ProRally: Dodge claims 2003 titles

Chrysler Group R&D Team Pilots 'Real Cars on Real Roads, Real Fast' AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (Oct. 20, 2003) - Dodge wrote a new page in its record books by clinching several championships this weekend in one of America's fastest-growing motorsports...

Chrysler Group R&D Team Pilots 'Real Cars on Real Roads, Real Fast'

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (Oct. 20, 2003) - Dodge wrote a new page in its record books by clinching several championships this weekend in one of America's fastest-growing motorsports series. But the trophies weren't earned on a speedway. Nor were they earned on a short track, drag strip, or a dirt track. In fact, where these Dodges were racing, there was scarcely track at all.

The final race in the nine-stop 2003 Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) ProRally Championship tour concluded in Houghton, Mich., Saturday, with Dodge clinching the overall two-wheel drive manufacturer title and multiple driver titles in the sport.

Chrysler Group employees Doug Shepherd and Pete Gladysz, veterans of the SCCA ProRally circuit for more than 25 years, piloted a Mopar/Dodge Motorsports/Performance Vehicle Operations (PVO) 2003 Dodge SRT-4 though the rugged landscape of Michigan's Upper Peninsula to finish first in their class in the two-day Lake Superior ProRally. The finish clinched their hold on the Woodner Cup Overall 2WD Driver and Co-Driver championships, respectively, as well as the overall 2WD manufacturer championship.

"This has been a great year in terms of gaining some great exposure for the Dodge SRT-4," said Gladysz, Chrysler Group PVO Powertrain Manager. "We're really the only American car on the ProRally circuit, period. Everyone comes out and sees us as the All-American team, and they've really cheered us on."

SCCA ProRally is referred to as one part motorsport and one part extreme sport. A team of two drivers race modified production cars through rugged and often treacherous rural roads in several stages. Teams leave the start line of each stage in one-minute intervals to reduce the amount of passing on the hazardous terrain, and after each car finishes (or fails to) the stage times are added up to determine the final running order.

"Rallying is as extreme as motorsports gets," said Shepherd, who wrapped up his sixth National ProRally championship in a front-wheel drive Dodge on Saturday. "What is it? It's bumps, jumps, slides and corners that turn when you don't expect them to. It's all about finding a way to attack the road and still stay out of trouble.

"The co-driver reads from a book that has details of every kind of jump in the road, bumps, every corner. But it's an unbelievably difficult job to try and synchronize that with a car going down these winding, snaking roads at 100 mph. You have to be smart and sharp. The way that ProRally is going now, you have two people driving the car. With the consequences that come up, you have to understand that both of you did the job to get it there."

Dodge's participation in SCCA ProRally allows its engineers to gain research and development information that it gains from running a vehicle so similar to the consumer model under race conditions. Shepherd and Gladysz' Dodge SRT-4 is street legal, according to SCCA rules. (SCCA ProRally teams are required to drive on public roads in order to get to commute to each timed race stage.) Gladysz said adjustments to the car's brakes, suspension and steering are necessary for off-road racing, but that the SRT-4 engine and gearbox are the same as any other consumer's and have been used for more than a year without any changes.

John Fernandez, Director - Dodge Motorsports Operations, says SCCA ProRally has its value in engineering evaluation, but that it's also a great place for Dodge to showcase its motorsports success at a grassroots level.

"I'm a little bit surprised," Fernandez said. "Pete Gladysz and Doug Shepherd have obviously been in the rally business for a long time, and those guys know what they're doing. When we first started the program last year and talked about putting the SRT-4 in the rally world, we weren't absolutely sure we were going to do that well. The car has really come around. It's an outstanding car first of all from a performance standpoint, and Pete and Doug have done a tremendous job with that. It was kind of a volunteer effort. They pay their own way to and from the races, and they work on the car. The guys in the PVO group have done an outstanding job fielding that car this year and winning the championship."

"Next year we're going to continue that program and start a program in road racing with an SRT-4 in what we call the T-2 division in the SCCA, so you'll see a couple more SRT-4s out there. We've got Sean Carlson and Mike Crawford running our drag racing program in the SRT-4s, so I think you're going to start seeing the SRT-4s dominating the motorsports grass roots community from road racing, rally and drag racing standpoints."

Dodge claimed a total of nine ProRally titles this year: one manufacturer's and two driver's championships among overall 2WD vehicles, as well as two manufacturer's crowns and four driver's titles among the Group 5 and Group 2 classes.

Shepherd and Gladysz were dominant in 2003, claiming six of Dodge's seven victories in the Group 5 class, which is a larger displacement, two-wheel drive vehicle class that allows supercharging and turbocharging. Their win on Saturday was the sixth consecutive victory for their 2003 Dodge SRT-4, enabling them to sweep the manufacturer, driver and co-driver titles in Group 5 as well as the Overall 2WD class. The duo also finished 11th overall among all participating ProRally teams on Saturday.

Chris Whiteman (who also works as a Chrysler Group engineer) and co-driver Mike Paulin scored their third victory in the Group 2 class, which is a small displacement two-wheel drive class for racecars that are most similar to their passenger car counterparts. Unlike Group 5, this class does not allow supercharging or turbocharging. Whiteman and Paulin raced a 2003 Dodge Neon SXT to a driver, co-driver and manufacturer title in Group 2 this year. They finished 14th overall among all vehicles in the Lake Superior ProRally.

Summary of 2003 Dodge SCCA ProRally Titles

* 2WD Overall Manufacturer Championship

* Woodner Cup - 2WD Overall Driver (Doug Shepherd - No. 52 Dodge SRT-4)

* Woodner Cup - 2WD Overall Co-Driver (Pete Gladysz - No. 52 Dodge SRT-4)

* Group 5 Manufacturer Championship

* Group 5 Driver Championship (Doug Shepherd - No. 52 Dodge SRT-4)

* Group 5 Co-Driver Championship (Pete Gladysz - No. 52 Dodge SRT-4)

* Group 2 Manufacturer Championship

* Group 2 Driver Championship (Chris Whiteman - No. 143 Dodge Neon SXT)

* Group 2 Co-Driver Championship (Mike Paulin - No. 143 Dodge Neon SXT)

-dodge motorsports-

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Series SCCA
Drivers John Fernandez