Contact: Louis Payette
Tel: (514) 288-8290
|Date: February 27, 2003|
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Quebec City, Canada - Champion drivers from Britain, Canada and the United States seem destined for a showdown at this weekend's Rallye International de Québec, an event on the Canadian Rally Championship schedule and one of only two Canadian stops in the FIA North American series.
The Quebec City rally, which starts Friday evening and runs until late Sunday afternoon, figures to be one of the most competitive races ever held in Canada, with at least four former champions among the entrants. This list includes five-time Canadian champion Tom McGeer, of Georgetown, Ont., and Whistler, B.C.'s Pat Richard, the 2002 title holder. Richard is Canada's lone representative in the World Rally Championship, competing in the Group N category for Subaru Rally Team Canada.
McGeer and Richard, both driving Subaru Imprezas on the predominantly ice and snow-covered Quebec City course, will be facing stiff competition from former British Rally and defending U.S. Rally champion David Higgins, in a factory-backed Mitsubishi EVO VIII. Six-time U.S. champion Paul Choiniere, of Shelburne, Vermont will also be a threat to win in his all-wheel drive Hyundai Tiburon.
A trio of fellow Canadians – Sylvain Erickson, of Gatineau, Que., winner of the season-opening Canadian Rally Championship race at Perce-Neige-Maniwaki, Toronto's Peter Thomson and Alberta native Andrew Comrie-Picard – are also among the major contenders.
Richard and Thomson are the only entrants in Group N cars, but in the icy conditions that are expected on the Quebec City special stages, the added horsepower of the Open Class machines is not expected to be a big factor.
McGeer, winner of the Rallye de Québec in each of the last two seasons, comes to this year's event with a new co-driver, 1996 British champion Howard Davies, who is regarded as one of the world's authorities on pace notes. This takes on added importance in Quebec, one of only two Canadian Rally Championship venues where driver-teams are allowed to make pace notes.
"We're looking forward to showing what we can do," said McGeer. "Our result in the first Canadian race at Perce-Neige was disappointing. Howard and I were just starting to get a good feel for each other when we made a small mistake and ended up in the snowbank. That won't happen again."
Richard got some good news earlier this week as he prepared to head to Quebec in defence of his Canadian championship. The FIA announced the disqualification of the winning Sweden Rally N Group entry at the Swedish Rally, a ruling that officially moved Richard to an eighth-place finish and one point in the standings. He thus becomes the first Canadian driver to score a point in the WRC in the modern era of the world rally championship.
As he did in his WRC debut in Sweden earlier this month, Richard, will have Sweden's Mikael Johansson as his co-driver for his Canadian Rally Championship debut. Johansson was a late replacement in Sweden after Richard's fellow Canadian co-driver, veteran Martin Headland, was injured in a recce crash, sustaining a number of body bruises, from which he is still recovering.
"I've always enjoyed the challenge of the Rallye de Québec." said Richard. "It's original, it's a place that is easy to get to and the people there are crazy about rallying."