U.S. Champion builds solid lead in Canada's premier car rally. LA MALBAIE, QUE. (Oct. 25/2002) - Eleven-time U.S. driving champion John Buffum built a commanding lead on Friday in the first leg of Canada's premier car rally in the Charlevoix ...
U.S. Champion builds solid lead in Canada's premier car rally.
LA MALBAIE, QUE. (Oct. 25/2002) - Eleven-time U.S. driving champion John Buffum built a commanding lead on Friday in the first leg of Canada's premier car rally in the Charlevoix region of Quebec.
At the wheel of a Hyundai Tiburon, the veteran Vermont driver pulled out a gap of more than three minutes over top Canadian, Andrew Comrie-Picard, on the first of three days of action in the Rallye International de Charlevoix.
This event is the longest and most grueling round of the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama, and is Canada's candidate for inclusion in the world championship. It is being observed by members of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, the sport's global governing body.
Buffum was fastest on five of Friday's six special stages - the high-speed sections on roads temporarily closed to the public - despite a long absence from the driver's seat. Semi-retired the past few years, he has not competed since the 2001 Charlevoix event.
With Steven McCauley as navigator, he completed 145.54 kilometres of special stages in one hour, 28 minutes, 55 seconds, for an average of 96.17 kph. He attributed his success to the right choice of tires for the conditions - a tricky mix of snow, ice, slush and mud on forestry roads north of La Malbaie.
"Our tire choice was good, but I definitely did not expect to be this far ahead," said Buffum, who previously won at Charlevoix in 1999.
Second-placed Comrie-Picard, a native of Alberta now living in New York, had problems with the tires on his Mitsubishi Lancer. He picked up four flats and had to borrow spare tires from another team, already out of the event.
Toronto-area drivers Peter Thomson and Tom McGeer ended the day in third and fourth places, both driving Subaru Impreza WRXs. McGeer, a five-time Canadian champion, is chasing the North American Rally Cup this year and has to finish here to have any chance of overhauling current leader Pat Richard.
Richard, of Vancouver, who has already clinched the 2002 Canadian title, was an early casualty. Just one kilometre into the opening stage, the factory Subaru driver hit a bank and broke the suspension of his Impreza WRX.
Attrition has been high. Eight of 30 cars failed to complete the first day of competition. Besides Richard, notable retirements included Sylvain Erickson, of Gatineau, Que. - currently second in the Canadian point standings - who hit a rock and damaged the suspension of his Mitsubishi Lancer.
German visitor Antony Warmbold was the only driver to beat Buffum all day. He was fastest on stage four in his world championship specification Toyota Corolla, but went out on the very next segment. Monaco's Auguste Turiani retired with steering problems on his Mitsubishi Lancer.