SCCA ProRally Championship - Round ...
SCCA ProRally Championship - Round #5 - Susquehannock Trail Lovell/Subaru Takes 3rd Overall Win, Burke Steps Up
Wellsboro, PA The 25th consecutive SCCA Susquehannock Trail ProRally came to an exciting conclusion in the early hours of Sunday morning, with 51 hardy teams making it to the finish of what may be the most fiercely competitive rally in the US championship. Changeable weather provided a great challenge into the evening stages, and the famous water crossing thrilled, and soaked, plenty of rally fans that packed the Pennsylvania woods in record numbers.
* For the first time in the quarter century history of the Susquehannock Rally, every car entered made it across the finish line in the middle of the water crossing at the conclusion of SS1. There were, however, a few that didn't make it much farther, but none-the-less, the new record stands. And at 90 cars - by far the largest field ever assembled at STPR, and the largest national ProRally field in the history of the sport in the USA, it remains an astonishing achievement.
* Seamus Burke and Frank Cunningham had yet another amazing weekend, and broke their 'always third' podium streak in the best way possible, finishing 2nd to Mark Lovell. Burke and Cunningham are the only drivers to have sprayed the Champagne at every SCCA ProRally Championship event this year, and are showing absolutely no signs of changing this most rewarding habit.
* This year's STPR set a blistering pace from the start. Seamus Burke kicked things off by breaking the SS1 record set by US rally legend John Buffum in 1997 by nearly 3 seconds. Mark Lovell ripped through the existing course record for SS5 by over a minute, and the SS6 record by nearly 30 seconds. Records for most stages, both overall and per class, fell regularly throughout the day, and participants and fans were keen to the action.
* The perfect rallying weather - damp dust free roads with tremendous traction and virtually zero dust combined with cool, friendly to turbochargers temperatures, didn't last forever. By SS8 the rains that swamped much of the northeast US for the preceding several weeks returned, turning the tacky, grippy clay into a slick surface that tripped up plenty of veteran drivers. Attrition was high for the next several stages, decimating the Group 5 (high horsepower, 2 wheel drive) category and the conditions demanded maximum concentration from all just to stay on the road.
* Last years' gremlins came back to haunt the Hyundai team, with Noel Lawler receiving his 5th DNF in as many events with his freshly rebuilt Tiburon springing an oil leak and briefly catching fire underhood. The head gasket on Paul Choinere's Tiburon started leaking early on, with the resultant overheating finally sidelining the 2000 season champion for good on the transit to SS8. Malachy Crawford, a virtual unknown here in the US, drove a well-paced rally for Hyundai in the team's freshly repainted Elantra, until the transmission gave up all its gears but one with two stages to go. With the companies Overall and Open class points on the line, the resourceful Crawford found a gear that would work (4th) and stuck with it through the end, giving up tremendous road position, but earning the company it's much needed points.
* Tim O'Neil, with Italian journalist Georgio Cerboncini co-driving, had a great ride in Hyundai's Production class car, finishing 3rd in the hotly contested class - the largest in years. California's Tony Chavez/Doug Robinson captured overall honors in P, with the ex-Karl Scheible 1999 VW New Beetle, star of the famous "cute car" TV commercial, now renamed the "Stud-Bug," of Michael Halley in 2nd.
* The close Manufacturers points race has become just that much more-so, with the unofficial standings indicating Subaru extending its overall lead; 87 points to Hyundai's 76, with Mitsubishi closing at 72. In the Open class, Hyundai, by virtue of Malachy Crawford's hard-fought finish, maintains a single digit lead over Subaru, with Mitsubishi just 3 points behind Subaru. In the Gr N manufacturers points, Subaru maintains its lead over its global challenger Mitsubishi, 100 to 60.
* Lovell's win now places him in a substantial overall lead in the Driver's Championship, with an unofficial tally showing the Briton at 85 points, Burke at 73, and Scheible at 50, surpassing Richard Tuthill for 3rd place mid-season honors.
RALLY: ProRally: Susquehannock Trail notes, start order
RACE: Ralph Ridge autopsy update