Weather in Atlanta (the center of sports activity in the U.S. this weekend), Michigan, turned out to be pretty darn nice, with sunny skies and temps unseasonably warm in the upper 20s (Farenheit, of course). Over 50 teams were on hand to participate in the Twenty-Hundred version of Sno*Drift.
TWO cars were entered in SCCA's new Group N class: Karl Scheible's Mitsubishi Evo V and Seamus Burke's Subaru. Scheible's car is owned and maintained by Lance Smith's Vermont Sports Car. Co-driving for Scheible is Russ Hughes, whose career as a co-driver and driver in the Pro Rally series goes back to the 1980s. Burke's Subaru is the ex-Bill Dreigert car, with modifications to make it legal for Group N.
1999 Pro Rally Champions Noel Lawler and Charlie Bradley were aboard the old, reliable Hyundai Elantra. The replacement for the Tiburon that was destroyed at Lake Superior Pro Rally last October is not yet finished. Paul Choiniere and Jeff Becker were in the same Hyundai Tiburon that they ran last season.
Jon Kemp is always a contender in his Open Class Audi Quattro.
Bill Morton, who won several Club Rallies last year in his TAD prepared Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV has Rob Walden as co-driver for this event. Walden co-drove several years with Sam Bryan in Saabs and won the Group 2 title in 1995 and the Group 5 title in 1997. Morton, an employee of TAD Motorsports in Chicago, was the chief mechanic for the factory-backed Saab 900 that took Bryan and Walden to the 1997 title. The Saab was maintained by TAD that year.
In addition to the Scheible and Morton Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions, are the Evos of Garen & Doc Shrader and Pete Lahm & Matt Chester. A total of FOUR of the popular Japanese rally cars all in one place, and all four COMPETING!
Up from Colorado is Mark Cox, entered in a Mazda 323 GTX. Cox could do well on the icy roads around Atlanta. He runs the Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs.
A couple of other cars making their debut this weekend were the Subaru Impreza of Greg Healey in PGT, and a Dodge Omni Turbo for Mark Utecht in Group 5. Healey used to drive a Mitsubishi pickup, but sold it last year. Utecht's car replaces the similar chassis that was destroyed at Ojibwe Forest Pro Rally last year.
Mike Hurst sold his RX7, so showed up with a Pontiac Sunbird Turbo, a car better suited to icy conditions because of its FWD. The Sunbird runs in Group 5, same as the RX7. Rob Bohn was co-driver once again.
Several major teams dropped off the entry list before the start. The Gail Truess/Patti Hughes Mazda 323 GTX, a replacement for the car wrecked in Maine last season, was not completed in time, "Not for lack of trying," said Gail. With three months to the next event on the schedule, look for the team to show up in Oregon. Gail reported they have a couple of 323 chassis to work with. One was found when they went to a salvage yard seeking wheels for a 323 GTX and found them still mounted on a car without a drivetrain. "The guy said we could have the whole thing for $300. We figured the wheels alone were worth more than that."
Others who dropped out in the previous week included Lachlin O'Sullivan/John Dillon, who couldn't come up with the sponsorship to make the trip from California. 1999 Sno*Drift winners, Tom Ottey and Pam McGarvey, dropped out as illness kept Ottey from working on the car in the weeks just before the rally. Illness also forced a no-show for the Bill Bjorklund/Bob Baerg Group 5 Dodge Omni, the same car Mark Utecht rented for a few events late last season, as Bob was ill and unable to function. Also pulling out at the last minute was PGT driver Brian Pepp, who apparently broke a leg in a skiiing accident the week before the rally.
Missing from the Entry List were 1999 Group 5 winners Henry and Cindy Krolikowski. The Krolikowskis are here - Cindy is co-driving for Tad Otake and Henry is crewing for them - but their car is not. Henry says someone has given him a deposit toward its purchase. Another series regular and past class champion in Atlanta without his car was Cal Landau. His 1995 PGT Championship winning Eclipse is for sale. He has plans to build something else.
Former PRO Rally Champion, Steve Nowicki, was on hand, this being the closest event to his home. Nowicki won Production class in 1982 and '83 in a Plymouth Fire Arrow, and was the Production GT winner in '85 aboard a Datsun (or was it Nissan by then?) Z. David Stone, Nowicki's co-driver for several years and 1985 PGT co-driving champ was also seen watching the cars race by at Spectator Areas. Both talk about wanting to find another car and get involved in Pro Rally again.
Wink's Restaurant Report: Many teams gathered at Crabby T's, the eatery a couple of miles north of rally HQ. The popular choices were the Friday Fish Fry (Atlantic Cod, nothing locally grown), and the steaks. The salad bar also gets good reviews.
Colin McCleery has forsaken his usual RWD Merkur for his first stab at rallying with FWD. The Jet Black VW GTi is owned by co-driver Jeff Secor, who has been telling everyone (who will listen) that it's better when the driver doesn't OWN the car, as worry about having to make repairs will only slow him down. Of course, McCleery did most of the work on the VW, so it isn't certain that he will be any quicker. In fact, McCleery's mantra this weekend is "Slow is Fast." He figures that the best way to finish here on the slick roads of Northern (but not Upper) Michigan, is to stay out of the snowbanks. The car is entered in Group 5, as that is where Colin will be running the Merkur in other events. In reality, it is fairly stock and would probably be slow in Group 2.
Steve Irwin and Phil Schmidt join the Club Rally ranks this weekend in the ex-Gilligan/Moyer Toyota MR2. The pair will swap driving and co-driving positions for the two Club Rallies, dubbed "Sno" and "Drift". Irwin and Schmidt are the 1999 Arrowhead Sports Car Club Winter Rally Series Champions. They ran a MR2 in the ASCC Winter Rally Series several years ago.
The Bob Nielsen/Brett Corneliusen Group 2 VW suffered a blown oil seal on the way to Park Expose and the crew was unable to make repairs prior to the start. They did, however, cross the start line for two starting points. They did get it fixed in time to run the second Club Rally later. John Rek is another who did not make it to the first stage, due to clutch problems on his Audi Quattro.
More Photos: Page 2 | Page 3
Rocket Video Productions - Quick Time videos.
Official Sno*Drift Web Site.