championship point of view, my two main challengers did not finish, while I got maximum points, so I couldn't ask for a better result."
In the overall standings, McGeer now has 90 points, while Vincent remains second with 66. Sprongl is third with 52.
In the early stages, Vincent ran within 11 seconds of McGeer at times. Once he went out and McGeer disappeared into the distance, the main focus of attention shifted to the close battle for second between Scheible and Keith Townsend.
The two swapped positions several times before Scheible, a top©ranked U.S. driver making a rare visit to Canada, finally emerged on top. He finished 10 seconds ahead of Toronto's Townsend. Both were in Mitsubishi Lancers.
Brian Scott, of Michigan, was fourth overall in an Eagle Talon and took top honors in the Production classes. <pre> RESULTS of the RALLY OF THE VOYAGEURS, Round 6 of the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama (driver, navigator, home, car, time):
1. Tom McGeer, Ontario / Mark Williams, Maryland, Subaru Impreza, 1h39m37s; 2. Karl Scheible / Russ Hughes, New York, Mitsubishi Lancer, 1h42m24s; 3. Keith Townsend / Ian McEwen, Ontario, Mitsubishi Lancer, 1h42m34s; 4. Brian Scott / David Watts, Michigan, Eagle Talon, 1h52m02s; 5. John Daubenmier / Stanley Rosen, Michigan, Chevy S10, 1h55m20s; 6. John Paynter / Clarke Paynter, Nova Scotia, Subaru Legacy, 1h55m37s; 7. Bruno Laverdiere / B. Gilles Lacroix, Quebec, Eagle Talon, 1h55m39s; 8. Harry Anderson / Mark Anderson, Ontario, Eagle Talon, 1h55m52s; 9. Paul Ordanis / Paul Brand, Ontario, BMW 325ix, 1h56m28s; 10. Scott Comens / Harry Pressey, Ontario, Chrysler Neon, 2h00m01s.