SCCA ProRally Championship - Round ...
SCCA ProRally Championship - Round #1 - Sno*Drift
Mitsubishi debut flawless, perfect season start for Higgins.
ATLANTA, Michigan The first truly 'snow-drifted' Sno*Drift rally concluded Saturday evening in weather challenging to even the most hardened rally fan or participant. 2002 SCCA ProRally Driver Champion David Higgins, with Daniel Barritt alongside in the co-driver seat kept the boost dialed back and drove a cautiously competitive rally, knowing that Tapio Laukkenen and Ilkka Riipinen, both of Finland, were using all their winter rally experience to earn their first SCCA ProRally victory. The delays caused by a minor tree tapping episode and an un-related puncture that slowed Laukkanen on Day One proved insurmountable, and Higgins coasted home with an impressive 2 minute margin.
* Mitsubishi could not have hoped for a more perfect debut for their new rally team and cars than what they earned at this year's Sno*Drift. While pre-event shakedown time on the all-new cars was minimal - the cars were finished and shipped to the US only 10 days prior to arriving at the event site, the Lancer Evolutions performed perfectly. Richard Kelly, Motorsports Manager for Mitsubishi Motors North America was delighted: "With so little time to get the cars sorted prior to the event, we came here with an objective to simply finish - to come away with an overall win, and a supporting 4th place, is a huge accomplishment for the team, and for David and Lauchlin."
* Group N: Mark Utecht and Jeff Secor also had a perfect launch to their 2003 season, driving a very smart rally, staying just ahead of their nearest challenger Shane Mitchell. Overall, Group N (and Subaru) had a great weekend, with 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th place overall positions filled with these versatile and durable global rally cars. In related news, 2002 British Rally Overall Champion Jonny Milner, who made a last minute switch to Open class for this event, remains certain that the balance of his debut season in the United States will be in Group N; a formidable fact that should have Utecht and Mitchell very pleased to have this 'once in a season' driver points building jumpstart.
* If it wasn't for the all-Subaru sweep of the Group N class, this weekend was a disappointing one for the manufacturer. In addition to retiring both World Rally cars at Monte Carlo, both works-backed entries at Sno*Drift retired as well, with Ramana Lagemann getting stuck on a snow bank, and Mark Lovell suffering a turbo seizure and subsequent under hood fire very late in the rally on Saturday.
* Group 2: Christopher Whiteman and Richard Beels earned their first in-class win in his new Group 2 Dodge Neon SXT over Eric Burmeister. In 3rd were multi-time One Lap of America class champions Kevin Wesley and Richard Ehrenberg, driving an ex-Tom Young Dodge Neon ACR, completing their first SCCA Performance Rally, and earning their first championship points.
* In Group 5, a similar sweep by Dodge Neons, this time with turbocharged SRT-4 models, bracketed the 2nd place finish of Robert Olson, in his Porsche 911, which may have been the most challenging drive of the weekend on the iced roads. In first place was familiar Neon of Don Jankowski and Peter Gladysz, in 3rd was former Toyota Supra driver Brian Vinson and Richard Beels.
* If the above news sounds like Dodge is Back, you are correct: After a five-year absence from official involvement, Dodge has returned to SCCA Performance Rallying. Maintaining an intentionally grassroots presence at Sno*Drift, the manufacturers' hopes are to bolster the presence of the company's affordable and enthusiast targeted American brand in a sport that is currently dominated by off-shore models.
* The SCCA ProRally Championship, following this early season wake-up call, goes on a 3-month hiatus, roaring back to life at the Rim of the World Rally in southern California, in early May. To keep everyone busy in the interim, the SCCA ClubRally National Championship - the 100 Acre Wood Rally in Salem, Missouri, will crown the nation's top amateur performance rallyists on 21-22 February.
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
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