SCCA ProRally Championship - Round 3 - Oregon Trail Lovell Earns first USA Rally Win for Subaru/Prodrive Tillamook, OR, On only their third attempt, Prodrive Subaru pilot Mark Lovell with co-driver Steve Turvey earned their first US top SCCA...
SCCA ProRally Championship - Round 3 - Oregon Trail
Lovell Earns first USA Rally Win for Subaru/Prodrive
Tillamook, OR, On only their third attempt, Prodrive Subaru pilot Mark Lovell with co-driver Steve Turvey earned their first US top SCCA ProRally podium spots this weekend with a flawless, well paced drive in this grueling, wet, cold and muddy rally in the mountains of Northwestern Oregon. With a top Group N finish delivered by team mate Karl Scheible, Oregon Trail turned out to be sweet redemption for the UK based rally powerhouse's 4-month old U S competition venture, recovering completely from the double failures the team endured at last months Cherokee Trails.
Weather was the event's greatest challenge, making tire choice, always difficult for teams to manage under the SCCA's traditional 'blind rally' rules, now exceedingly so. On many stages, it was not unusual to see 5 cars in a row each with a completely different take on what tire combination woul d work. Precipitation was nearly constant throughout, and the temperature would often swing 10 or more degrees up or down on the half-hour, with resultant switches between blinding snow, fog, rain and hail. Regardless, teams were universal in their appreciation of the driving challenge the winding, wide and well-groomed forest trails presented.
Series points leader Seamus Burke recovered from his incredible day-one roll-over experience in day two, steadily moving up the leaderboard to secure a hard-fought third-place podium spot that many would have thought was simpl y not in the cards. Easily the most talked about drive of the event, rally fans and drivers alike all were in agreement that the Atlanta, GA based Irishman drove his best rally of the season, wheeling his mangled (and rented) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI with verve and determination, earning Mitsubishi some much needed championship points, and keeping Burke in the Driver's points lead. Burke's own new Evo VI is slated to be ready for him at Rim of the World - his third car in 4 events.
Paul Choiniere's mechanical woes of day one 'shifted gears' somewhat in day two, with the transaxle difficulties that left him with a rear-drive car on day one, swapping ends, leaving him with only a front-drive car halfway through day-two. With Lawler out, and the Subarus and Mitsubishis having an unstoppable run at the front, Choiniere was able to dial-back and conserve the Tiburon, ensuring 3rd place MFG points for the company. The 2000 champions may be on their own at Rim of the World, with the extensive repairs needed to get Lawler's Tiburon back in top shape not likely before Round 4 in early May, possibly forcing Lawler to sit that event out.
Richard Tuthill and John Bennie, the UK sensations that stunned the US rally community with their 'out of nowhere' domination of the Cherokee Trails event in their privately entered and nearly stock Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV, backed up their performance with a second place overall finish. With turbo problems holding him back in day one, and intermittent engine management problems in day two that occasionally left the duo crawling down stage roads at 20mph, Tuthill's podium spot becomes even more remarkable.
Karl Scheible, the 2000 SCCA ProRally Gr N Champion, secured his second Gr N win of the season, besting Ramana Lagemann's Subaru by nearly two minutes in his Prodrive Impreza WRX
In the SCCA two-wheel drive classes, day one spectator sensation and local favorite Carl Jardevall had a very rare for him late in the day off-road slip-up, opening the overall two-wheel drive (Woodner Cup) points to series veteran David White. Oregon resident Nate Tennis, wheeled his vintage 1973 SAAB 99 to second place in Gr 2, less than a minute behind White. An exhausted Tennis's post-event comment: "next time - power steering." Ford engineer Tad Ohtake's supercharged Escort ZX2 soldiered on for third overall, a higher finish nixed by punctures and half-shaft woes.
Lovell's solid win, Tuthill's close chase, and Burke's inspired drive to his third podium finish in as many events have produced an exceptionally tight points race heading to the Championship's most brutal event, the legendary Rim of the World in the Angeles National Forest surrounding Palmdale, California. Unofficial standings for the overall Drivers championship are: Burke/Cunningham 42, Lovell/Turvey 41, and Tuthill/Bennie 39. 2000 Series Champions Choiniere/Becker are in 5th position with 25 points.
The Overall Manufacturer's Championship has also tightened up considerably, with the unofficial standings at Hyundai 52, Subaru 47, and Mitsubishi 42. Subaru handily leads the FIA Group N Manufacturer's Championship with three back to back victories, 60 points to Mitsubishi's 15 . Hyundai also earned their first Production Class points of the season, with the class winning finish of their two-wheel drive showroom stock Tiburon, driven by Sport Compact Car magazine editors David Coleman and Josh Jacquot.