Sprongl Out Front, Richard Battling After Early Mishap WELLSBORO, Pa. (June 5, 2004) -- A Canadian leads the Susquehannock Trail ProRally through the first half of the event, but it isn't Pat Richard. Open class driver Frank Sprongl, in his...
Sprongl Out Front, Richard Battling After Early Mishap
WELLSBORO, Pa. (June 5, 2004) -- A Canadian leads the Susquehannock Trail ProRally through the first half of the event, but it isn't Pat Richard.
Open class driver Frank Sprongl, in his 2000 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI, turned in the fast stage time on Special Stages two, three and four and holds a 16-second advantage over fellow Canadian Pat Richard, in his 2002 Subaru Impreza WRX, after Richard had forged an early four-second advantage after the famous water crossing at SS1.
Irishman Shane Mitchell, back in SCCA ProRally action for the first time since Sno*Drift in January, sits third currently in his 2002 WRX, seven seconds behind Group N leader Richard. Drivers Tom Lawless and John Drislane are in fourth and fifth, respectively.
The difference between the top two would have been closer had it not been for a series of turns at the very end of SS3. Sprongl posted the fast time (10:24.0), but Richard's time of 10:32.3 would have been lower had it not been for a spin at the end of the stage.
"It probably cost us about 15 seconds," Richard said. "I made a mistake there at the end of stage three, which is a pretty slippery left-hander, a bit of camber. A couple of others had problems there as well. We're 16 seconds behind Frank and seven ahead of Shane, so we'll try to keep pace. Frank's a very good driver and I think it's a stretch of the imagination that I'll be able to put any time on him seriously for the rest of the event, so I'll just try to stay clean."
With none of the competitors currently close to him in the point standings, Open class drivers point leader Leon Styles came into STPR with hopes of putting together back-to-back podium finishes and furthering his point lead. However, those aspirations may have soured a bit as the early stages gave the New Zealand-native problems.
"I had a fogged up windshield early and couldn't see a darn thing," said Styles, who sits seventh overall and fourth in the Open class currently. "Stage Two I spun out in front of the spectators and Stage Three I went into a downhill into a Left Three at the finish and just demolished the bank before we limped into the finish.
"Overall we're okay I think," Styles continued. "We've got some things bent but not broken, so we'll just go on and try to earn some points."
In Group Five, Team Mopar Dodge continues its impressive run in the Dodge SRT-4 models. Team incumbent Doug Shepherd leads the class by 21 seconds over Paul Choiniere, who joined the team prior to STPR.
Five entries suffered early DNF's. Among those, Mark Utecht's season-long struggles continue after mechanical problems forced his retirement just a mile into the first stage.
"We lost a bunch a power and couldn't figure out what happened at first," Utecht said. "About two-tenths of a mile later, we saw smoke and figured the engine had been damaged significantly. We found out later we had holed a piston."
The restart of the remaining field is set for 5:46 p.m. (EDT), forty-five minutes later than originally scheduled. The delay was caused by a reported car fire at the end of SS3. No one was injured, but action was stopped until the stage was cleared.
The second-half of STPR is anticipated to conclude with the first car finishing the rally at the fire annex building in Wellsboro at 12:45 a.m. (EDT), approximately.
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