ProRally: Oregon Trails: Rhys Millen report

Millen races to front and finishes second at Oregon Trails SCCA ProRally race CYPRESS, Calif., April 23 /PRNewswire/ -- When the dust and flying gravel finally settled along some 113 miles of Oregon's rugged coastal mountain roads, American ...

Millen races to front and finishes second at Oregon Trails SCCA ProRally race

CYPRESS, Calif., April 23 /PRNewswire/ -- When the dust and flying gravel finally settled along some 113 miles of Oregon's rugged coastal mountain roads, American ProRally driver Rhys Millen and navigator, Gary Cowan, piloted their 330-horsepower, all-wheel-drive, Team Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 6.5 RS into a second place overall in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) annual Oregon Trail ProRally -- and comfortably into second place in the hotly contested overall ProRally Manufacturers' Championship rankings.

Equaling his best finish of the 2001 season, in this third in a series of 10 SCCA ProRally Championship races, this marks a solid comeback for Rhys Millen and Rhys Millen Racing. Indeed, Millen won three stages outright and finished a mere 40-seconds behind eventual winner David Higgins' Subaru WRX.

With Millen's strong podium finish, Team Mitsubishi's 29 total manufacturers' points gives it a solid second place overall after three rounds, just eleven points behind Hyundai.

"We were able to get back the second place points that slipped away from us at the Cherokee Trails event," said Rhys Millen. "We have momentum. I believe with strong results at Rim of the World in a few weeks we'll have a strong chance to come out leading the Championship overall."

"Our attitude coming into this race was to get a good finish and to prove to Mitsubishi Motors that we can put in a good show," says Blair Stopnik, Rhys Millen Racing's team manager. "We had some troubles last year getting solidly on our feet. This year we have done really well establishing that our team is a top contender in ProRally. Our finish here proves our colors: We have some excellent drivers, and although our team is very young, we are a force to be reckoned with."

Rhys Millen started the grueling two-day racing event in eleventh position. However, by the end of Saturday's third special stage of racing over narrow, twisting graveled logging roads, he'd piloted his turbocharged 2.0-liter DOHC 4-cylinder Mitsubishi Lancer into the number three position and never looked back.

At the end of the first day's racing which consisted of seven special racing stages that covered more than 65 miles, Millen found himself in a battle with the Subaru Imprezas of ProRally rivals, Ramana Lagemann and David Higgens, and the Hyundai Tiburon of Mark Higgins. The four battled it out on Sunday, much like Saturday, swapping fastest times during five more special racing stages that covered another 47 miles.

"Rhys drove a flawless race and our Mitsubishi Lancer didn't have any failures," says Stopnik. "In rally racing, attrition from the grueling racing conditions is a big factor."

But the race wasn't without its moments. Racing near the end the final night stage on Saturday, called Black Forest, Rhys had a slight miscalculation that sent his all-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Lancer off the roadway, tearing off a portion of the passenger's side rear quarter panel in the brush, and nearly flipping the car in the process. But Rhys made a superb save, pulling the bicycling Lancer back down on all fours and storming on to the finish line.

Closer inspection at the team's pits revealed the near-catastrophic event did more than just cosmetic damage; there was significant damage done to the upper A-arm, rear wheel and rear suspension. The crew worked feverishly until dawn Sunday fabricating a new control-arm mount, welding and making repairs. "They did a superb job getting the car back into full racing form," praised Stopnik.

Sundays racing saw Rhys drop briefly into third position just mere seconds behind Lagemann's Subaru at the end of the third of five racing stages. Technical problems forced Lagemann out on the next to last stage, but that wouldn't have changed the outcome; Rhys' driving skills and the Lancer's ability to keep all the power on the ground enabled him to make up some nine seconds on the same stage that had nearly cost them the race the night before. The impressive showing of driving skills solidly secured the Rhys Millen Racing Team Mitsubishi Lancer Evo a second place overall -- and the lead in the manufacturer's points race.

Teammate Lauchlin O'Sullivan and navigator Matt Chester also drove a superb race, powering the new two-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Lancer O.Z. Rally Edition car to second in the Group 2 Class and 14th overall. Lauchlin's second-place Oregon Trails Rally finish moved him to the top of the closely contended Group 2 SCCA point's race ahead of team Mazda. Millen stands fourth in Open Class points.

Millen says he's "very pleased" with how his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6.5 ran this weekend and how both Rhys Millen Racing's teams finished. Both Millen and Stopnik say things are only going to get better -- they will be unveiling a brand new Mitsubishi Lancer for the Rim of the World rally May 3rd. The new rally car is an Evolution VII, a state-of-the-art all-wheel-drive World Rally car producing nearly 400-horsepower.

Rhys' father, renowned ProRally driver Rod Millen, will take over the driver's seat in the Evo 6.5 that Rhys ran at Oregon Trails Rally, making the Rim of the World Rally the first time father and son have competed against each other.

Team Mitsubishi will continue to make their presence known in the 2002 season. Following the Rim of the World race on May 3-4, they will head to Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, for the Susquehannock Trail rally June 1-2, followed by the Pike's Peak Int'l. Hillclimb June 27-29.

-mm-

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About this article
Series SCCA
Drivers Rhys Millen , Mark Higgins , Rod Millen