RALLY: ProRally: Cherokee Trails: Final event report

2002 SCCA® ProRallysm Championship - Round 2 - Cherokee Trail Independent's Day in March Chattanooga Tennessee: For the first time in eight months, an independently entered team has won an SCCA ProRally Championship event, with an ...

2002 SCCA® ProRallysm Championship - Round 2 - Cherokee Trail Independent's Day in March

Chattanooga Tennessee: For the first time in eight months, an independently entered team has won an SCCA ProRally Championship event, with an additional independent entry finishing in second place overall. David Higgins, from the Isle of Mann, with co-driver Calvin Cooledge, in a 2002 Subaru WRX prepared by AV Sport of Phoenix Arizona, secured the win by a mere one second margin over 2001 Polish Rallying Champions Janusz Kulig and Jaroslaw Baran and their 2000 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI.

Key Notes & Quotes:

* With all three Open Class works teams entering either all-new cars, or ones with significant revisions, tried and true non-works entries had their day on the twisting, hard-packed gravel roads of the Cherokee National Forest. AV Sports, which fields up to 4 entries, and TAD Motorsports, which fields as many as 6, both had top 10 finishes, and their share of hard luck as well. David Higgins' win here at Cherokee offsets AV's garage mates Craig Peeper and Jason Rivas DNF's (off road time bar and turbo failure respectively) and TAD's Mark Nelson and Tim Paterson top 10 finishes balances hard-charging Seamus Burke's frustrating DNF on the transit to the final stage (a cooling fan failed, and overheated the engine)

* "This is the toughest rally I've ever run," exclaimed a clearly haggard Mark Lovell at the end of this very long day (nearly 15 hours) of rallying, who debuted his all new and completely re-engineered Subaru WRX this weekend. While external appearances are nearly identical to his previous ride (now in the capable hands of teammate Ramana Lagemann) Lovell's WRX is Prodrive's first car to be specifically built to the limits of the SCCA Open Class rules. (Lovell's previous car is referred to at Prodrive as a "Group N Plus", essentially a Group N car with an upgraded motor) Like the all-new Hyundai Tiburons, the WRX had its share of teething problems, ranging from niggling electrical details to a transmission failure, which gave rally fans in the service area a chance to watch the Prodrive crew perform their "patented" 16 minute transmission replacement drill.

* Mark Higgins' day started as badly as could be imagined, but recovered extraordinarily well. At the start of stage 1, under pouring rain, the wipers on his brand-new Tiburon jammed under some ironically placed sun-blocking tape. First car on the road, battling fog and the driving rain, as well as a partial cast on his right foot (he broke his foot 2 weeks earlier in a log-clearing accident on his family's farm back in the UK) he was doing the best he could. Partway through the stage the car's brake bias got thrown off, causing the hobbled and weather-blind driver to do most of his turning with the emergency brake. Finally, the rally gods ganged up on him, slamming the car into three trees, wiping out an equal number of corners of the car, and badly damaging the rear suspension. In a dramatic demonstration of both personal resolve and the huge leap forward the Hyundai team has made in car construction and teamwork, Higgins and Gibson got the car back to service, and pressed on, finishing a remarkable 5th place overall, after falling behind nearly 6 minutes due to the accident.

* Thanks to an inspired drive by Mark Higgins, Hyundai's lead in the Overall Manufacturers Championship has been maintained by the narrowest of margins, with overall points after 2 rounds: Hyundai 28, Subaru 27, and Mitsubishi 13. In the two-wheel-drive Overall Championship, Mitsubishi is in a game of catch-up, with the 2nd place (for two-wheel drive cars) overall finish by Lauchlin O'Sullivan and Matt Chester netting the company 15 much needed points. Mazda's Eric Burmeister and Eric Adams, driving a well paced rally to finish 4th in the category, earned 10 points for the company, maintaining their lead in the championship by 18 points.

* The 2002 Driver's Championship continues to build an International flavor, with new to SCCA ProRally Polish natives Kulig and Baran, earning 17 points each. David Higgins and Calvin Cooledge, after their DNF at Sno*Drift have come back strong, with 22 points a piece, and fellow UK residents Mark Lovell and Steve Turvey earning 14 points each. Unofficial standings for the top 5 teams are: Mark Lovell/Steve Turvey: 31, Mark Higgins/Michael Gibson: 24, David Higgins/Calvin Cooledge: 23, Frank Sprongl/Dan Sprongl 22/23, and Ramana Lagemann/Michael Kidd: 20.

* The Championship starts its "West Coast Swing" in April, traveling to Portland Oregon for the Oregon Trail rally on the 20th and 21st, then heads to Southern California for the legendary "Rim of the World" rally in Angeles National Forest. Both events will feature both SCCA ProRally and SCCA ClubRally action, and will be televised on SpeedChannel. www.speedtv.com

The SCCA name and logo is a registered trademark of the Sports Car Club of America, Inc. ProRally, ClubRally and RallyCross are service marks of the SCCA.

The SCCA ProRally Championship is presented by Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Subaru, and is televised in North America on SpeedChannel. Time and date listing information available at www.speedtv.com

-scca pro rally-

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Series SCCA
Drivers Mark Nelson , Seamus Burke , Mark Lovell , Mark Higgins , Eric Burmeister , David Higgins , Michael Gibson , Frank Sprongl