ProRally: Wild West: Round eight preview

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Sept. 5, 2003) -- Images of the old and rugged wild west conjure up thoughts of tumbleweed, dust and shootouts. Except for the lack of tumbleweed in the Pacific Northwest, the Wild West International Rally should have them all, as...

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Sept. 5, 2003) -- Images of the old and rugged wild west conjure up thoughts of tumbleweed, dust and shootouts. Except for the lack of tumbleweed in the Pacific Northwest, the Wild West International Rally should have them all, as rain, or the lack thereof, is the dominant topic of conversation as the ceremonial start to the eighth round of the 2003 SCCA ProRally Championship, which is just 12 hours away.

Early reports from officials are that dust will be a major problem this weekend for competitors. The dust could be so bad this weekend that no amount of dust window between cars will help ease the situation. This newest concern is just the latest of several environmental concerns for Wild West organizers.

Portions of the Rally are subject to change or cancellation altogether according to the Wild West website, due to extremely dry conditions in the Washington forests. As a result, a fire-danger schedule may be in effect. The schedule would not allow any cars into the stage areas between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m.

If that does end up being the case and organizers are able to reassign positions fast enough, a few of the stages may be moved to the nighttime and overnight hours. A final decision will be made early Friday.

Thursday's forecast from the regional National Weather Service Forecast Office said that while temperatures have been in the 80s for an extended period, it should cool down into the 70s by Saturday. Overnight lows will drop into the 40s and 50s. However, rain is not expected to move in from the Pacific Ocean until overnight on Saturday and then again sometime Sunday afternoon, which means the fire danger will remain very high for most of the event.

Subaru Rally Team USA is ready for its newest team to hit the road. The Finnish duo of Pasi Hagstr0x00f6m and co-driver Marko Taskinen will make their U.S. debut in an attempt to get Subaru back to the top of the podium. Hagstr0x00f6m has several World Rally events under his belt and should be a major boost for Team Subaru. Even with the dust, all indications are that he will provide more than ample competition for this season's overall driving champion, Team Mitsubishi Motorsports America's David Higgins.

Higgins won the John Woolf Cup after winning the Ojibwe Forests Rally two weeks ago. The win was his sixth of the year.

FIA Group N competitors Mark Utecht and Shane Mitchell will be back at it once again at this event. The class point race has been a fierce one all season and this event should be no different. Utecht held a slight advantage over Mitchell before Ojibwe and maintained his six-point advantage over Mitchell (38-32) after the competitors tied last event.

Mitchell was originally declared the winner through FIA tie-breaker procedure interpretation. Utecht appealed that decision and asked that both competitors be awarded second-place points. His appeal was upheld, giving the competitors their current point totals. With two events remaining this season, pressure for the two drivers is at a maximum as a $25,000 prize awaits the season's top Group N Subaru driver.

For information as it is released, including start order, updates and post-race results, visit www.scca.com <http://www.scca.com/> .

-scca pro rally-

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Series SCCA
Drivers Shane Mitchell , David Higgins