EDSON, Alta. (May 21/2001) - Defending Canadian driving champion Tom McGeer dominated the Bighorn Rally in Alberta on Sunday. Driving a brand-new Subaru Impreza WRX, he led the event from start to finish and ended up four minutes, 22 seconds ahead...
EDSON, Alta. (May 21/2001) - Defending Canadian driving champion Tom McGeer dominated the Bighorn Rally in Alberta on Sunday. Driving a brand-new Subaru Impreza WRX, he led the event from start to finish and ended up four minutes, 22 seconds ahead of runner-up Sylvain Erickson.
The win was the 11th of McGeer's career - his sixth in the past seven events, dating back to the middle of last year - and puts him back into the lead of the 2001 Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama. After three of eight rounds, he now has 40 points; Erickson is second with 35.
McGeer, of Georgetown, Ont. - with American Mark Williams as his navigator - was fastest on every one of the 21 special stages, the competitive portions of the rally on roads temporarily closed to the public.
"I don't recall ever dominating a rally as easily as this one," he said. "We were never seriously challenged. There was never any real pressure. We'll bank the 20 points [for the win]. We may need them later in the year."
McGeer described the 15-hour rally - in and around the town of Edson, about 200 kilometres west of Edmonton - as "a relaxing, enjoyable day" and a good test of his new Impreza, a slightly improved version of the car he has been driving for the past several seasons.
"We had a few little problems, but nothing serious," he said. At one point, he thought the clutch was wearing and he was also concerned about the alternator, but both held up to the end.
McGeer completed 161 kilometres of special stages, mostly on gravel forestry roads, in 1 hour, 34 minutes, 57 seconds for an average speed of 101.7 km/h. It was his first win on this event since 1993. He said, without any pressure from behind, his biggest challenge was to maintain concentration and focus.
Erickson, who had brother Philippe as navigator, said his Mitsubishi Lancer simply did not have enough grunt to challenge McGeer. His car has about 270 horsepower; McGeer's Subaru has about 400.
On the second-to-last nightime stage, Erickson clipped the outside banking on a downhill left-hand corner and his car rolled over three times. It landed on its wheels, though, and he lost only about 15 seconds. But while he was able to continue to the finish, he estimated the bodywork damage at $10,000.
"It's frustrating," said the Gatineau, Que., driver. He claimed he was not driving that hard at the time, as he had little chance of catching McGeer. "I just got a little wide and it was the way the front wheel grabbed the bank."
He will now try to fix up the Mitsubishi for next Saturday's Rocky Mountain Rally, out of Calgary. He also has a more powerful Mazda 323 GTR, which he had been expected to bring to the Alberta events, but said it is not ready yet.
John Paynter, of East Sackville, N.S., finished a career-high third, although almost eight minutes behind Erickson. Paynter, with brother Clarke as navigator, also took top Production class honors.
The Paynters were surprised by the result. After they lost first and second gears on their Subaru Impreza WRX early in the afternoon, Clarke predicted they would be lucky to finish in the top 10.
Although overall attrition was not high - 16 of 20 cars finished the rally - the four who did not make it to the end were all among the frontrunners.
Barry Latreille, of Williamstown, Ont., was the first retirement when the turbo blew on his Eagle Talon on just the second stage. Production class champion Pat Richard, of Vancouver, lost the transmission on his Impreza.
Jean-Sebastien Besner, of Montreal, had the engine fail on his Mitsubishi Lancer, while running third. Brian Scott, of Michigan, who then took over third place in his Eagle Talon, crashed out on the second-to-last stage.
The most intense battle at the end of the rally was for fourth place, between Dave Koszegi, of Port Alberni, B.C., in a Subaru Legacy, Janusz Komorowski, of Calgary, in a Mazda 323 GTX, and Harry Anderson, of Thunder Bay, Ont., in an Eagle Talon. They finished in that order, separated by just 11 seconds.
Gord Olsen, of Brooks, Alta., finished seventh overall in his Volkswagen GTI and, for a second straight year, took top honors in the Group 2 class for modified two-wheel-drive cars.
RESULTS of the BIGHORN RALLY Round 3 of the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama (driver, navigator, hometowns, car, time)
1. Tom McGeer, Georgetown, Ont. / Mark Williams, Maryland, Subaru Impreza WRX, 1h34m57s; 2. Sylvain Erickson / Philippe Erickson, Gatineau, Que., Mitsubishi Lancer, 1h39m19s; 3. John Paynter, East Sackville, N.S. / Clarke Paynter, Dartmouth, N.S., Subaru Impreza WRX, 1h45m47s; 4. Dave Koszegi / Todd Patola, Port Alberni, B.C., Subaru Legacy, 1h46m29s; 5. Janusz Komorowski / Tomasz Karzynski, Calgary, Mazda 323 GTX, 1h46m32s; 6. Harry Anderson / Mark Anderson, Thunder Bay, Ont., Eagle Talon, 1h46m40s; 7. Gord Olsen / Kathy Olsen, Brooks, Alta., Volkswagen GTI, 1h47m41s; 8. Zebe Szewczyk / Michael Nicols, Calgary, Toyota Celica, 1h51m07s; 9. Peter Hill / Barry Gurnsey, Calgary, Toyota Corolla, 1h51m59s; 10. Mark Ward / Ken Kwong, Vancouver, Subaru Legacy, 1h53m03s.