Class Win Solidifies Lead in National ProRally Championship Widget Rally Team Also Wins Two Support Events Lancaster, CA. The Widget Rally Team solidified its lead in the national SCCA ProRally Championship by finishing atop the ...
Class Win Solidifies Lead in National ProRally Championship
Widget Rally Team Also Wins Two Support Events
Lancaster, CA. The Widget Rally Team solidified its lead in the national SCCA ProRally Championship by finishing atop the Open class at the Subaru Rim of the World Rally May 8th. Driver Leon Styles, Mission Viejo, CA, and codriver John Dillon, Thousand Oaks, CA, now lead by 22 points over their nearest competitors. The ProRally ran concurrently with two support ("ClubRally") events, both of which were won by Styles and Dillon, but the teammates narrowly missed out on the overall victory because of mechanical problems. After leading the rally for much of the second day, a turbo hose failure dropped them one position behind a car in the Group N class with just two stages to go. In the spirit of sportsmanship that defines rally, the Widgets gave eventual winners Pat and Nathalie Richard five gallons of fuel to help them get back to the service area.
"The best part about Rim was finishing second overall," reported Styles. "Though we've won ClubRally races before, this is our best finish ever at the Pro level. Even better, we won in our class, thus earning our sponsors plenty of exposure on the upcoming TV broadcast." When asked about the worst part of the rally, he laughed. "The worst part was the same thing, finishing second overall! If the car had lasted just a little longer we could have stayed at the top of the podium."
John Dillon, who navigates for Styles, praised the driver. "We struggled with dust on the Messenger Flats stage on Friday night, but still moved up two spots from our starting position. Leon drove aggressively, yet kept his head. Additionally, Chad DiMarco of Sube Sports gave us a bit of coaching on Saturday that helped us remain focused on the job at hand. Leon's concentration, even when things weren't going right, insured that we'd achieve a good result."
The team actually had three mechanical problems in the course of the rally. Upon completing the first running of the Maxwell stage, the two stopped to be interviewed on the radio. Shortly after pulling out of the parking lot, Leon realized the turbo wasn't working. It turned out a hose had come loose and couldn't be reached without removing the skid plate. "This is a heavy car to push around without a turbo! It cost us a bunch of horsepower, which translated to a bunch of time," remarked Styles. Team Manager Denise McMahon once again arranged sponsorship for satellite phones from WCC Communications. The phones helped the team give the crew plenty of warning about what would be needed at service. The Rhys Millen Racing crew repaired the hose when the car returned to the Lancaster service area.
Just after the start of Liebre Mountain II, the "dead pedal" (a rest used as a brace for the left foot) worked its way loose and got jammed behind the brake pedal. "I hit the brakes and they hit back," joked Styles. "It was a scary moment, for sure!"
Shortly after the dead pedal problem, the turbo hose once again disengaged. Dillon described the situation. "We basically ran the last two forest stages without a turbo. Leon drove his heart out, but we must have lost 150 horsepower and simply couldn't maintain our earlier pace. Still, all in all it's a good result. We've proven to ourselves and to our competitor friends that we're able to run at the top. Our first overall victory can't be too far away."
The team's sister car, driven by Nick Korpal (Las Vegas, NV) and codriven by Eric Schleicher (Phoenix, AZ) suffered mechanically as well. A coolant hose broke loose, then jammed in the fan and damaged the radiator. "We continue to get more comfortable in the car each rally. Even though we didn't finish, the damage was relatively minor," stated Korpal, who owns 7-24 AirX, one of the team's key sponsors. "At least we didn't pitch it off the edge of a cliff!"
Fortunately the team had comfortable rooms to return to at the end of each night, courtesy of the Inn of Lancaster. "Denise works behind the scenes on behalf of the Widget team and deserves a lot of credit," observed Dillon. "Even while serving the rally community as a steward and an organizer, she continues to secure sponsorship for us, including lodging and financial support from the Inn of Lancaster and the Town House Motel. It would be difficult for us to run the full season without her help."
The two cars next compete near Wellsboro, Pennsylvania at the Susquehannock Trail Pro Rally on June 5th. Said Dillon, "At Oregon we set our goals to finish in the top five, which we did. At Rim our target was a podium finish, which we achieved. Now it's time for us to goal-set to win!"
About the Sport
Rallying is the ultimate team motorsport where street-licensed cars are raced at high speed on dirt trails with two people in the car, a driver behind the wheel and a codriver describing every bend in the road. Competitors are not allowed to pre-run the roads so they are racing "blind," navigating from a route book provided just hours prior to the event. Cars can easily reach speeds above 100 MPH as they snake between trees and along the edges of cliffs in this sport of strength and stamina.
Six events remain on the 2004 SCCA ProRally calendar. The team now heads east to events in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, and Michigan. The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is also part of the championship. The Widget's season concludes with the Ramada Express International Rally which takes place in December in and around the Grand Canyon.
About the Team
The Widget Rally Team, that "serious team with a whimsical name," is supported by 7-24 AirX (www.7-24airx.com), a domestic and international trucking and air cargo company; Perforce Software (www.perforce.com), makers of high performance software for computer professionals; Worr Games (www.worr.com), manufacturers of tournament-quality paintball guns; the Town House Motel in Lancaster, CA; and Tombstone Paintball Park (www.tombstonepaintball.com). The team insists on brakes by Porterfield Enterprises (www.porterfield-brakes.com) and utilizes the web services of Shults Dot Com (www.shults.com) for its internet needs. Satellite phones are provided by WCC Global Satellite Communications (www.wcclp.com). The team stayed at the Inn of Lancaster (www.innoflancaster.com) for the Rim of the World rally.