Press Release

Contact: Terry Epp
Tel: (905) 640-6444
David Hatter
Tel: (613) 231-3248
Date: January 28, 2001


Round 1 of 2001 championship

QUEBEC CITY - Canadian rally driving champion Tom McGeer began his title defence in the best possible way by winning the season-opening Rallye de Quebec. But his 10th career win was his closest ever.n was his closest ever.

McGeer trailed long-time rival Frank Sprongl most of the way. He moved ahead in the late stages of the event. But going to the final two special stages, a pair of runs around the Hippodrome in Quebec City, his lead was just one second.

Before several thousand screaming fans at a track that is normally used for horse racing, McGeer was able to use the superior power of his Subaru Impreza WRX to extend the gap over snow-and-ice specialist Sprongl to 29 seconds.

Sprongl had previously been the only driver ever to win the Rallye de Quebec, with seven straight victories since the event's introduction in 1994. This year, though, he was driving an Audi Quattro Coupe which was older and less powerful than his regular Quattro S2 (out of commission with engine problems).

McGeer's win completes a personal grand slam as he now has victories in all eight events in the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama.

"It's rare that we finish well ahead, but I've never had a win this close," said the 40-year-old Georgetown, Ont., driver, who had American competitor Mark Williams as his navigator.

"What a great race. Every stage, it see-sawed back and forth. Even if we'd finished second, that would have been fine after a race like today's. But it's special to beat Frank on snow and ice on the only rally I'd yet to win."

McGeer completed 153.1 kilometres of special stages - the competitive portietitive portions of the rally on roads temporarily closed to the public - in one hour, 44 minutes, 39 seconds for an average speed of 87.73 kph.

Early on, McGeer fell 31 seconds behind Sprongl. He said he selected the wrong compound of tire for conditions on the first long stage in the Portneuf area west of Quebec City. But from then on, he gradually closed the gap.

"It was a bit depressing this morning when we chose the wrong tires and lost time, but we kept chipping away all day," he said. "Coming to the Hippodrome, I was pretty pumped. We seem to be masters of come-from-behind wins."

Sprongl was philosophical about his loss, although he suggested the outcome would have been different if his usual, more powerful car were not sidelined.

"It was a great battle with Tom and a lot of fun," said the 33-year-old from Mississauga, Ont. "It doesn't get much closer than this. You can't win them all. I've won seven out of eight here. I can't complain."

Toronto's Keith Townsend finished third, almost four minutes behind Sprongl, in a Mitsubishi Lancer. It was his fourth podium finish in five starts since he took delivery of the car last summer. He said he eased back in the late stages of the rally after a 360-degree spin.

Jon Nichols, of Lachine, Que., was fourth overall and took top honors in the Group 2 class (for modified two-wheel-drive cars).

He was followed by the top three Production (showroom stock) carsom stock) cars. Antoine L'estage, of L'Acadie, Que., took the class win in an Eagle Talon, ahead of John Paynter, of Lower Sackville, N.S., in a Subaru Legacy and Paul Ordanis, of Ashburn, Ont., in a BMW 325. The three were separated by just 38 seconds.

Jean-Paul Perusse - a two-time Canadian champion in 1975-76, making a comeback after a 13-year absence from the sport - was 10th overall in a VW Golf. The 57-year-old Montrealer was second in Group 2, behind only team-mate Nichols.

Sylvain Erickson, of Gatineau, Que., who was returning after a four-year absence, was 11th overall in a Mitsubishi Lancer and took top honors in the newly-created Group N division.

Veteran road-racing champion and popular Quebec TV personality Didier Schraenen was just 37th in his rally debut, after an early off-road excursion in his Subaru Impreza. Fifty-four cars, from a record entry of 60, finished the event.

Round 1 of the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama
(driver, navigator, homes, car, time):

1. Tom McGeer, Georgetown, Ont. / Mark Williams, Maryland, Subaru Impreza WRX, 1h44m39s (87.73 kph);
2. Frank Sprongl / Dan Sprongl, Mississauga, Ont., Audi Quattro Coupe, 1h45m08s;
3. Keith Townsend, Toronto, Ont. / Ian McEwen, Thornton, Ont., Mitsubishi Lancer, 1h49m06s;
4. Jon Nichols, Lachine, Que. / Eric Tremblay, St-Jean-Chryostome, Que., VW Golf, 1h54m15s;
5. Antoine L'estage, L'Acadie, Que. / Yanick Napert, St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., Eagle Talon, 1h54m25s;
6. John Paynter / Clarke Paynter, Lower Sackville, N.S., Subaru Legacy, 1h54m54s;
7. Paul Ordanis, Ashburn, Ont. / Tom Bartman, Markham, Ont., BMW 325, 1h55m03s;
8. Barry Latreille / Sandra Latreille, Williamstown, Ont., Eagle Talon, 1h55m35s;
9. Pierre Bazinet, Ste-Anne-des-Lacs, Que. / Dave Shindle, Maryland, Subaru Impreza, 1h59m43s;
10. Jean-Paul Perusse, Montreal, Que. / Marcel-Paul Raymond, Ville St-Laurent, Que., VW Golf, 1h59m56s


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