Jon Nichols returns to seek fifth title

LACHINE, Que. (Feb. 4/2004) - Four-time Canadian rally driving champion Jon Nichols has announced he will make a comeback this season after running only a limited schedule over the past few years. Nichols, 41, of Lachine, Que., will attempt to win...

LACHINE, Que. (Feb. 4/2004) - Four-time Canadian rally driving champion Jon Nichols has announced he will make a comeback this season after running only a limited schedule over the past few years. Nichols, 41, of Lachine, Que., will attempt to win a fifth national title in the Canadian Rally Championship's Group 2 class for modified two-wheel-drive cars. The season kicks off on Saturday (Feb. 7) with the Rallye Perce-Neige, out of Maniwaki, Que., about 120 kms. north of Ottawa.

Nichols will again drive a VW Golf, the same type of car that carried him to the championship in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 1999. But he will have a new navigator, or co-driver, in Carl Schenk, and a new sponsor in Montreal-based FCP Mags and Tires. Schenk, 26, of Montreal, has extensive experience in navigational events. But he is new to performance rallying, where teams go at maximum speed on roads temporarily closed to the public. "Carl has been successful in winning navigational rallies. I think he'll be a welcome addition to performance rallying," said Nichols.

At Perce-Neige, their goal is simply to finish and, said Nichols, "make it a pleasant learning experience for the co-driver." For the season, though, Nichols is aiming for nothing less than a fifth championship. "Five seems a good round number. I missed a fifth championship before because of force majeure," said Nichols, in reference to 1996 when he led the points chase all season long until he was obliged to miss the final event due to an overseas commitment.

Since his last championship in 1999, Nichols has made only occasional rally appearances, usually in a Subaru Impreza in the "open" class for modified, four-wheel-drive turbocharged cars. He returned to his VW Golf last September at the Defi Ste-Agathe in the Laurentian mountains northwest of Montreal. He took the Group 2 class win there. He plans to contest five of the six events on the 2004 Canadian Rally Championship calendar (all but the Rocky Mountain Rally in Alberta in May, due to business commitments). He expects his main competition to be fellow VW Golf driver Gord Olsen, of Brooks, Alta., who has won the Group 2 championship the past three years.

To get on equal footing with his rivals, Nichols plans to upgrade his 1999 VW's motor - installing fuel injection, among other things - to boost output from 170 horsepower to about 200. The improved motor should be ready for the Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs in July. "It's going to be a challenging year," said Nichols, who is also a two-time Quebec Cup rally titlist and former provincial ice-racing champion. "But I've got better support than I've had before and a keen new co-driver who brings a lot of energy to the team."

As well as FCP Mags and Tires, Nichols and Schenk are sponsored by RMR Autosport, Automotion bodyshop, Bosch, Momo Canada, Technolift, Sticky Media, Yokohama and Foreign Car Parts.

-www.jonnichols.com

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Series Other rally
Drivers Jon Nichols , Carl Schenk , Gord Olsen