SCCA ProRally: Richard Reflects on SCCA Championship, North American Rally Championship Year TOPEKA, Kan. (Nov. 4, 2004) - To say capturing the 2004 SCCA ProRally Overall Driver Point Championship was a struggle for Pat Richard would rank as...
SCCA ProRally: Richard Reflects on SCCA Championship, North American Rally Championship Year
TOPEKA, Kan. (Nov. 4, 2004) - To say capturing the 2004 SCCA ProRally Overall Driver Point Championship was a struggle for Pat Richard would rank as one of the all-time understatements.
Sure, from the outside looking in, the nine-event journey looked anything but tough for the Canadian as he won the first three events in his FIA Group N 2000 Subaru Impreza WRX, often thanks to self-inflicted early exits suffered by other competitors.
Nothing came easy, however, after those three victories.
If it wasn't a mechanical issue, it was money. If it wasn't money, it was getting protested at the end of an event by other competitors (none of which ever stuck for a host of reasons).
Through it all, Richard showed remarkable, championship-caliber poise in handling the year's adverse conditions. Though he didn't win another rally outright, the 31-year-old captured crucial points by adding two well-timed, second-place finishes behind the pair of victories earned by California driver Leon Styles, who unsuccessfully chased Richard all season and finished second in the point standings.
"I came into this year not really knowing what to expect and this year, in the States, ranks right up there in terms of having to dig down deep, persevere and overcome everything that was thrown out there," Richard said. "We had all those obstacles thrown at us, but we finished every rally, which says something for the Rocket Rally team and the attitude that we wanted to take forward this year."
Consistency was Richard's trademark in 2004.
In eight events (he didn't attend the Lake Superior ProRally after wrapping up the Point Championship), Richard didn't suffer a single DNF in his WRX, something no one else, with as many events, could say. His ride did limp to the end a few times, but the mental aspect of seeing Richard finish another rally left its mark on competitors, who were often left to wonder just how good this comparative rookie (his career began only five seasons ago where some drivers have been rallying six or seven times that long) from the north was.
He now has a 2004 overall title to prove his talent. Actually, check that. He has three. Along with the SCCA title (his second SCCA crown after winning the Production GT class title in 2000), Richard also earned the Canadian Championship and most importantly, according to a Richard comment on his www.patrichard.com Web site, the North American Rally Championship.
"The North American title is something I've really tried for," Richard said. "I've really put an effort into making myself the best North American rally driver because I know there is growing interest in rallying here from abroad."
Richard's consistent driving might well have been an indirect result of another consistency throughout the season -- a regular co-driver. After bouncing through a few co-pilots during the previous season and the first part of 2004, Richard finally settled on someone he was familiar with -- his sister.
Nathalie Richard climbed into the co-driver seat prior to the Oregon Trail ProRally in April, and soon realized that her lofty goals could be reached thanks to a quick learning curve and her brother's high-level driving.
"I told one of my friends before I started that it was higher than I was probably going to get, but I wanted to win either the Canadian Championship or the U.S. title," said Richard, who served as Pat's Team Manager in 2000 when he won his SCCA PGT Championship. "Lo and behold, I got them both, which was awesome. Somebody asked me what I thought contributed most to my winning and definitely, number one, it was Pat's driving ability.
I'm in awe of it as well I'm sure many others are too," Richard continued. "But I think that, compared to last year when he had a million co-drivers, this year having just one person gave us both a chance to work on things."
Ironically, it wasn't Pat who finalized Nathalie's championship. With his championship won and funds virtually dried up, Pat stayed home for the Lake Superior ProRally, leaving Nathalie to find another ride as she held a slight three-point lead over fellow co-driver John Dillon, who also found a different ride after his normal teammate, Styles, chose not to compete after Richard wrapped up the Driver's point championship.
Even with an early DNF, Nathalie closed things out as Dillon finished three places short of where he needed to be to overtake her in the standings.
With the 2004 season now complete and championships in hand, Richard said he would like to again turn his attention toward a World Rally Championship effort, something he last did in 2003. However, he also said that a serious effort would require additional sponsorship, which, to this point, has been frustratingly elusive to say the least.
"Looking toward next year, I've made some great efforts in trying to put a program together to do some international events and get exposure for a sponsor," Richard said. "But right now it's very challenging because I'm just not finding the interest from the corporate side to put a program together to do something international. So right now, I'm not sure what next year looks like."
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