SCCA ProRally Championship Round 3 - Oregon Trail Tillamook, OR: A record starting lineup of 61 performance rally cars from North America and Europe are slated to begin the Oregon Trail SCCA ProRally at 11:30 AM Saturday morning, at the...
SCCA ProRally Championship Round 3 - Oregon Trail
Tillamook, OR: A record starting lineup of 61 performance rally cars from North America and Europe are slated to begin the Oregon Trail SCCA ProRally at 11:30 AM Saturday morning, at the historic WWII Blimp Hanger and Air Museum (the worlds' largest free standing wooden structure) just south of town. While still early in the season, fierce overall drivers and manufacturers points chases have already developed; victors of this event will hold an exceedingly important strategic advantage heading to round 4 - the notoriously brutal Rim of the World rally in early May.
Selected late entries, news * Paul Choiniere is back in the lead Hyundai drivers seat, fully recovered from a persistent inner ear-infection that left him with balance difficulties - and parked on the sidelines at Cherokee Trails last month. That absence dropped the 2000 season overall and co-driver champions to 2nd place in the overall drivers championship points race, tied with UK upstart Richard Tuthill.
* Noel Lawler and Charles Bradley are also back in their extensively mended Hyundai Tiburon, after recovering from a nasty downhill roll at Cherokee Trail. The 1999 Championship duo now languish in 16th place (tied with a whopping 20 other drivers!) in the championship, but were in excellent, class-leading form at Cherokee until their big shunt. Expect a first-class show from these fighting Irishmen.
* After a disastrous Round 2, Prodrive comes to Oregon with two fully rebuilt Subaru Impreza WRX for Mark Lovell and Karl Scheible. In 4th and 7th places overall respectively, their points situation isn't as dire as Lawler/Bradley's, but a resurgent Hyundai team and the strong showings from Mitsubishi point men Tuthill and Burke has caused a few sleepless nights at the team HQ in Vermont.
* This event is the first West Coast stop on the 10-event SCCA ProRally circuit this season, with several teams headquartered west of the Rockies making their season debuts: among the notables at Oregon Trail are the three-car independent Subaru team of Gingras/Westrick, Peterson/Gutzman and Ryther/Damitio, plus the Group N debut of 1999 Group 5 MFG champion Ralph Kosmides in his newly aquired Subaru Impreza WRX-STi. 2000 Production GT Champion Patrick Richard of Vancouver BC is crossing the border for the first time this year, and two-wheel drive crowd pleasers Carl Jardevall (Volvo) and Jay Streets (Toyota) will no doubt be spraying more gravel between them than the top 10 all-wheel drive cars put together.
* Championship leaders Seamus Burke and Frank Cunningham are 7th on the road, in their third vehicle change in as many events - this time Burke will be at the helm of a new Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI. Their starting position, which for rallyists isn't usually advantageous, could prove to be perfect for the hard-charging Irish duo: the lead cars may sweep the logging trails free of loose gravel, providing the team with a solid surface to run on, and also give the team the opportunity to check the raw times of the drivers ahead of them - letting Burke set a pace that could prove hard to match.
* East Coast drivers are in rare abundance in Oregon this year, with Thomas and Brendan Lawless, John Drislane and Declan Hegarty (both in Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IVs), Nial Donnelly and Eoin McGeough (Mistsubishi Eclipse) and Patrick Lilly and Mark McAllister (Mazda RX3) all of New York making the trip - a huge investment for these teams, as they are all independents with no major sponsor backing. Lawless and Drislane both made impressive showings at Cherokee Trails, Drislane finishing 8th overall, and Lawless in-line for a top-ten finish until a suspension failure dropped him out on the penultimate stage of that brutal three-day event.
* Weather forecast: Classic early spring Northwest coastal weather is on the way: cool and a little wet. Oregon Trail has one of the largest elevation changes in the SCCA ProRally Championship, starting at sea level, with some stages nearly 2000 feet high. Snow has been falling on and off in the high country, with rain showers expected throughout Saturday. Highs will be around 50 degrees in Tillamook, cooler in the mountains, with evening lows just above freezing, with similar temps Sunday.