QUEBEC CITY (Feb 3/2002) - Tom McGeer began his quest for a sixth Canadian rally driving title in the best possible fashion by taking a comfortable victory on the Rallye de Quebec. McGeer finished the two-day event - opening round of the 2002 ...
QUEBEC CITY (Feb 3/2002) - Tom McGeer began his quest for a sixth Canadian rally driving title in the best possible fashion by taking a comfortable victory on the Rallye de Quebec.
McGeer finished the two-day event - opening round of the 2002 Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama - with an advantage of three minutes and five seconds over runner-up Sylvain Erickson.
The 41-year-old from Georgetown, Ont., completed 219.3 kms. of special stages, the competitive portions of the rally held on roads temporarily closed to the public, in two hours, 48 minutes, 58 seconds (an average speed of 77.87 kph).
"The roads were tight and twisty, the way I like them, and the conditions were fabulous," said McGeer, as the snowy event wrapped up Sunday. "We pushed hard yesterday [Saturday] to pull out the gap we needed and today was much easier."
With Mark Williams as his navigator, McGeer was quickest on seven of eight special stages on Saturday and on three of six on Sunday in a factory-backed Subaru Impreza WRX - despite the fact that he had to make do with less power than he is used to.
New restrictions on turbochargers, intended to make the cars more equal, have cut his Subaru's power output by about 25 per cent. He did not think the loss was too critical here - raw power is not so important in slippery snow and ice conditions - but he predicted some close contests later in the year.
This was McGeer's 16th career victory. If he wins a sixth driving title this year, he will tie the Canadian record for most championship triumphs.
Erickson was happy to take second place in his Yokohama-sponsored Mitsubishi Lancer, after a trouble-free run. "Snow is not my element, so we didn't take too many chances," said the Gatineau, Que., driver, who had brother Philippe as his navigator. He was quickest on two special stages.
Another Yokohama Mitsubishi, driven by Montreal's Jean-Sebastien Besner, was third - his fifth podium finish in six events since mid-2001 - despite a potentially-embarrassing mishap early in the rally. He slid off the road on a routine transit section, between stages, but Erickson stopped to tow him out.
McGeer's Subaru Canada team-mate, Patrick Richard, of Whistler, B.C., was his main challenger early in the event, but lost a lot of time when he slid into a snowbank on one of Saturday's late stages on the Hippodrome horse-racing track in Quebec City. Although fastest on two stages, he had to settle for fourth.
Joel Levac, of Riviere Beaudette, Que., finished fifth in his first appearance in a new Subaru Impreza WRX and took top production class honors, ahead of sixth-placed Bruno Laverdiere, of Laval, Que., in an Eagle Talon.
Antoine L'Estage, of L'Acadie, Que., was the production-class leader early on, but broke a wheel on his Eagle Talon.
Bertrand Godin - one of Canada's most experienced road-circuit racers, but making his rally debut here - then led in production for much of the event in a Subaru Impreza RS. But the St-Hyacinthe, Que, driver finally slid off the road in one of the closing stages on Sunday and fell to 11th overall.
Steve Walkington, of Hudson, Que., was seventh in a VW Scirocco and won the smaller-engined production class. Jean-Marc Alcaraz, of St-Lambert-de-Levis, Que., was eighth overall in a VW Golf and first in the Group 2 division (for modified two-wheel-drive cars).
The rally comeback of Sylvain Vincent - runner-up in the Canadian championship in 1999 and 2000, returning after a year's absence - came to an early end. The turbo broke on the La Plaine, Que., driver's Impreza on just the second stage.
Another expected frontrunner, Quebec champion Jon Nichols, of Lachine, also dropped out early when he went off the road in his Impreza on stage three.