SCCA ProRally Championship - Round ...
SCCA ProRally Championship - Round #4; Day 2 - Rim of the World Preliminary Results and Key Notes Lovell earns 2nd win, Millen finally gets his podium, Burke is 4 for 4
Palmdale, CA - The 18th running of this legendary Southern California event came to a close tonight with a clearly international flavor that is becoming more and more a hallmark of SCCA ProRally competition in the new millennium.
¨ For a second day, the weather turned out to be flawless, making for great spectating, and setting the stage for some fierce driving conditions - the Rim's choking dust was still a major factor, but the clear skies an comfortable temperatures allowed the drivers to direct full attention to the job at hand. While this brutally rough event had a lower attrition rate than is customary thanks to a good job of road grading courtesy of the Angeles National Forest's caretakers, suspension failures were still a common retirement cause, and kept service crews scrambling throughout the day and night.
¨ Seamus Burke and co-driver Frank Cunningham have been this season's most consistent performers, finishing on the podium of every event this season, despite changing cars for 3 of the 4 rallys this year. Now in his own car, the Altanta, GA based Irishman put in yet another exceptional drive, keeping pressure on Tuthill and Millen, and securing a well-earned fourth 3rd place podium of the season, nearly 5 minutes ahead of the reigning champion, Paul Choiniere.
¨ Choiniere had a difficult weekend, still fighting with transmission and driveline problems that plagued him at Oregon Trail. Regardless, the 8-time champion used his decade of experience at this torturous event to keep as game a pace with the front runners as his Tiburon would allow, finishing a solid 4th overall, and securing 3rd place Manufacturer points for the Korean automaker.
¨ "Waterbars" are a unique Southwestern US road feature, and Richard Tuthill, who was secure in 2nd place all through the rally, ran his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI into one hard early into SS12, instantly collapsing both sides of his front suspension completely, ending what could have been his 3rd podium finish in as many events. He was not alone in his waterbar agony - several retirements amongst the seasoned Pros and the newer Club entrants were brought on either by impacts with these difficult features, or the after-effects of mangled suspensions, bent frames and shattered cooling systems.
¨ The Group N race was the tightest in the event, even though the class was only 3 cars deep - and populated solely with Subaru Imprezas. Karl Scheible's world competition debut of Prodrive's new 2002 Impreza included an awe-inspiring 17-minute removal and replacement of the car's transmission in front of a large contingent of Subaru rally fans at the Lake Hughes service following SS10. Ramana Lagemann showed excellent speed all day, and Ralph Kosmides, in only his second outing with his WRX-STi showed that he is quickly getting acclimated to all-wheel drive, pacing himself and gaining position steadily throughout the event.
¨ Rhys Millen, who's season has been less than stellar thus far, had a excellent drive all weekend, securing a 3rd position slot early in yesterdays stages and effectively keeping the heat on Richard Tuthill, and inheriting 2nd place when the Briton folded up the front of his Evo in SS12. That 2nd podium slot nearly eluded Millen on the final stage - when 2nd gear failed, and the transmission became stuck in 3rd gear, Rhys had no alternative but to dial back and conserve, but maintaining enough speed to ensure that Seamus Burke couldn't overtake him.
¨ Millen's long-awaited and strong finish, and Tuthill's DNF have substantially changed the face of the Overall Driver's points race, with the unofficial standings now: Lovell 63, Burke 56, Tuthill 41, Choiniere 37, and Scheible 36. Millen has lept from 15th overall, and is now in 7th position with 21 points.
¨ With this 2nd overall win in a row for Subaru, the Manufacturers points race has finally swung to the Fuji Heavy Industries camp - but just barely. The unofficial points are now: Subaru 67, Hyundai 64, and Mitsubishi 57. In the Group N Manufacturers race, Subaru now holds a virtually un-surmountable lead over Mitsubishi, 80 points to 15.
Quotes: Rhys Millen: "Coming in 2nd means so much to me - I found myself hoping for Lovell to finish - to be here with the Evo, right behind Prodrive's latest and greatest is a huge honor."
Mark Lovell: "Uggh! Welcome to American Waterbars! That's what I was saying as we came crashing down on these huge lumps in the road - here I am in this incredible new car that Prodrive has given me, and I'm realizing that there is no way I can pay for the damage these roads are trying so hard to inflict. I'm really amazed that the car still looks as good as it does - there were several times I really thought we were done for."