SCCA ProRally Championship - Round ...
SCCA ProRally Championship - Round #9 - Prescott Forest
Prescott, Arizona - Featuring much smoother roads than teams had to endure in Leg One, the remaining survivors of yesterday's night of rallying headed north of Prescott to historic Jerome, where some of the highest elevation stages in the world (well over 6500 feet) beckoned. Mark Lovell, who snapped up the lead from a rapidly fading Seamus Burke halfway through Leg One never looked back, and finished the event with a 5-minute margin over Hyundai's Noel Lawler and a hard charging Mark Nelson. The overall Drivers' championship for 2001 now securely his; Lovell needs only to finish at Lake Superior in two weeks to secure Subaru's Overall Manufacturers Title.
Noel Lawler? Yes - along with faithful co-driver Charles Bradley, the 1999 SCCA champions were back on the podium after a 13-month hiatus. The jubilant Irishmen drove a hard rally, the punishing roads giving their Hyundai the longest workout of the season. By the final stage, the duo was battling turbo, starter, and clutch problems, but wouldn't relent. "The monkey is finally off our back," said a clearly elated Bradley after his first taste of winners circle champagne in over a year.
Before daybreak Seamus Burke made one of the most difficult decisions of his season - and withdrew from a rally he had hoped to be, and was at one time, winning. Leading the unadjusted* drivers championship points over Subaru works driver Mark Lovell by 6 points, a strong finish was essential to keep Burke's Drivers Championship hopes alive. The extensive damage to the car, and the nearly 30 minutes in time penalties that the team accrued making roadside repairs were more than could be made up even under the best of circumstances.
Mark Nelson was the star of today's show, winning all but one stage of the day, and keeping his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI in mint condition as well. Nelson, in his second full season of SCCA ProRally competition has been steadily improving all year, and this event was his finest ever, and marked his first trip to the podium. "We saw his stage times at service and we realized right away we would be watching our mirrors for the rest of the dayâ^À¦it was just his event and it was all we could do to hold him off" remarked Bradley.
In Woodner Cup competition for overall two-wheel drive honors, the year-end unadjusted* scores have really tightened up, with a showdown looming at Lake Superior. David White holds a 3-point edge over Tad Ohtake (93 - 90) but Andrew Havas' strong 5th place overall finish today brings him in striking distance with 79 points.
In Production, Tony Chavez' 5-minute margin over rival Craig Peeper just wasn't quite enough to clinch the class trophy, so both will have to travel to Lake Superior to determine the championship. Peeper has his work cut out for himself though - to win the year-end he will have to take the class win in Houghton.
The SCCA ProRally Championship's final event of the season in two weeks, is in a location and climate very far removed from Arizona's warm and sunny skies - traveling to the northernmost tip of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, for the historic Lake Superior Rally in Houghton.
* at the conclusion of the final round in two weeks, SCCA Drivers Championship rules dictate that only the best 7 events of the season will count towards the 2001 championship award. For drivers that entered more than 7 events, their points totals will be adjusted down, by dropping their weakest finishes.