U.S. Champion leads car chase through the snow. LA MALBAIE, QUE. (Oct. 26/2002) - Eleven-time U.S. driving champion John Buffum extended his lead in Canada's premier car rally on Saturday in the second leg of competition in the Charlevoix region...
U.S. Champion leads car chase through the snow.
LA MALBAIE, QUE. (Oct. 26/2002) - Eleven-time U.S. driving champion John Buffum extended his lead in Canada's premier car rally on Saturday in the second leg of competition in the Charlevoix region of Quebec.
With one day remaining, Buffum leads the Rallye International de Charlevoix by five minutes, 38 seconds, from Andrew Comrie-Picard, the top Canadian.
Driving a Hyundai Tiberon, with Steven McCauley as navigator, Buffum has completed 195.25 kilometres of special stages - the competitive portions of the event on roads temporarily closed to the public - in two hours, eight minutes, 21 seconds, for an average speed of 91.27 kph.
Heavy snow in the mountainous forestry roads north of La Malbaie played havoc with Saturday's schedule. Two stages had to be cancelled as the snow- blocked roads were impassable. Further snow could jeopardize some or all of Sunday's four scheduled stages, covering 121 kilometres.
This is the second time in three years that snow has beset the Charlevoix event, which is not only part of the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama, but is also Canada's candidate for world championship status. It is under observation by global motorsport officials from Paris.
The tricky conditions may have helped Buffum, who was quickest on three of the four stages that were held on Saturday.
"This is a lot of snow for October," noted the 57-year-old veteran from Vermont, who has competed in world championship rallies dating back to the late 1960s. "Experience means a lot [in these conditions]."
Second-placed Comrie-Picard, an Albertan now living in New York, lost about 40 seconds when he spun and briefly got stuck in the snow, but otherwise had a problem-free day after a series of flat tires on the first leg. The Mitsubishi Lancer driver leads third-placed Peter Thomson by four-and-a- half minutes.
"It's going well, but tomorrow's [Sunday's] stages are going to be hard," said Comrie-Picard. "I think we'll play it safe and hold position. It's boring, but the only sensible thing to do."
The closest battle is for third place between Toronto-area drivers Thomson and Tom McGeer, who are just over a minute apart, both driving Subaru Impreza WRXs. McGeer was the only driver besides Buffum to win a special stage on Saturday, but his pursuit of Thomson was later thwarted by gearbox problems.
"It was a stressful afternoon, but we made it [to the end] and the car is going to be fixed," said McGeer, a five-time Canadian champion who has won three of the past four Charlevoix events. "We've got to go flat-out tomorrow [Sunday] to get past Thomson. I'm going to run safely but hard."
Former Quebec provincial champion Jon Nichols, of Lachine, is fifth in another Impreza WRX, despite a number of problems, including a seized shock absorber.
Two other former Quebec champions were sidelined on Saturday. Sylvain Vincent, who had been fifth on Friday, had an ignition failure on his Impreza WRX, while Yves Barbe, seventh after the first leg, had a wheel seize on his Eagle Talon. Seventeen cars, out of 30 that started, are still running.