Rocky Mountain Rally preview

<pre> Subaru Canadian Rally Championship Presented By Yokohama Round 4 Of 2001 Championship </pre> CALGARY, Alta. (May 23/2001) - Tom McGeer will be racing through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains this Saturday (May 26) at speeds...

<pre> Subaru Canadian Rally Championship Presented By Yokohama Round 4 Of 2001 Championship </pre>

CALGARY, Alta. (May 23/2001) - Tom McGeer will be racing through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains this Saturday (May 26) at speeds in excess of 200 km/h - on roads closed to the public - as he attempts to extend his points lead in the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama.

The defending Canadian rally driving champion is the pre-event favorite heading into this weekend's Rocky Mountain Rally, the fourth of eight rounds in the 2001 series. He has won two of the three rallies held so far, including last Sunday's Bighorn Rally, based out of Edson, west of Edmonton.

That victory, in a brand-new Subaru Impreza WRX, put the 40-year-old driver from Georgetown, Ont., back atop the overall points standings after he had failed to finish the preceding Rallye Perce-Neige in Quebec. He now has 40 points, five more than Sylvain Erickson, of Gatineau, Que.

Erickson, winner of the Perce-Neige, was second on the Bighorn in a Mitsubishi Lancer, although the car was somewhat battered by the finish. He rolled it in the final stages. There was no internal damage and he continued to the finish, but he has been busy all this week trying to straighten out the bodywork.

The Rocky Mountain Rally is headquarted in Calgary and the event begins in the city on Friday evening, with a pair of special stages around the Blackfoot Motorcyle Park, beginning at 7 p.m. The special stages are the competitive, high-speed portions of the rally on roads temporarily closed to the public.

The rally resumes on Saturday morning in the Porcupine Hills area in the foothills of the mountains, about 100 kms. southwest of Calgary. The drivers and their navigators will race, at one-minute intervals, through about 170 kms. of special stages, with low-speed transit sections in between.

Wallace Outpost, at the junctions of Highways 22 and 517, will serve as the central base for Saturday's stages, which begin at 9.50 a.m. and end at about 8 p.m. Prize-giving ceremonies will be held at the Blackfoot Inn in Calgary, rally headquarters, at about 10.30 p.m.

McGeer's brand-new Impreza WRX, a slightly updated and revised version of the car he has rallied for the past several seasons, performed nearly flawlessly in its debut last week on the Bighorn. With a 400-horsepower turbocharged engine, it is probably the most potent car in Canadian rally sport today.

McGeer and his American navigator, Mark Williams, have won six of the past seven Canadian rallies, dating back to the middle of last season. Williams was part of the winning team on last year's Rocky Mountain; McGeer was not.

McGeer remained home last May to be with his wife, Trish, for the birth of their second daughter. He lent his car to 11-time U.S. champion John Buffum and he drove it to victory with Williams. McGeer last won the Rocky in 1994.

His main rival, Erickson, is not alone in having spent a busy week trying to get his car ready for the Rocky Mountain after problems last weekend. Many of the usual frontrunners experienced problems on the Bighorn.

McGeer's Subaru Canada team-mates, Pat Richard, of Vancouver, and John Paynter, of East Sackville, N.S., both suffered gearbox problems, although Paynter was able to persevere to an unexpected third-place finish.

Jean-Sebastien Besner, of Montreal, had the engine fail on his Mitsubishi Lancer, while holding third place. Brian Scott, of Michigan, who then took over third, crashed his Eagle Talon. Another Talon driver, Barry Latreille, of Williamstown, Ont., was having a new turbo flown in from Texas this week.

Alberta rally fans will have several local teams to cheer for. Local favorites include Janusz Komorowski, of Calgary (fifth on the Bighorn in his Mazda 323 GTX), Gord Olsen, of Brooks (seventh last week in a Volkswagen GTI) and Zebe Szewczyk, of Calgary (eighth on the Bighorn in a Toyota Celica).

This will be the 28th edition of the Rocky Mountain, which ranks as one of the oldest rallies in Canada. It first appeared on the national calendar in 1973.

-CARS

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Series Other rally
Drivers Sylvain Erickson , Pat Richard , Tom McGeer , Gord Olsen , John Buffum , Mark Williams , Brian Scott
Teams Williams