ProRally: Sno*Drift: Day one report

Seamus Burke kicks season opener into high gear. Atlanta and Lewiston, Michigan The 30th consecutive full season of SCCA ProRally Championship competition slipped and slid to life with nearly 70 rally cars today in these neighboring Elk hunting...

Seamus Burke kicks season opener into high gear.

Atlanta and Lewiston, Michigan The 30th consecutive full season of SCCA ProRally Championship competition slipped and slid to life with nearly 70 rally cars today in these neighboring Elk hunting and snowmobiling hamlets in the northern reaches of Michigan's lower peninsula.

Seamus Burke and Charles Bradley, the two Atlanta, Georgia based Irishmen quietly moved their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI through the impressive field of premier independent and works backed entries with good pace and careful driving, finishing the first day of rallying just 15 seconds ahead of the Prodrive prepared Subaru piloted by a very determined Mark Lovell and Nicky Beech.

Key Notes:

* With Snow gently falling over much of northern Michigan, the Sno*Drift Rally, after several years of what could be construed as false advertising finally delivered on its namesake promise. While not more than 8 inches deep, the fresh accumulations of snow served to both cover and lubricate the hard ice covered roads of rural Montmorency County. Unlike last year's devious combination of mud, gravel, water and ice, the roads this year, while overall much slicker, at least gave teams a consistent surface to drive on, and made tire selection a bit less of a compromise than in years past.

* Tapio Laukkanen's first taste of American winter rallying included a brief meeting with a tree, bending a rear suspension control arm, but not enough to slow him down - winning SS3 and matching fastest time on SS4 with David Higgins. With Day two's stages being generally more open, and Laukkanen becoming more comfortable with studless tire rallying, expect a charge to the front from this highly experienced duo from Finland.

* David Higgins' debut of his all-new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution is doing very well, with two special stage fastest times, finishing Day One in 3rd place overall. Teammate Lauchlin O'Sullivan isn't far behind, with both cars finishing.

* Tim O'Neil's Open Class debut with the Air Force Reserve Ford Focus came to an abrupt 'carrier landing' halt on stage 5 - the 2002 Group N Championship runner-up sliding into problems on the solid ice covered roads. At the time, O'Neil was running as high as 3rd place overall.

* Mark Utecht and co-driver Jeff Secor, are off to an excellent start in Group N, leading the class with a 29 second margin over a determined Shane Mitchell, occupying 8th and 9th places overall.

* Scott Harvey Jr, with co-driver Kent Gardham, earned the hard-charger award for Day One, gaining 24 positions over 6 stages. The duo benefited from a smart tire choice and used a lot of patience to finish the night with a comfortable lead in the GT class with a minute and a half margin over the Lithuanian team of Valdemaras Maciukevicius and Arunas Salkauskas.

* In Group 2, Mazda Protege pilot Eric Burmeister made a last minute car change, with engine electrical woes sidelining the Mazda, Eric borrowed his father's VW Golf to enable him to earn as many drivers championship points as possible. Matt Johnson, who has run so well both here last year and at several other ProRallys in 02, suffered multiple contacts with the scenery on SS2, and has retired with steering and suspension problems. Christopher Whiteman, debuting his Dodge Neon SXT, holds onto 2nd place in class.

* The Rally restarts tomorrow, at 8:01 AM in downtown Atlanta for 10 stages of rally action, with the first cars scheduled to finish in the early evening in nearby Hillman. Light snow is forecast to fall all night and throughout the day tomorrow, with 3-5 inch accumulations expected. Temperatures are not expected to get above15 degrees, making this the coldest, and snowiest SCCA ProRally in many years.

The SCCA name and logo is a registered trademark of the Sports Car Club of America, Inc. ProRally, ClubRally and RallyCross are service marks of the SCCA.

The SCCA ProRally Championship is presented by Mitsubishi and Subaru, and is televised in North America on SpeedChannel. Time and date listing information available at www.speedtv.com

-scca pro rally-

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About this article
Series SCCA
Drivers Seamus Burke , Shane Mitchell , Eric Burmeister , Tim O'Neil , David Higgins , Jeff Secor , Scott Harvey , Matt Johnson