ProRally: Ojibwe Forests Friday Notes

Ojibwe Forests ProRally Round 7 1999 Michelin SCCA ProRally Championship Bemidji, Minnesota August 27-28, 1999 1.) The torpid sunrise ushered in the largest field of entrants in Ojibwe Forests ProRally history. More than 40 cars are ...

Ojibwe Forests ProRally Round 7 1999 Michelin SCCA ProRally Championship Bemidji, Minnesota August 27-28, 1999

1.) The torpid sunrise ushered in the largest field of entrants in Ojibwe Forests ProRally history. More than 40 cars are entered in the ProRally, Round 7 of the Michelin SCCA ProRally series. At least 20 cars, and possibly more, will be entered in the companion ClubRally events, Paul Bunyan's Ride and the 10,000 Lakes. Bemidji is experiencing a late-summer heat wave, with temperatures expected in the mid-80s. Organizers are planning to watch competitors and workers carefully for signs of heat exhaustion. 2.) We will have three people posting notes throughout the course of this event: Ojibwe's own press officer, Sarah Lenz, who is doing most of this initial batch of reports; Bowie Gray, who has assisted so well previously at STPR and Maine; and series media liaison officer Ed Jacobs. 3.) An early withdrawal from the event is Jeff Becker, long-time co-driver for seven-time ProRally Paul Choiniere. Family obligations have kept him from his annual trip to Northern Minnesota. John Buffum, the 11-time national champion, will fill in. That makes 18 national championships worth of experience sitting in the Hyundai Tiburon. 4.) Again this year, the eventual winners of the three rallies will take home hand-sculpted trophies that are the work of local artist Stuart Lenz. This year Lenz has crafted three-dimensional tall pines, symbolic of our Northern Minnesota forests, for the Ojibwe Forests ProRally winners. Paul Bunyan's Ride and 10,000 Lakes winners will receive oak trees and small pine trees, respectively. Lenz's work is available in Minnesota at The Artisans in Calhoun Square, Minneapolis, and The Art Dock, in Dewitt-Seitz Market, Duluth. 5.) After 10 years of putting on the Ojibwe Forests ProRally and related events in the Bemidji area, relationship with local county authorities are good! Former rallymaster Randy Hoffa was approached this morning by a county public works official from a nearby county, who volunteered a series of county roads for the Year 2000 event! For competitors who think they've seen it all, this will be a welcome change. 6.) The Daewoo-sponsored team of Peter Malaszuk and Derek Szerejko withdrew from competition in transit from Connecticut. The official reason stated is transportation problems. More information on this later, as it becomes available. Another in-transit withdrawal was the Tacoma, Washington, team of Eric Eaton and Kenny Almquist, whose tow vehicle expired en route. 7.) A full start order and entry list will be posted later. However, Noel Lawler and Charlie Bradley will start first-on-the-road for the third time this year in their factory Hyundai Tiburon. They drew the first slot in a special seeded draw for just the FIA drivers, which was held at registration this morning. Canadian champions Frank and Dan Sprongl will start second in their Audi quattro S2. Paul Choiniere and John Buffum will start third. (The seeded draw for everyone else took place at the end of last week.) 8.) There are several interesting entries in this event that could surprise a lot of people. One of them is the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III of Kyoichi "Tony" Takaori and Ken Cassidy. Takaori is a respected surgeon from Japan who also is a very quick rally driver. He keeps the car here in the US and flies in for events. On this trip, he flew from Osaka to San Francisco, then to Minneapolis, and finally on to Bemidji. His is the only front-running car running on Falken tires, which has an executive at the event observing. 9.) Doo Wop winner Lauchlin O'Sullivan is here this weekend, but not in his Open Class Audi quattro. Instead, he has rented a Production GT Mazda 323 GTX from the Tabor family, who run several cars in Pacific Northwest events. Current PGT points-leading co-driver John Dillon will handle the navigating. 10.) Jamaican hotshoes Dean Panton and defending ProRally co-driver champion Mike Fennell are in a Hyundai Elantra prepared by TAD Motorsports. They ran together last month in Maine Forest, but had mechanical problems and retired. So their potential has yet to be seen. 11.) The real dark horse entry in the field, though, may be Bill Morton and Mike Busalacchi, in a Lancer Evo IV. Earlier this year, Morton won overall victories in two ClubRallies in Texas -- as a Seed 6 driver. More recently, he won Black River stages by about a five-minute margin, against stiff competition, some of which is running again here this weekend. Both Morton and Busalacchi work as technicians at TAD Motorsports. 12.) For most people, a clerical slipup labeled the previous page of notes as being from Maine Forest. We apologize for the error. 13.) Odd coincidences happen now and then. Our headquarters hotel, the Northern Inn, is situated on US Highway 2. If you drove east from here on US2 for two days, you would come to the headquarters for the previous event. 14.) One car we won't be talking about this weekend is the famous Team Tangerine Mazda 323 GTX of Production GT points leader Gail Truess and Pattie Hughes. They're here and rallying, but the car is not. It was too heavily damaged in Maine. A replacement is under construction, but isn't ready. So they've rented another 323, which has been fitted out with their seats and equipment, and set up to suit their style. 15.) In addition to a different car, Truess and Hughes have a new sponsor, Capco Abrasives. Capco is one of several related, automotive-oriented companies whose CEO, Paul Burzynski, is here with the team, getting an up-close look at the sport. Tomorrow, he'll follow some of the action from a helicopter. All indications are that he will have two excellent weather days for his introduction to performance rallying -- bright blue skies during the day, with a nice breeze and moderating temperatures, and clear, cool evenings. 16.) Jim Anderson and Martin Dapot are looking for a better time here than they had in Maine, where shock failure spoiled their event. Since then, they've installed new JRZ front shocks and changed the spring rates on the StockCharts.com Group 5 Honda Prelude VTEC. 17.) Jim Dale and Robert Logue are making their return to performance rallying in an ex-Rod Millen Group 5 Mazda Rx-7. This follows a hiatus of six years for Dale and three for Logue. 18.) Andrew Havas and Scott Slingerland are here in another Group 5 Rx-7 that's likely to draw some attention. Havas passed up Maine when he couldn't get the car finished in time, then spent numerous all-nighters getting it completed and here for its debut. 19.) Team Honda Research's Bryan Hourt and Brian Shanfield have a new drivetrain in their Group 2 Civic, and feel that they should be much quicker. They're involved in the tightest points battle in the series, and are just one point out of the class lead. 20.) Bryan Hourt's mom, Moni, is a photographer who has been attending rallies for years taking pictures of Bryan. This year, she is taking official driver and co-driver "headshots," (informal portraits) that will be used for publicity purposes. In addition, she will have a large assortment of photos of all competitors available for sale during and after the event, as will several other photographers. 21.) Many of the women who organize and staff the Ojibwe Forests ProRally can be seen walking round sporting T-shirts bearing the saucy motto "girls kick butt," which always appears on the back of the Truess/Hughes Mazda 323 GTX. Event press officer Sarah Lenz reports having been personally waylaid twice in downtown Bemidji with queries of how to get the shirts -- and figures that they present a great opportunity to recruit for motorsports participants. 22.) Prior to the start, current Group 5 co-driver points leader Joe Noyes stopped by with a social note. Well-known Pacific Northwest organizer, driver and all-around rally figure John Forespring turns 60 on Monday. Happy Birthday, John! 23.) Early reports from the forest reveal a bunch of happy campers. Noel Lawler, who's first on the road in one of the factory Hyundai Tiburons, is enjoying a dust-free run. 24.) The Sprongls' Audi S2 quattro is "fab." 25.) Heat and dust are a factor for some. Lee Shadbolt and Claire Chizma also remarked about the great fun they were having in their PGT Subaru Impreza. 26.) Jim Anderson reports that the new suspension in his Group 5 Honda Prelude is doing great. 27.) Ralph Kosmides' Toyota Supra Turbo has a warm interior but is running well. A bent hood (cause unknown at this point) obscured his view, so he left the Akeley service area without it. 28.) Bill Malik, in a Group 2 Volvo 240, commented on the dust and the heat, but otherwise is doing fine. 29.) Early retirements include Mike Hurst and Rod Bohn's Group 5 Mazda Rx-7. They will need a transmission replacement. 30.) Mark Utecht and Diane Sargent hit a tree 0.3 miles into Stage 3 in their Group 5 Dodge Omni GLH Turbo and were unable to continue. 31.) Reports suggest that Tony Takaori's Mitsubishi Evo III may have been having trouble with its electronic control unit. 32.) Group 5 points leader Ralph Kosmides has switched his Toyota Supra Turbo over to Hella HID (High Intensity Discharge) lighting and is clearly very surprised by the magnitude of improvement. He says he knew that HID types were better, but had no idea how much better until he could see the difference first-hand. 33.) ClubRally competitors Alex Timmermans and John Golden (Group 2 Datsun 510)caught the John Zoerner/Greg Reno Group 5 Dodge Omni GLH-T on Stage 1, and that's where both teams' days ended. Zoerner/Greg moved over to let them by, got onto a very soft shoulder and went partially down an embankment. Timmermans and Golden pulled over to help and also became terminally stuck. They'll be back for tomorrow's ClubRally. 34.) Gail Truess and Pattie Hughes had an off on Stage 6 and got high-centered, losing a considerable amount of time. However, another team pulled them free and they're back in action. Along the way, they have been discovering just how well-suited their previous car was to Gail's driving style. 35.) In addition to the new sponsorship from Capco Abrasives mentioned earlier, Truess and Hughes also have acquired Klein Tools as an associate sponsor. Klein logos also can be see on the Team Kool Green cars in CART IndyCar racing 36.) One of the early returnees to rally headquarters was Steve Gingras, who stopped by to talk about his adventure. It seems that, due to fatigue, he struggled through the first three special stages. After the service break he was better rested and the Eagle Talon flew through stage 4. Two and half miles into stage 5, though, with the tail out and the boost full on, Gingras hit a "watermelon-sized" rock protruding from the side of the bank. The car spun and, like Arte Johnson on the tricycle in "Laugh In," slowly toppled over, to be followed by a Blues Brother-like roof spin. Gingras and navigator Bill Westrick were able to drive the car back to Bemidji, and will run tomorrow's ClubRally if a new windshield can be found. 37.) Bill Morton and Mike Busalacchi rolled their Evo IV hard on Stage 5 and are out. It reportedly took some time for sweep vehicles to retrieve the car. 38.) The problem with the Takaori/Cassidy Evo III turned out to be loose wiring on the throttle position sensor. It was repaired following Stage 2 and the car is flying again. 39.) Shortly after Steve Gingras' visit, Mark Utecht gingerly limped in with co-driver Diane Sargent to tell their story. A third of a mile into Stage 3, on a blind, sweeping, downhill right-hander he got into some loose gravel at about 70 mph. The left-rear corner tagged a tree, which snapped the car around. They hit another tree and stopped virtually instantly, broadside to oncoming traffic and blocking the road. They had no electrics, therefore no lights. Sargent got out, ran up the course and stopped the next cars. Because Utecht was experiencing considerable back pain, medical assistance was summoned and the stage was halted. Utecht was checked over and released, and made it back here in time for the pizza party -- albeit feeling pretty sore. Sargent got only a tasteful set of seat-belt bruises that pretty well matched Utecht's. 40.) Doug Davenport and Al Kintigh (Group 2 Volkswagen Golf GTi)fell off the road at well-known Brett's Corner and did a slow, gentle roll about 30 feet down an embankment. The only damage was a broken window. They'll be back tomorrow. 41.) Colin McCleary and Jeff Secor are "having a blast" in their Group 5 Ford Sierra. They stopped in to pass along special thanks to the crew of the Jim Buchwitz/Charles Rudstrom Group 2 Ford Escort, who welded up a crack in their rear suspension at the evening's final service. 42.) Seamus Burke and Tom Lawless suffered a burst intercooler pipe on their Production GT Mitsubishi Galant VR4 earlier in the evening, but it has been fixed and the car is said to be running well again. 43.) Surprise Production GT leaders Bryan Pepp and Jerry Stang (Eagle Talon) had a big slide on one stage, and have had a hot-running engine and some pronounced wheel-shake over the course of the day. 44.) Garen and Doc Shrader had a spin on Stage 2 in their Evo IV. They also noted the dust and heat earlier in the day. 45.) Bill Malik and Christian Edstrom are reported to be going like men possessed in their Group 2 Volvo 240, but they also are said to be overheating. 46.) Dean Panton and Mike Fennell had recurring alternator problems with their Hyundai Elantra. Ultimately, it put them out of the event, as they ran out of power before they could reach service.

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Series SCCA
Drivers Paul Choiniere , Jeff Becker , Ralph Kosmides , Joe Noyes , Bill Malik , Christian Edstrom , Seamus Burke , Ken Cassidy , Brian Shanfeld , Peter Malaszuk , Rod Millen , Jeff Secor , John Buffum , Jim Anderson , Alex T