Contact: Terry Epp|
Tel:, (905) 640-6444
Tel: (613) 231-3248
|Date: February 11, 2001|
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MANIWAKI, QUEBEC. - Hometown favorite Sylvain Erickson drove a Mitsubishi Lancer to victory in the Rallye Perce-Neige Maniwaki, just the second rally of his comeback after a four-year absence from the sport.
Erickson led for most of the event, which was round two of the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama, and took place on ice-covered forest roads in the Haute Gatineau region of west Quebec.
This was the second career victory for the 37-year-old garage-owner, who was born in Maniwaki - rally headquarters - and lives in Gatineau.
Erickson had won before in Alberta in May, 1996, but then announced in 1997 that he was retiring from the sport to spend more time with his family. He has chosen to return this year, now that his children are older.
"This is a fantastic feeling. I can't describe it," said Erickson, adding that to win at home for the first time was far more satisfying than his earlier triumph. "It feels so much better. And it's always more difficult on ice."
Erickson completed 209.35 kms. of special stages - the competitive portions of the rally on roads temporarily closed to the public - in 2 hours, 15 minutes, 27 seconds for an average speed of 92.74 km/h. With brother Philippe as his navigator, he finished 4 minutes, 22 seconds ahead of runner-up Frank Sprongl.
Six-time Canadian champion Sprongl led the first two stages of the rally in his Audi Quattro S2, which had been sidelined for nine months by engine problems. The Mississauga, Ont., driver and his brother and navigator Dan had finally received and installed a new motor from Germany just two days earlier.
But Sprongl's hopes for victory were dashed when he spun and got stuck in a snowbank on the third stage. After he got going again, he stopped to assist his team-mate Keith Townsend, who had suffered a similar off-road excursion.
The two incidents cost Sprongl about nine minutes and handed the lead to Erickson. Although Sprongl was fastest on 10 of the 12 special stages and made up roughly half the lost time, the deficit was too large to overcome.
Erickson's main challenger then became defending Canadian champion Tom McGeer, who briefly took the lead on the sixth stage. But late in the event, the engine on his Subaru Impreza began to turn sour. He was finally forced to park the car on the very last stage of the rally.
McGeer's demise gave third and fourth places overall to a pair of VW Golfs, driven by team-mates Jon Nichols, of Lachine, Que., and Jean-Paul Perusse, of Montreal. They also took the top two positions in the Group 2 class for modified two-wheel-drive cars.
Fifth overall and the top production (or showroom stock) car was the Subaru Impreza of Pat Richard, from Vancouver. The defending Canadian production champion had to fight hard for his class victory. He trailed fellow Subaru driver John Paynter for much of the day, but moved ahead on the final stage.
"It was a great battle with John. All day, I drove conservatively, but then I pushed when I had to," said Richard, who was recently invited to test with Pro-Drive, the British team which runs Subaru's world championship operation.
Richard ended up nine seconds ahead of Paynter, who was seventh overall. Pete Pollard, of Toronto, finished between them - two seconds behind Richard - in his open (modified) class Toyota Celica.
Winners in the smaller-engined production classes were Brian Goss, from New Hampshire, 13th overall in a Dodge Neon, and Simon Smith, of Stouffville, Ont., 18th overall in a Suzuki Swift.
Sprongl now leads the overall championship standings, with 30 points from two second-place finishes, while Nichols is second with 22. But Sprongl insists he is not chasing a seventh title. He plans to take most of the summer off before returning for the final two rallies of the season in October and November.
RESULTS of the RALLYE PERCE-NEIGE MANIWAKI
Round 2 of the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama
(driver, navigator, homes, car, time, winner's speed):