RALLY: ProRally: Sno*Drift: Day one report

SCCA® ProRally Championship - Round 1 - Sno*Drift Lovell, Higgins and Sprongl lead tightly packed herd of rallyists Atlanta, Michigan The 29th consecutive full season of SCCA ProRally Championship competition thundered to life with nearly 70...

SCCA® ProRally Championship - Round 1 - Sno*Drift
Lovell, Higgins and Sprongl lead tightly packed herd of rallyists

Atlanta, Michigan The 29th consecutive full season of SCCA ProRally Championship competition thundered to life with nearly 70 rally cars today in this hunting and snowmobiling hamlet in northern Michigan. Unseasonably warm temperatures created a mixture of icy and muddy road conditions for rallyists to rumble in and crew chiefs to grumble at, as tire choice became the 'black art' of the day.

Key Notes & Quotes:

The sun came out just in time for the Parc Expose and start of the rally, and was effective at softening a significant amount of the ice remaining on the roads, creating surprisingly fast but slick conditions that made tire choice a real challenge. Tire changes were occurring right up to the last minute, with the field leaving the downtown assembly point with everything from ultra thin ice tires to traditional gravel rally tires and literally everything in between. At the end of the day, it became clear that many a crew chief was on their game, with the top 30 cars in the field separated by less than 10 total minutes, the top 5 by less than two and a half. Retirements were also admirably low, with only three reported in the 67 car field.

Not everyone had a perfect season start, however. Rhys Millen's season started with a thud, his Lancer Evo 6.5 sliding off the road in SS2 and getting stuck in the mire. Teammate Lauchlin O'Sullivan did his best to tug Millen out with his Group 2 Lancer, but to no avail. O'Sullivan, driving what may be the only two-wheel drive rally Lancer in the world, had his share of debut problems as well, sliding into an ice-bank on SS2 and cutting two tires. Running out of time, he was only able to change one tire, and ran SS3 with a flat dropping him out of Day one's top 30.

Minor dents and dings abounded but Ramana Lagemann's debut as a works driver for Subaru included a really sold whack to the left side of his Open class WRX in SS2, mangling his rear suspension and began knocking over a good sized tree in the process. Peter Lahm followed immediately behind, and finished the tree off for good, along with most of the front of his Mitsubishi Lancer. Both were able to continue on, but neither will be winning any beauty awards.

Absent from the tales of woe department is Hyundai, the team having an infinitely better start to their 2002 season than at Sno*Drift last year. At the end of day one all 3 entered cars are running flawlessly, and at the front of the pack - new recruit Mark Higgins in 2nd, Canadian snow and ice ace Dan Sprongl in 3rd, and Paul Choiniere, last year's Sno*Drift winner, comfortably in 4th, barely a minute separating the three.

Mark Utecht and new co-driver Jeff Secor, has selected his 3rd different class in as many years, the reigning PGT champion and 2000 season Group 5 champion debuting their new FIA Group N Subaru WRX, finishing day one in 9th overall, and in 2nd place in Group N, just 28 seconds behind Canadian Group N champion Patrick Richard.

In Group 2, Mazda Protégé pilot Eric Burmeister, who enjoyed a 10-minute window over a hard-charging Matthew Johnson last year is getting the 'favor' returned this year. Johnson, a North Carolina native who has earned a lot of rally experience in the past year, is leading Burmeister by a couple ticks over a minute, and is also leading the class.

The Rally restarts tomorrow, at 8:01 AM in downtown Atlanta, with the first cars scheduled to finish in the late afternoon in nearby Hillman.

-scca pro rally-

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Series SCCA
Drivers Paul Choiniere , Rhys Millen , Mark Higgins , Eric Burmeister , Matthew Johnson , Patrick Richard , Jeff Secor