TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 21, 2003) -- Tim O'Neil, 44, driver of the Air Force Reserve sponsored 2002 Ford SVT Focus in the SCCA ProRally Championship, announced his retirement from competition today. Citing a desire to spend more time with his family...
TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 21, 2003) -- Tim O'Neil, 44, driver of the Air Force Reserve sponsored 2002 Ford SVT Focus in the SCCA ProRally Championship, announced his retirement from competition today.
Citing a desire to spend more time with his family and his Team O'Neil Rally School business, O'Neil said that the time was right for him to walk away from full Championship competition.
"I wanted to have the chance to drive the best car I could get, with the best team, with the right sponsors and I got that," said O'Neil. "Now that I've got that, I feel I've met my objectives as a driver and it's time to become more involved behind the scenes of the sport."
The five-time United States and North American Rally Champion also said that his retirement and move into an advisory role with the Air Force Reserve Rally Team will pave the way for the program to maximize the potential for the Open Class Focus.
"I wasn't happy with my stage times this year," said O'Neil, who finished as part of the top independent team by posting five top-five finishes out of nine events this year, including a season-best second-place finish at the Susquehannock Trail ProRally in June. "And in my opinion, in order for the program to work out for the long term, it needs someone who can get more out of the car; someone who is willing to go faster right now, and not another season of making the Air Force Reserve waiting for me to get up to speed."
In his advisor's role, O'Neil said that he would not be at all events in 2004, but that he would be at several, working with the Air Force Reserve in helping its recruiting efforts. He also hopes to encourage sponsorship for competitors and promote the overall long-term health of the sport.
"I do want to thank Major Greg Pachman and all the people in the Air Force Reserve for believing in what we are doing and for being a rally advocate," O'Neil said. "I also want to say thank you to Andy Brown for teaching me about car setup and the rest of the crew who do nothing else than work their tails off to get the car ready just so I can go drive it.
"I also want to say thanks to Alex [Gelsomino] for being a top man and a very good co-driver this year. Also, the guys that I competed against, those guys were great. My learning curve was steep this year because I spent time talking with and driving against guys like David Higgins which was amazing. The things that I learned this year from him and the others not only made me faster, but will make me a better teacher on the modern rally car setup.
"I'd like to thank the SCCA for its contributions to the overall growth of the sport and for providing the Championship where top competition can come together and rally.
O'Neil alluded to the possibility that he might compete in a few rallies in the future, but was clear that his second retirement from the ProRally Championship (his first coming in 1992) would be his final one.
"As far as for future rides, I'm not looking for anything in the Championship, maybe a couple of events here or there," said O'Neil. "But as far as the team goes, if we can find someone who is already really good and someone who will work with the team, then we give our team the best chance to win sooner."
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