Olympia, Wash. -- Subaru Rally Team USA made it clear before the start of the Wild West International Rally that whoever they named as their second team would be able to make an impact immediately. Pasi Hagstromm and co-driver Marko Taskinen,...
Olympia, Wash. -- Subaru Rally Team USA made it clear before the start of the Wild West International Rally that whoever they named as their second team would be able to make an impact immediately.
Pasi Hagstromm and co-driver Marko Taskinen, both of Finland, wasted no time in holding their end of the bargain by winning Round Eight of the 2003 SCCA ProRally Championship.
The pair held the lead for almost the length of the rally, the only exception being Special Stage 1, where Team Mitsubishi Motorsports America driver David Higgins, winner of six of eight events this season, held a 20-second advantage. However Higgins, and co-driver Daniel Barritt, were forced to retire shortly into the beginning of SS2 on Saturday after Barritt lost his battle against the flu. Hagstromm and Taskinen never looked back after that and, working together in a rally competition together for the first time, claimed their first win ever on American soil and Team Subaru's second win of the season.
"That was the plan for the team, having both cars in the top two," said
Hagstromm, who turned in a time of 2:05:47. "So we made it and things are good. It's nice to have a tight rally for everyone, competitors and fans because it keeps it exciting.
"Of course it is not so easy to have a big lead early because it is easy to lose your concentration and make a mistake. This was the first time for us to be together in a rally, but we have done notes for Tommi (Makenen -- one of Team Subaru's World Rally drivers) for about two years now. Marko has been reading the notes for me and we have tested other Subarus together, so we are quite familiar with each other."
Taskinen said that communication was not a problem for the pair all weekend.
"Pasi is a professional driver," said Taskinen. "I only had to tell him to back off a little bit when we were ahead at the end. We came here wanting to drive our own rally and not pay attention to other drivers. We were lucky and finished and we learned a lot this trip."
Team advisor David Campion was visibly pleased with the Finnish effort and his team's overall performance as Ramana Lagemann and co-driver Michael Orr finished second, posting a time of 2:09:13.
"We wanted to finish the year on a high after the year we've had," said Campion. "It would have been our desire, shall we say, to finish on top. It was a bit disappointing that David (Higgins) retired so early on, it would have been fun to have a fight with him, but we'll just have to wait for next time."
Team Mitsubishi driver Lauchlin O'Sullivan and co-driver Christian Edstrom finished with another podium finish in third position (2:11:27), while FIA Group N competitors Shane Mitchell/Paul Donnelly (2:16:56) and Mark Utecht/Jeff Secor (2:19:08) finished fourth and fifth overall, respectively.
The battle for the John Woodner Cup (given to the top overall 2WD driver) intensified during the last stage Sunday. Mopar Performance Parts driver Doug Shepherd, with co-driver Pete Gladysz, charged through the end of the rally, catching both Eric Burmeister and Chris Whiteman during the last stage. Unofficially, if Shepherd finished second in Group 5, as is believed, when points are refigured, Whiteman, Shepherd and Burmeister, all from Michigan, will be tied for the Cup with a trip to the Lake Superior ProRally, in Houghton, Mich., in five weeks.
Complete results of the Wild West Rally will be released as they become available.
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