|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 19, 2006
|Contact: Rally America Media
HOUGHTON, MI -- It is a battle between teacher and students this weekend at the Lake Superior Performance Rally as a veteran driver who has coached most of the leading teams in the series takes on the field.
New Hampshire‘s Tim O’Neil – whose performance-driving students have included Subaru Rally Team USA drivers Travis Pastrana and Ken Block, among others – is making his return to competition at this northern Michigan contest after a two-year hiatus.
“I’d like to turn up the heat and be competitive,” says O’Neil, who admits the level of competition has increased since he last took the start two years ago at this event. “I’d like to win, but I don’t know how it’s going to go.”
The driver, who preaches a cool-headed style of rally competition, says he’s eager to see how his students perform.
Matt Iorio, who’s fresh from a win in Canada last weekend, says he considers this race an opportunity to test himself against his mentor.
“It’s exciting to see how I fare against him and to see how far my driving has come,” says Iorio who learned to drive at O’Neil’s rally driving course several years ago. “It’s always great to see him out here. No matter what, he gives me good advice.”
For his part, Travis Pastrana isn’t likely to turn up the heat. The X Games superstar has a healthy championship lead and a sixth-place finish this weekend would clinch the title. He and co-driver Christian Edstrom have finished back-to-back races in first place, but expect to play a more conservative game this weekend.
“This rally will be brought to you by the number six,” said Edstrom, the strategist for the duo, who has publicly predicted a fourth-place finish. “If we finish higher than that, it’ll be by accident.”
Ken Block, who is narrowly in third place, will be fighting to maintain his top-three position. A run of bad luck has left him open to challengers and he’ll have to drive well to maintain his position.
But the championship battle was over for one team even before the race began. With challenger Tanner Foust absent from the race after a bad crash last month in Colorado, Matthew Johnson took the Production-GT title just by crossing the start line.
Even so, Johnson says he doesn’t plan to cruise. The scrappy driver has now set his sights on the overall points, musing: “A top five finish in a Production-GT car for the national championship would be pretty cool.”
Based at the tip of Michigan’s northern peninsula, the Lake Superior Performance Rally is a challenging event that features a range of weather and road conditions. Course roads range from gravel to mud and truly fickle autumn weather means crews can expect everything from snow to pouring rain.
LSPR is the eighth event in the nine-event Rally America championship series. The final round takes place in November in Washington State.