ProRally: Oregon Trail: Pat Richard spearheads Group N

Leading the Way: Pat Richard is Spearheading Group N Charge TOPEKA, Kan. (April 22, 2004) -- It must have been some New York Yankee-style rally fan, the one who has to see glitz and glamour to think a product has value, who said the talent...

Leading the Way: Pat Richard is Spearheading Group N Charge

TOPEKA, Kan. (April 22, 2004) -- It must have been some New York Yankee-style rally fan, the one who has to see glitz and glamour to think a product has value, who said the talent and competition level of the 2004 SCCA ProRally Championship Presented by Hot Wheels® diminished when some Open Class big names exited.

Thankfully, no one close to the United States' premier rally championship bought into that line of thinking. How could they knowing Pat Richard would be part of this year's mix?

Richard has won so many Production GT class championships in both Canada and Europe that he doesn't recall an exact number, although "last year was a bad year because I didn't get any anywhere," Richard said. In just under five years (it will be five this summer by his count), the 30-year-old has already carved a niche in Canada's rally elite group and now, as one of Canada's all-time best, Richard has chosen to drive his 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STi, the same car he ran en route to winning the Production Cup in the Canadian Rally Championship, south of the border this year, intent on adding a U.S. championship to his resume.

"I decided to run this year because of an alignment of a few things," Richard said. "I didn't have the commitment issue I've had in the years past with running in the Canadian Championship last year and in Great Britain the year before. Also, time aside, it worked out from a cost perspective to mount a challenge this year."

With his win at Sno*Drift in Atlanta, Mich., in late January, Richard did two things. Though early, he instantly validated the popular notion that the FIA Group N class (which became better known last year as American Mark Utecht and Irishman Shane Mitchell waged a full-season battle for the largest class contingency payout in SCCA ProRally Championship history), might produce its first Overall Drivers' Champion ever.

He also earned his first U.S. National event win, something that Richard said he needed to solidify his chances at running a full season in the states.

"Right now, I run in Canada with Subaru of Canada, but I'm running the U.S. program completely on separate sources," Richard said. "The success we had at Sno*Drift was helpful in showing potential sponsors that we are competitive here, but we're still searching for that one big title sponsor. We just haven't seen too much activity up to this point."

In order to make his rallying exploits even more attractive to sponsors, Richard said he knows that success in the next two rounds of the SCCA ProRally Championship, Oregon Trail and Rim of the World in California, would be huge since they are both on the West Coast, closer to his home in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"The West Coast events are important to me because those events are ones I've done before and if we don't have that final sponsor come on board, then the original plan was to run just these events.

The big question for us is whether or not we are going to be able to run any of the East Coast events. If we can show that the return is good for our sponsors, then maybe we will be able to get there."

This weekend, Richard gets a chance to rally, virtually in his backyard, with his sister, Nathalie (who just moved into her brother's house after coming back from Australian Rally Championship competition), as his co-driver at the Oregon Trail ProRally, in Hillsboro, Ore. And after some gearbox testing in his STi last weekend, Richard is cautiously hopeful that his second class victory isn't in the too-distant future.

"We'll wait to see what happens with it this weekend," Richard said. "For me, Oregon Trail roads really make you concentrate on keeping the car clean and straight. In Group N, you really don't have a lot of power where you can manhandle it through the corners, so you just have to drive a little bit cleaner.

"I switched back to Michelin tires for the first time in a few years because they just became available again. I want to do something different than some of the other guys who are on Pirelli tires. And, I think if we tighten up the differentials a bit, the roads have good camber and usually it's pretty wet there, so we'll see what happens."

The Oregon Trail ProRally, Round Two of the 2004 SCCA ProRally Presented by Hot Wheels®, begins Friday, April 24, with a Parc Expose at Portland International Raceway at 6 p.m. Following the expose, cars will pair up and down the quarter-mile drag strip as part of Friday's spectator stages. The first pair is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

For event coverage throughout the weekend, including a day one update and post-event wrap-up Saturday night, visit the newly-remodeled SCCA website at www.scca.com.

-scca pro rally-

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Series SCCA
Drivers Shane Mitchell , Pat Richard