ProRally: Rim of the World: Team Mitsubishi Group 2 final report

Team Mitsubishi dominates ProRally Group 2 at the Rim of the World; O'Sullivan races to finish with nearly six minute lead. CYPRESS, Calif., May 8 -- World ProRally Championship competitors are seeing red once again as Team Mitsubishi shows its...

Team Mitsubishi dominates ProRally Group 2 at the Rim of the World; O'Sullivan races to finish with nearly six minute lead.

CYPRESS, Calif., May 8 -- World ProRally Championship competitors are seeing red once again as Team Mitsubishi shows its early domination of the highly competitive Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Group 2 with a dominating win at the grueling ProRally Rim of the World event in Palmdale, California. Lauchlin O'Sullivan, with navigator Aaron Laeng calling the route, powered the two-wheel-drive Rhys Millen Racing Lancer O.Z. Rally Edition to the finish line with nearly a six minute lead over their nearest competitor -- and an 11th overall -- at the end of what many consider the toughest ProRally venue of the year.

"This Lancer O.Z. Rally Edition is indestructible," lauded a jubilant Lauchlin moments after finishing the Rim's final stage in an event that saw 18 of the 43 ProRally cars fall by the wayside over the 106 miles of tight, twisting, dusty forest service fire roads in the California High Desert. "I pushed the Lancer hard from the first stage and it never wavered. The only service it required was a fresh set of tires for the last couple stages. It's just an awesome car."

The Team Mitsubishi win, in this the fourth of a 10 event series, places Lauchlin in a commanding lead for the prestigious SCCA Woodner Cup for 2WD Driver of the Year. The 11th place overall also keeps Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America, Inc., within reach of the manufacturer's championship behind rivals Hyundai and Subaru. Lauchlin's win may have been even more impressive were it not for a brief stop to help teammate and boss Rhys Millen.

During Stage 5 on Friday evening, Millen and navigator Gary Cowan, running the Open Class all-wheel-drive Lancer Evolution 6.5, slid wide on one of the treacherous hairpins in near-blinding dust. They came to rest with the car high-centered and sitting precariously balanced on the edge of a small cliff. Several minutes later Lauchlin and Laeng came across their stranded teammates.

Cowan attached the towrope to the front of Lauchlin's front-wheel-drive Lancer O.Z. Rally Edition for a helping tug. "When I started to backup is when things got really interesting," recounts former Rim of the World champion Lauchlin.

"When we pulled Rhys' car backwards, the nose pivoted out and over the cliff. All of a sudden my car died trying to pull the heavy beast out. At that point Rhys' Evo started slipping forward and down over the cliff. Things were pretty precarious for about five seconds while I tried restarting my car. When I got the engine re-fired we gave a big tug and yanked Rhys' car back on the road. A couple minutes later the boss-man was on my tail flashing his lights in the dust. I pulled over and he flew on by. It was beautiful. That is what teamwork and rallying is all about"

Unfortunately, sitting on the edge of a cliff for a couple minutes was the least of Rhys Millen's difficulties during his attempt to capture an Open Class win at this year's Rim of the World rally. His bid for a podium finish on his home turf was cut short when an overheating problem took out the engine of the Rhys Millen Racing Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6.5 mid-afternoon on Saturday. That disappointment compounded an already frustrating day as their team's brand new Evolution 7 -- a race version of the same all-wheel-drive high-performance street model that will be in dealer's showrooms this coming January -- suffered a front suspension failure at the beginning of the rally.

"That's just part of the teething process a new rally car goes through," says Blair Stopnik, Rhys Millen Racing Team Manager. "It's disappointing. But Team Mitsubishi and Rhys Millen Racing will be ready to rock at the ProRally Susquehannock Trail next month (June 1-2) with the Lancer Evo VII and the O.Z. Rally. "

SCCA ProRally competitors and fans will continue to see red as Team Mitsubishi continues to make their presence known in the remaining six events. After the Susquehannock Trail rally in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, the team will head for Pikes Peak Int'l Hillclimb (June 27-29) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, followed by the Maine Forrest Rally (July 26-27) in Rumford, Maine.

From there Team Mitsubishi and the ProRally tour heads to Bemidji, Minnesota (Ojibwe Forests, August 16-17), Olympia, Washington (Wild West, Sept. 7-8), and the final event in Houghton, Michigan (Lake Superior, Oct.18 - 19.)

Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America, Inc., was established in 1982 by Mitsubishi Motor Corporation, Tokyo, and makes a full line of vehicles, including coupes, convertibles, sedans and sport utility vehicles.

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Series SCCA
Drivers Rhys Millen