SCCAÂ® ProRallysm Championship Round ...
SCCA® ProRallysm Championship Round #9 - Wild West Rally
Millen Earns 1st win, "Diggins" Snaps up 1st Championship.
OLYMPIA, Washington It was a cold and rainy day in western Washington state, which suited the Higgins brothers well - and while neither was able to outlast the competition on this particular weekend, one of the brothers - David - was able nonetheless to capture the overall SCCA Drivers Championship with one event to spare. Rhys Millen, his rally program with Mitsubishi drawing to a close, drove the rally he had to drive, placing his well-used Lancer Evo 6.5 at the head of the class for the first time this year.
* David Higgins' steady season of well calculated rallying proved to all that a properly funded and staffed, completely independent team operation (in this case AV Sport of Tempe AZ) can find significant success rallying alongside the manufacturer supported teams. Suffering an uncharacteristic engine problem that cropped up early in the day, David Higgins and co-driver Daniel Barritt were forced to retire at the end of SS11 - after enduring an agonizingly long 49-minute stage for the duo that most teams were able to complete in 14-15.
* In the Mitsubishi camp, Rhys Millen drove what may be the best day of rallying in his career, winning two of the days six stages outright, and tieing another with challenger Mark Lovell. In the cool weather, the overheating problems that have plagued this team nearly all season were kept at bay, and the comfort level of not only being at a familiar rally, but also in a familiar, if older car, paid off handsomely.
* Paul Choiniere and Jeff Becker, who may have had the top spot this weekend were it not for the two-punctures-on-one-stage misfortune in Day One, drove an inspired rally, posting stage times that were nearly always in the top three all day, and winning SS9 by nearly a minute over Rhys Millen.
* Lovell and co-driver Steve Turvey, springing back from a disastrous final stage in Day One, when their transmission lost most of its forward gears, drove a fierce game of catch-up, winning two stages; but a 2-minute bauble in SS9 effectively kept them off the podium.
* Surprise third place overall finisher was the Group N team of Tim O'Neil and Martin Headland, who have been steadily working their way towards the top spot in that category since their strong showing at Pikes Peak. The New Hampshire and Ontario, Canada based team did have an altercation with a tree early in the days proceedings, but it didn't slow them down a bit as they headed to their best finish of the season.
* Several other year-end championships were decided this weekend. In Group 5, the Brothers Hintz: David at the wheel and Rick at the Terratrip; won this uniquely American big-bore 2WD class in their well aged by trusty Mazda RX-7 turbo, two minutes ahead of 1999 Group 5 champions Henry and Cindy Krolikowski in their borrowed Dodge Neon SRT-4. Production class was also decided, but in two different cars. Jon Hamilton secured the driver's championship in his Soy-Diesel fueled VW Golf TDI, and David Weiman, who seemingly has ridden in just about every other car in the Production class this year, finished his season riding along with "Subie-Gal" Jamie Thomas, who also posted a career high ProRally finish of 17th overall and 2nd in class.
* Heading towards the final event of the year, the Lake Superior Rally in mid-October, the Group N championship will be down to the wire, with just a 5-point gap between leader Ralph Kosmides and challenger Tim O'Neil. While the overall Drivers points chase is decided, the Overall Co-Driver's isn't, with Subaru's Steve Turvey leading over Daniel Barritt. The Overall Manufacturers Championship which saw Hyundai extend its lead over Subaru to 11 points (121 to 110) this weekend, will likely result in a mad dash to the finish in Michigan, as Subaru fights to repeat its 2001 win, while Hyundai pulls out all the stops to regain the title it held for the five consecutive years prior.
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