ProRally: Lake Superior: Round nine preview

TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 11, 2003) -- Since he has already claimed the John Woolf Cup, Team Mitsubishi Motor Sports America's David Higgins won't be punching the gas like usual this weekend at the Lake Superior ProRally, Round Nine of the 2003 SCCA ...

TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 11, 2003) -- Since he has already claimed the John Woolf Cup, Team Mitsubishi Motor Sports America's David Higgins won't be punching the gas like usual this weekend at the Lake Superior ProRally, Round Nine of the 2003 SCCA ProRally Championship. Yeah, right.

Instead, the back-to-back overall driver's champion will twist, turn and accelerate his way around the upper-peninsula of Michigan, rallying against a dream field consisting of multi-time champions (Tom McGeer and Paul Choiniere), rally legends (John Buffum) and World Rally Championship-experienced drivers (Pasi Hagstrom) in his quest for another honor, the North American Rally Championship, an award he has never won.

However, Higgins' battle against Subaru Rally Team Canada's McGeer (a six-time winner of the Canadian Rally Championship including this season) for the NARC will not be the only one to watch at this year's finale.

With $25,000 of contingency money awaiting the top Subaru of the FIA-Group N class, point leader Mark Utecht will have to be nearly flawless if he wants to lay claim to the championship and the check. Currently ahead 44-42, Utecht has never trailed in his 2003 quest for the FIA Group N Championship and has led outright since event three, Susquehannock Trail. Irish competitor Shane Mitchell has been on his heels all year and needs some help if he wants to come away as champion. If Utecht finishes second (which he has done five times in 2003), the only way Mitchell can win the $25,000 Subaru contingency, and the point championship, is to win the class competition outright, something he has done twice this year (Rim of the World and Wild West).

The Woodner Cup, awarded to the top overall 2WD driver, is also up for grabs heading into the season's final weekend. Group 2 competitor Christopher Whiteman is a scant one point ahead of both his Mopar Dodge teammate, Group 5 competitor Doug Shepherd, and Mazda's Eric Burmeister, 81-80. However, Burmeister leads Whiteman in the Group 2 standings, 106-103. Meanwhile, Shepherd has already wrapped up the Group 5 title over his other Mopar Dodge teammate, Brian Vinson. He leads Vinson 90-65 coming into Lake Superior.

Production GT will have to wait to the end of this weekend to name its 2003 champion also. Bruce Davis and Valdemaras Maciukevicius have flip-flopped the top spot repeatedly during the course of this season, and now Davis leads Maciukevicius, 91-90, meaning anything could happen during the two-day event.

Mike Halley, in his 1999 Volkswagen New Beetle, only has to cross the start ramp and earn one point to wrap up the Production class championship. He leads Trevor Donison 67-45 currently, which means even if Donison were to finish first in the class and Halley retired after the start, the final standings would be 68-67.

After Saturday's completion of LSPR, the 2003 SCCA ProRally Championship draws to a ceremonial close with a breakfast followed by the season's awards presentation Sunday morning (Oct. 19) at the Franklin Square Inn in Houghton.

-scca pro rally-

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Series SCCA
Drivers Paul Choiniere , Mike Halley , Shane Mitchell , Eric Burmeister , Bruce Davis , David Higgins , Tom McGeer , John Buffum