O'Neil Charges and Leads, Rains Rule Late on First Day of LSPR HOUGHTON, Mich. (Oct. 23, 2004) -- Rally veteran Tim O'Neil, back in action for the first time since retiring prior to this season, leads the Lake Superior ProRally by 22 seconds...
O'Neil Charges and Leads, Rains Rule Late on First Day of LSPR
HOUGHTON, Mich. (Oct. 23, 2004) -- Rally veteran Tim O'Neil, back in action for the first time since retiring prior to this season, leads the Lake Superior ProRally by 22 seconds going into the final day of the year's final SCCA ProRally Championship Presented by Hot Wheels event.
Conditions for Round Nine went from nearly perfect to treacherous as rain and high winds moved into the area by the third special stage. Once the rains began, the rural Michigan roads quickly took on water and became slippery, which led to more than a few cars meeting an early exit as O'Neil, with co-driver Martin Headland in a CPD Racing 2000 Subaru Impreza WRX STi, only seemed to get faster.
Seamus Burke, with co-driver Brian Sharkey in a Libra Racing 2003 Hyundai Tiburon, didn't suffer a DNF, but after leading early fell back to second, 22.6 seconds behind the leader after O'Neil won the last two stages of the evening (SS6 and SS7) by more than 35 seconds.
Among those whose weekend came to an end early was Dennis Martin and co-driver Alan Perry. Martin/Perry were first on the road (the first time in Martin's career to do so in a ProRally Championship event) to begin and were having a solid outing when a roll occurred on SS7 in Martin's Open Class 1992 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, knocking the duo out of the event.
That incident directly led to CPD Racing's Doug Havir calling it quits early as he, with co-driver Scott Putnam, had to avoid Martin/Perry on the stage and went off the road into the trees in Havir's 2004 Subaru STi, where they determined they would not continue.
In all eight of the 29 ProRally entries DNF'ed on day one, which had seven stages scheduled originally but ran six after SS5 was cancelled.
Group 5 Champions Doug Shepherd and co-driver Pete Gladysz continue to amaze many with their 2004 Mopar Dodge SRT-4 as they sit third currently, 4:03.01 behind O'Neil.
Behind Shepherd/Gladysz, Open Class competitors Matt Iorio and co-driver Philip Ho are fourth overall (30 seconds behind Shepherd/Gladysz) in a 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII and third in the class behind O'Neil/Headland and Burke/Sharkey.
Jonathan Bottoms and co-driver Carolyn Bosley lead Group N and are fifth currently in a 2002 Subaru WRX, 5:57.6 off of O'Neil's pace.
Locked in a tight battle for the Overall Co-Driver's point championship, both John Dillon and current point leader Nathalie Richard had to find different rides in order to compete. Richard, who came into the weekend with a 89-86 advantage over Dillon, teamed up with David Anton, while Dillon found a ride with Patrick Moro.
Dillon's chances at overtaking Richard are much better headed into the final day as Anton/Richard were one of the unfortunate first-day DNF's after going off on SS6. With Richard out, Dillon needs to finish eighth or better in order to earn the championship. Currently, Moro/Dillon are 13th in Moro's Production GT 2002 Subaru WRX, 1 min. and 33 sec. behind eighth-place Eric Langbein and Jeremy Wimpey.
The final day of the Lake Superior ProRally is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. and finish at the Quincy Mine Hoist in Hancock, Mich., at 7 p.m. Weather conditions are not expected to improve much as showers and wind are forecast to continue for much of the day before giving way to fog during the afternoon.
For more information about LSPR, visit www.lsprorally.com or www.scca.com.
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