ProRally: Lake Superior: Final day summary

O'Neil, Burke Battle During Final Day of LSPR HOUGHTON, Mich. (Oct. 23, 2004) -- It didn't matter that Mother Nature tried her best - with cool temperatures, wind and rain - to steal the spotlight for most of the Lake Superior ProRally...

O'Neil, Burke Battle During Final Day of LSPR

HOUGHTON, Mich. (Oct. 23, 2004) -- It didn't matter that Mother Nature tried her best - with cool temperatures, wind and rain - to steal the spotlight for most of the Lake Superior ProRally (LSPR), the ninth and final round of the 2004 SCCA ProRally Championship Presented by Hot Wheels®. No, no matter what she tried, she was forced to take a backseat to the epic battle waged for first between Seamus Burke and Tim O'Neil.

Fifteen stages and nearly 120 special stage miles almost weren't enough to determine who the top man was this weekend. But Burke (1:44:54), with co-driver Brian Sharkey, was amazingly good Saturday in the Libra Racing 2003 Hyundai Tiburon, taking five of the final eight fast stage times and beating out first-day leader O'Neil (1:44:57.3) by a final margin of 3.3 seconds.

Matt Iorio and co-driver Philip Ho (1:52:36.2) made it a complete podium sweep for the Open class as the duo finished third in a 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII, though more than seven minutes behind the top two spots.

The lead changed hands more than a few times Saturday, both drivers refusing to back down as O'Neil, with co-driver Martin Headland, claimed the other three fast stage times, including SS15 where he chopped five seconds off of Burke's lead to settle at the final margin.

"We were both just trying really hard," O'Neil said. "And I was hoping that if I could get [Seamus] to start trying even harder, then maybe I could force him into a mistake."

However, O'Neil admitted he was the one who made the mistakes in the CPD Racing 2000 Subaru Impreza WRX he drove for the weekend.

"I preach to my students all the time that when you come into a junction, you slow it down earlier, get it squared away and get the job done," the rally driving instructor said. "Don't come in too fast and that's what I was doing all weekend."

Domination might not even be the right word to use in describing the season Mopar's Doug Shepherd and co-driver Pete Gladysz had in 2004, capped off by another top-five finish overall (their third) and Group 5 win (Shepherd's sixth, Gladysz' fifth) in their 2004 Dodge SRT-4. The only other LSPR Group 5 entry, another Mopar-sponsored Dodge entry in the form of Chris Whiteman and co-driver Mike Paulin, was knocked out the first day during the third stage.

Jonathan Bottoms, with co-driver Carolyn Bosley, earned his second FIA Group N victory of the year, taking fifth overall in the process. Attrition was the story in this class as early leaders Mark Utecht and co-driver Jeff Secor suffered engine problems after SS2 on Friday and were forced into a DNF. Two other entries, David Anton/Nathalie Richard and Otis Dimiters/Christian Edstrom, also saw early exits. When the smoke cleared, the husband and wife duo of Henry and Cindy Krolikowski were second in the class and eighth overall -- about seven minutes behind Bottoms/Bosley. Russell Hodges, with co-driver Mike Rossey, finished third.

Carolina Rallysport unveiled its new ride for LSPR, a Production GT 2003 Subaru WRX, and did so in grand fashion with Matt Johnson taking the win in his first non-2WD ProRally event with co-driver Marc Goldfarb. The pair took the victory by 2 min. and 40 sec. over the 1988 Toyota Celica piloted by Eric Langbein and co-driver Jeremy Wimpey, who finished 10th overall. Behind them, in eleventh, was PGT driver Pat Moro and co-driver John Dillon in Moro's 2002 Subaru WRX. With the overall finish, Dillon earned one point toward his Overall Co-Driver point championship total, leaving him two short of the Championship's winner Nathalie Richard.

Group 2's Mark Brown and Ole Holter topped off a fantastic year by earning their third class win over the last five events in Brown's 1987 Volkswagen Golf GTI. Second-place finisher Eric Burmeister, with co-driver Dave Shindle, actually posted better times in Burmeister's 2003 Mazda Protege than Brown/Holter, but were assessed nine additional minutes, leaving the pair six minutes behind the class winners.

The ProRally field's lone Production entry, Michael Merback and co-driver Jeff Feldt, finished 17th overall in Merback's 1990 Volkswagen Jetta.

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Series SCCA
Drivers Christian Edstrom , Seamus Burke , Eric Burmeister , Matthew Johnson , Nathalie Richard , Marc Goldfarb , Jeff Secor , Dave Shindle , Matt Iorio , Ole Holter , Martin Headland , Eric Lang , Jeremy Wimpey , Pat Moro