BEMIDJI, Minn. (Aug. 28, 2004) -- Lauchlin O'Sullivan surged to the front of the field midway through Saturday's stages and earned his first ever SCCA ProRally win at Ojibwe Forests, beating out British driver John Lloyd by nearly two minutes and...
BEMIDJI, Minn. (Aug. 28, 2004) -- Lauchlin O'Sullivan surged to the front of the field midway through Saturday's stages and earned his first ever SCCA ProRally win at Ojibwe Forests, beating out British driver John Lloyd by nearly two minutes and Minnesotan Mark Utecht by more than two minutes and 30 sec. Both Lloyd and Utecht had their highest ProRally finishes at second and third, respectively.
O'Sullivan was never overly flashy through the event's 118 stages miles, just fast. Driving the backup No. 90 Subaru Impreza WRX for CPD Racing for the second time in 2004 and competing with regular CPD co-driver Scott Putnam for the first time, O'Sullivan turned in fast or second-fast stage times on all but one stage Saturday and nine-of-15 stages overall.
Even though they got the win, O'Sullivan said the trip was anything but easy.
"We won! It's fantastic," the beaming Open class driver said. "Really, it's a good story because it was one of those events where nothing really seemed to come together. There were three things: getting in the car, getting myself going and working with Scotty.
"Scotty came through. He did a great job and we had a great time together. I want to thank CPD racing for letting me run their car for them. The car was very, very dependable and to come out win the event, it's fantastic."
Lloyd, with co-driver Pauline Gullick in the Open class No. 111 Hyundai Tiburon prepared by Libra Racing (which is owned and managed by rally legend John Buffum), ran a remarkably smooth rally considering the amount of dust competitors had to drive through and was never seriously pushed by third-place finisher Utecht.
However, Mayhem Racing's Utecht stole a good portion of the show in his No. 83 Group N Subaru Impreza WRX, navigating the sandy roads of his home state with precision and a bit of surprising speed.
"To be honest, I drove the rally of my life," said Utecht. "Our Cel-Cool Subaru WRX did a great job, the team did a great job and [co-driver] Jeff [Secor] was spot on as co-driver on the calls."
All three podium finishers got an unexpected boost at the last moment. Driver Leon Styles led overall for much of the middle portion of the rally. However, a suspect suspension slowed Styles and co-driver John Dillon down as the final stages were run.
On the final stage, more mechanical problems surfaced in Styles' 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII and the Widget Rally team was saddled with a DNF instead of crucial points Styles needed to catch current Overall Drivers point leader Pat Richard.
However, Richard had problems of his own this weekend and finished tenth. After losing a pair of coil packs on the engine of his Subaru WRX, which dropped the car from four cylinders to only one, Richard limped into the end of the first day. Even after repairing the car for Saturday, the time gap created by the break was simply too much to make up.
With both Styles' and Richard's setbacks, Richard's lead over Styles increased by just two points and totals now stand 94-66.
Behind O'Sullivan/Putnam and Lloyd/Gullick in the Open class, Peter Workum and co-driver Alex Gelsomino turned in another strong performance, finishing third in class and fourth overall.
Jonathan Bottoms and co-driver Carolyn Bosley, coming off a Group N win at Maine Forest, maintained their momentum and finished second, 1:40 behind Utecht/Secor. David Anton and co-driver Andrew Coombs completed the Subaru Group N sweep as they wound up third in class and seventh overall.
Team Mopar claimed another Group 5 win, only this time it wasn't Doug Shepherd and Pete Gladysz. Their teammates, Chris Whiteman and co-driver Mike Paulin hung tough, taking both the class and overall 2WD victory after Shepherd/Gladysz punctured their radiator on SS11.
Brooks Freehill, with co-driver Sean Elliot, battled fellow Group 2 competitors Mark Brown and co-driver Ole Holter back-and-forth before pulling away for the class win by two minutes. With the victory, Freehill slightly closed the gap between himself and Brown for top Group 2 point honors. The totals currently sit 88-58 with two events remaining.
Mark Tabor and co-driver Kevin Poirier all but wrapped up the Production class championships for both driver and co-driver with their finish this weekend. After trailing the duo of Scott Comens and Adrian Wintle, who bowed out before the start of day two with transmission problems, Tabor and Poirier executed a smart rally and earned first-place points.
In order to take the Production class championship outright, the pair only needs to start Colorado Cog, the eighth of nine rounds in the 2004 SCCA ProRally Championship Presented by Hot Wheels®. The event is scheduled for Sept. 24-26 in Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Pat Moro and co-driver Neil Smith emerged victorious from the Production GT ranks while finishing 14th overall. The duo gave up some time to fellow PGT competitors Bob Olson and co-driver Ryan Johnson on the final two stages, but still came away with the win by 1:37. Bruce Davis took over the season's PGT Drivers point lead by finishing third with co-driver Jimmy Brandt. The finish gave Davis 14 points, moving him nine points ahead of Stephen Verdier.
Note: Driver Mark Adkins and co-driver Jeff Atkisson were involved in a one-car incident Friday night on SS6. Adkins was airlifted to MeritCare Medical Center in Fargo, N.D., after sustaining a broken femur and pelvis in the incident. He is in stable condition and is expected to recover. Atkisson was taken to a Park Rapids hospital where he was treated and released.
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