Rumford, Maine - Under mostly sunny skies with perfect mid-summer temperatures, the largest field to ever start an SCCA ProRally Championship event in the 28-year history of the series began the 13th running of the Maine Forest Rally this...
Rumford, Maine - Under mostly sunny skies with perfect mid-summer temperatures, the largest field to ever start an SCCA ProRally Championship event in the 28-year history of the series began the 13th running of the Maine Forest Rally this afternoon. The series overall drivers championship and several class points battles are the closest in years, and the depth of the field may be the best ever. Today's action started out with a wide-open ½ mile special stage for the spectators, with an unusual prize for the fastest driver - a reseeding to be first on the road for the rest of the afternoon's rallying.
Key Notes & Quotes:
Subaru is having a 'character building' Day One, with a rarely seen fleet of four nearly identically painted works backed entries (two American, two Canadian) suffering a broad array of woes, some terminal. Tom McGeer suffered the worst of it, retiring partway through SS3 with a lower control arm failure sending him off into the woods. Teammate Patrick Richard slid into a rock on the same stage, and mangled his right rear suspension, but was able to continue, and preserve his lead in PGT. Mark Lovell, debuting the US squads all new Open class car is having some minor teething problems with turbo boost, and Karl Scheible suffered a violent rear tire puncture in his Group N car that altered the coachwork considerably - but was able to continue to the finish, but lost several positions.
In the Mitsubishi and Hyundai camps, Seamus Burke and Frank Cunningham are having yet another brilliant weekend in their Lancer, leading the charge over Noel Lawler's Hyundai by a mere 2 hundredths of a second. Rhys Millen, in his very recently renewed championship bid for Mitsubishi, is having some minor overheating problems, but is maintaining a good 13th overall position. Paul Choiniere and Jeff Becker, had a good day as well, placing their Hyundai Tiburon just three tenths of a second behind teammate Lawler and Charles Bradley. This is the Day One best finish of the season for the Hyundai team.
Over 15 cars have retired from the event at the conclusion of Day One.
The final stage of the days rallying is one of the most grueling of the season, with many punctures and suspension failures as lead causes of retirements. The roads for Day Two are considerably smoother, and also feature some of the longest stages in US rallying - up to 20 miles in length.
A crowd estimated at 2500 witnessed the short half-mile first stage that was held in the neighboring town of Mexico's recreation field. The course consisted of dirt and gravel that began in a wooded area before making its way around two softball fields. This is the first time the course was used, and replaced the very popular "Rumford Street Stage" that has been presented for several years.
The top-eight FIA seed drivers were scored by a new state-of-the-art TAG-Heuer timing equipment with specially developed software used locally by the U.S. Olympic cross country ski team. The system, which is able to time to the thousandth of a second, was used here as a preliminary test before its use in the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.
The Subaru WRX of Patrick Richard is leading the Mitsubishi of Lauchlin O'Sullivan by .99 of a minute in the Production GT class, despite significant damage to the right rear suspension incurred partway through SS3. 2000 Maine Forest Gr 5 winner Mark Utecht is in a solid third place in his Mitsubishi.
In Group 5, California's Carl Jardevall with Washington state's Amity Trowbridge is tied with Andrew Havas and are in 17th position overall.
The Brian Hourt/Drew Ritchie Acura trails by .28 of a minute.
Chris Havas is leading Group 2 by .35 of a minute over fellow Volkswagen driver Richard Pilczuk, with Padraig Purcell's unique and quick Vauxhall in third.
Noted Subaru's Opoen class driver Mark Lovell: "These roads remind me of the Network Q Rally." Fellow Briton Guy Anderson, making his US performance rally debut this weekend in fine style, leading the Production class in an Acura Integra, voiced similar sentiments.