ProRally: Rim of the World Saturday Notes

Rim of the World ProRally Round 3 1999 Michelin SCCA ProRally Championship Palmdale, California April 30-May 1, 1999 Notes ...

Rim of the World ProRally Round 3 1999 Michelin SCCA ProRally Championship Palmdale, California April 30-May 1, 1999

Notes #1

Good morning and welcome to a clear, sunny and cool Palmdale, California, in the high desert about an hour northeast of Los Angeles. This is the site of round three of the 1999 Michelin SCCA ProRally Championship. The event originally was scheduled to have been round four of the series. However, the unusually severe winter weather conditions in the Pacific Northwest dictated rescheduling what would have been the third event, the Wild West ProRally, until mid-June.

1.) Our apologies for the lack of information prior to now. Computer and software gremlins threw a sizable monkey wrench into yesterday's operations. SCCA Rally/Solo marketing manager Kurt Spitzner's computer permanently gave up the ghost before the first rally car even arrived here. Then the computer we use in the press room began acting erratically, to the extent that it wouldn't reliably deal with any formatted material. However, it now seems to have miraculously cured itself. So we will be pedaling hard to catch up.

2.) It is now Saturday morning, and we have already had an eventful evening of action in the Angeles National Forest. Four stages were run last evening, and happenings were dramatic at times.

3.) On Friday evening of last year's event, weather became a major factor, as rallyists suddenly found themselves in the clouds on the higher stages. The fog was so dense that the organizers cancelled several stages. Last night had all the earmarks of a repeat of least year, as teams from about fourth or fifth on the road suddenly encountered dense clouds. However, by about the 25th car the weather cleared and everyone from there on back had pretty clear sailing.

4.) Unfortunately, the evening stages claimed several of the faster runners, including the top two teams from the last event.

5.) Rui Brasil and Ola Lysenstoen may end up the hard-luck story of the rally. On Stage 1 their electrics overheated and they had to stop three times to allow the circuit breakers to cool. On Stage 2 the engine threw the power-steering and alternators belts. On Stage 3 the battery went dead, zeroing the fuel-injection computer and putting them in the category of unhappy spectators.

6.) Lauchlin and Farina O'Sullivan, who beat Brasil by just one second in the series' last event (Doo Wop III & IV, March 13-14), also fell by the wayside last evening. The car went off-course, wound up on its side on a berm and they were unable to continue. So two of the quickest Open Class runners were out before the evening was over. 7.) On a somewhat cheerier note, Karl Scheible and Gail McGuire were having a bit more fun in the US debut of the new-style Volkswagen Beetle in rally competition. It wasn't totally trouble-free, though. They broke the right-front strut about midway through the evening and had to take things a bit gingerly from there on. Even so, they finished the evening unofficially second in Production. Karl said that the car is running well otherwise, adding that it seems to be better downhill than up.

8.) Early in the evening, Ralph Kosmides and Joe Noyes were running well in their Toyota Supra. Ralph was fairly happy but felt that he was just a bit sloppy. However, like many others, the team had misjudged the characteristics of the evening's stages. They selected tires for mainly gravel surfaces, but there was a very large amount of pavement.

9.) That high level of pavement made things very exciting at the front of the field. Noel Lawler and Charlie Bradley, in the second Hyundai Tiburon, were swapping fast times and the overall lead with teammates Paul Choiniere and Jeff Becker, who had the team's brand-new Tiburon. Irishman Lawler used his extensive European tarmac (pavement) racing experience very well, pulling into the lead on the primarily paved stages. Meanwhile, Choiniere traded on his greater gravel experience to ease back in front when they got to loose surfaces. The see-saw battle had the two in very high spirits, with Lawler saying that it was some of the best rallying he's ever experienced anywhere.

10.) It wasn't completely peaches and cream for the two, though. Early on, Lawler misjudged an erosion-control "water bar" on a stage and launched his car to an awkward landing that wrinkled the right-front sheetmetal a little. It did not affect handling.

11.) At the same time, Choiniere was having some low-level teething problems with his new Tiburon. He was starting stages cautiously because of some unhappy noises from the rear differential. They turned out to be of no consequence, though, and were easily fixed. He also was put off a little by the car's steering, which was heavier than what he was used to having. Changing a control valve made him a happy camper again.

12.) Pete Lahm and Matt Chester, in one of the two Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IVs here this weekend, had a good run and few complaints last night. About the biggest was that they had their driving lights aimed too high, which hurt them a bit at times.

13.) Gail Truess and Pattie Hughes, who have never competed here before, felt that it took them about three stages to "find themselves," as Pattie put it. Apparently, it worked, because they finished the evening with big smiles, big "thumbs ups" and the unofficial lead in Production GT with their Mazda 323 GTX.

14.) Another team with big smiles was that of Tony Chavez and Ken Cassidy. Local hotshoe Chavez had a very good run and brought his Open Class Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 in third overall at the end of the evenings activities.

15.) Even though they had a scare or two during the course of the evening, Garen and Doc Shrader also were members of the big-smile brigade when cars returned to rally headquarters at the Palmdale Holiday Inn around midnight. On Stage 1, Garen got a bit off-line and tagged some Armco lightly, producing a few wrinkles but no real damage. Then, on Stage 2, he nicked a big rock that had been knocked out onto the road by an earlier competitor. Garen thought that he had reacted in time to miss it, but just grazed it and got a puncture. They were only about a mile from the end of the stage, so he and Doc lost relatively little time.

16.) About the first team to dodge the "fog bullet" last night was Doug and Susan Robinson. Veteran Baja racer and rallyist Robinson said that by the time they got to Stage 2, they could pretty much rock and roll in their Open Class Mazda 323 GTX.

17.) Carl Jardevall, who won Group 5 and finished a remarkable third overall in the last ProRally, ran hard early in this weekend's event. He was charging hard from the opening seconds on the short demonstration stage at yesterday's start here in front of the hotel. Observers who saw the Volvo 740 later in the evening said that it smelled like a car with an engine that was in big trouble. Jardevall and Amity Trowbridge were out at the end of the evening with what was described at the time as a big blowup.

18.) Paul Choiniere wasn't the only driver to bring out a new car this weekend. Paul Eklund brought his turbocharged Subaru Impreza. It's a good-looking Open Class car that borrows heavily on the Impreza WRX that has been a potent World rally car. However, Eklund has used a larger-displacement US-spec engine as the basis for this good-looking, electric-yellow flyer. Because of the US-spec engine, he likes to refer to it as a USX. He's happy with the way it is running in its debut, but says that he is "not in the hunt." Maybe so, but he and Dave Jameson finished the evening 10th overall unofficially.

19.) Another driver downplaying the day's results was George Plsek, who said that he was just driving to finish. However, he and Renn Phillips have their Audi quattro in eighth overall.

20.) Karl Scheible's comment on the effect of the broken strut on the US rally debut of the new-style Beetle was, "The Beetle has temporarily been squished." However, he said it with a smile, as Guy Light's crew was hard at work making the needed repairs.

21.) Local ClubRally hotshoe Lon Peterson was reported to be running very well early in the evening. That's not at all surprising, as he has been fast forever out here. Unfortunately, he and Bill Gutzman did not finish. The Plymouth Arrow came in on a tow rope last night was sitting forlornly in the parking lot this morning.

22.) Dave White, who is not competing this weekend, has been helping us here in the press room. In checking around last night, he discovered that a sizable number of top co-drivers suffered motion sickness --- some to the extent of withdrawing from the event. Apparently, the combination of rough, twisting roads, darkness and fog hit many navigators unusually hard.

23.) Truess and Hughes were among the teams who experienced the problem, but it didn't seem to affect their performance. They found the roads quite rough and twisty, and had to creep along at 3-4 mph in the fog, but still finished the night about 20 seconds ahead of prime competitors Lee Shadbolt and Claire Chizma (Subaru Impreza).

24.) Chad Dykes and Deborah Fuller may or may not have felt a bit nauseous last evening from the conditions, but they had reason to feel a little shaky after rolling their Group 2 Toyota pickup. They were able to get the truck back on its wheels, but were a DNF last night.

25.) Toward the end of the evening, Ralph Kosmides -- who had been running very well -- began to experience turbo problems. On acceleration, there would be an initial spike of boost, but it almost immediately would drop off to nothing. The result was that Ralph found himself with a big, heavy rally car with minimal power. Someone described it as kind of a Japanese Buick. In any event, all he could do was motor on to the finish, although he did maintain the unofficial Group 5 lead.

26.) When Noel Lawler stopped by the press room he still was very charged up from the great drive he'd just turned in. He said that the stages were perhaps the best he's ever run. "They were just incredible," he said. And he was very happy with the gravel-type tread pattern he had chosen, especially the way they worked on the pavement. He said that he could throw the car sideways into a turn at 90 mph and it would just drift through.

27.) Fellow Irishman Frank Cunningham definitely did not have a fun evening. The Irish national champion brought a new 300-hp Volkswagen G60 "kit car," with 19-year-old Portuguese college student Nick Pessoa navigating. The car never ran well, basically limping along until it lost oil pressure and blew up on Stage 5.

28.) Immediately following the end of last night's activities, Ralph Kosmides' assessment of his car's problem was that the rear turbo had died. The crew was trying to organize a replacement. However, he came to the press room an hour or so later to report that the problem turned out to be a partially melted fitting on the boost-control system. It had been changed and the car was back to normal. He said that there were "a lot of smiles in the Ruby's Toyota camp."

29.) ClubRallyists Robert Garcia and Tony Vu, driving their first ProRally, had a rather disappointing beginning. They lost the differential in their Mitsubishi Eclipse shortly after the start of Stage 1 and had to retire. There was a bright lining, though. Crew chief Omar Sehmi's shop is close by, and he'll swap transmissions overnight so that they can drive in Saturday's ClubRally.

30.) There was a whole lot of brightness in ClubRallyist Steve Bender's life this week. His wife, Lynn, presented them with a second daughter, Faith Rebecca, on Wednesday. On top of all the obvious happiness, the timing of the event undoubtedly made Bender's life a lot less complicated this weekend. The baby's official due date was today.

31.) Unofficially, at the end of Friday's stages, Paul Choiniere held the overall lead, by just nine seconds over Hyundai Tiburon teammate Noel Lawler. Mitsubishis occupied the next three places. Tony Chavez and Ken Cassidy were third in a Galant VR-4, followed by Garen and Doc Shrader, then Pete Lahm and Matt Chester, both in Lancer Evolution IVs. Group 2 leaders Bill Malik and Christian Edstrom (Volvo 240)were sixth overall. Group 5 leaders Ralph Kosmides and Joe Noyes (Toyota Supra) were seventh. Production GT leaders Gail Truess and Pattie Hughes (Mazda 323 GTX)were ninth overall. Production leaders Mark Brown and John Allen (Volkswagen GTi) were 12th overall.

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About this article
Series SCCA
Drivers Paul Choiniere , Jeff Becker , George Plsek , Ralph Kosmides , Joe Noyes , Bill Malik , Paul Eklund , Carl Jardevall , Amity Trowbridge , Christian Edstrom , Frank Cunningham , John Allen , Ken Cassidy , Dave White