Rocky Mountain Rally race report

CALGARY, Alta. (May 26/2001) - Defending Canadian driving champion Tom McGeer dominated the Rocky Mountain Rally in southwest Alberta on Saturday to take his second straight win in the province in less than week. The Georgetown, Ont., driver ...

CALGARY, Alta. (May 26/2001) - Defending Canadian driving champion Tom McGeer dominated the Rocky Mountain Rally in southwest Alberta on Saturday to take his second straight win in the province in less than week.

The Georgetown, Ont., driver finished one minute, four seconds ahead of Subaru Canada team-mate Pat Richard. Both were driving Subaru Impreza WRXs, although McGeer's is highly-modified for rallying, while Richard's is a stock model.

McGeer's win tightens his hold on the 2001 Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama. With three wins in four events so far, he now has 60 points, vs. 37 for second-placed Sylvain Erickson, just ninth this weekend.

McGeer and his American navigator Mark Williams arrived at the Calgary-based Rocky Mountain Rally, fresh from victory last Sunday in the Bighorn Rally, run out of Edson, 200 kms. west of Edmonton.

The Rocky Mountain was held mostly in the Porcupine Hills in the foothills of the Rockies, about 150 kms. southwest of Calgary, although it began with two stages within the city - at the Blackfoot motorcycle park - on Friday night.

Erickson emerged from those two stages with a one-second lead over McGeer. But once into Saturday's longer special stages - the competitive portions of the rally on roads temporarily closed to the public - McGeer quickly took charge.

McGeer was fastest on nine of the day's 11 stages, despite being "frustrated" by lower-than-usual turbo boost. He said the problem, which he attributed to the high altitude (1,500 metres), made his car feel "lazy and sluggish."

His only major drama of the day came on the third-to-last stage early in the evening, when his right rear tire exploded. "There was a big flat rock, with sharp edges, on the edge of the road and I cut the corner a bit too much and hit it," he said. "I couldn't believe I'd thrown the rally away."

But he managed to drive the next six kilometres to the end of the stage on three wheels and, to his relief, the disintegrating tire did not do any damage to the suspension.

Richard won this stage and the next one, cutting McGeer's lead to 48 seconds, before McGeer rebounded on the final stage to extend his winning advantage to one minute, four seconds. He completed the 158.7 kms. of special stages in one hour, 36 minutes, 51 seconds for an average speed of 98.32 km/h.

For Richard, second place was the best finish of his career. He also took top Production class honors.

"It's awesome - a great way to celebrate our second anniversary," said the Vancouver driver, who made his debut on this rally two years ago. "The car was fabulous. It handled perfectly. I couldn't ask for more."

Jean-Sebastien Besner, of Montreal, was a distant third - his first podium finish in five years - in a Mitsubishi Lancer. Like McGeer, Besner and fellow Lancer driver Erickson complained of a lack of turbo boost at high altitude.

Erickson, in his efforts to keep up, went off the road in the late morning and sideswiped a tree. Besner stopped to tow him out of the woods.

Erickson's Lancer had already been severely banged up on the Bighorn, where he had rolled the car near the end (but continued to finish second). This time, the driver's door was so badly battered that it would not shut properly.

Although Erickson, who lost about five minutes in the incident, persevered to finish ninth, the Gatineau, Que., driver said so much dust was getting inside the car that he could barely breathe.

Behind Besner, Nova Scotia's John Paynter took fourth place overall (second in Production class) in the other factory-backed Subaru Impreza WRX, despite clipping a tree late in the rally and tearing up the left rear quarter panel.

Michigan's Brian Scott was fifth, ahead of a pair of Subaru Legacy drivers from British Columbia, Dave Koszegi and Mark Ward. Harry Anderson, of Thunder Bay, Ont., was ninth in an Eagle Talon, ahead of Erickson.

Gord Olsen, of Brooks, Alta., completed the top 10 in a Volkswagen GTI and he also won the Group 2 category for modified two-wheel-drive cars.

A revelation of this rally was 21-year-old Calgary engineering student Janusz Komorowski. Although he was the 2000 Western Canadian rally champion, he is a rookie at the national level and stunned the veterans by running a comfortable third - well ahead of Besner - until the turbo blew on his Mazda 323.

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RESULTS of the ROCKY MOUNTAIN RALLY

Round 4 of the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama

(driver, navigator, hometowns, car, time)

1. Tom McGeer, Georgetown, Ont. / Mark Williams, Maryland, Subaru Impreza WRX, 1h36m51s; 2. Pat Richard, Vancouver / Ian McCurdy, Whistler, B.C., Subaru Impreza WRX, 1h37m55s; 3. Jean-Sebastien Besner / Jacques Besner, Montreal, Mitsubishi Lancer, 1h43m36s; 4. John Paynter, East Sackville, N.S. / Clarke Paynter, Dartmouth, N.S., Subaru Impreza WRX, 1h44m45s; 5. Brian Scott, Michigan / David Watts, Ohio, Eagle Talon, 1h45m32s; 6. Dave Koszegi / Todd Patola, Port Alberni, B.C., Subaru Legacy, 1h46m02s; 7. Mark Ward / Ken Kwong, Vancouver, Subaru Legacy, 1h47m32s; 8. Harry Anderson / Mark Anderson, Thunder Bay, Ont., Eagle Talon, 1h48m09s; 9. Sylvain Erickson / Philippe Erickson, Gatineau, Que., Mitsubishi Lancer, 1h49m09s; 10. Gord Olsen / Kathy Olsen, Brooks, Alta., Volkswagen GTI, 1h50m54s.

DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP (after 4/8 rounds): 1. McGeer, 60 points; 2. Erickson, 37; 3. Paynter, 32; 4. Frank Sprongl, Mississauga, Ont., 30; 5. Richard, 23; 6. Jon Nichols, Lachine, Que., 22; 7. Koszegi, 16; 8. (tie) Besner & Keith Townsend, Toronto, 12; 10. Jean-Paul Perusse, Montreal, 11.

-CARS

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Sylvain Erickson , Jean-Paul Pérusse , Pat Richard , Frank Sprongl , Jon Nichols , Tom McGeer , Gord Olsen , Todd Patola , Keith Townsend , Mark Williams , Brian Scott
Teams Williams