Contact: Keith Townsend
|Date: November 22, 2003|
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Bancroft, Ont., Canada - Unseasonably warm temperatures made the 2003 Rally of the Tall Pines a war of attrition as the normally snow covered roads were clear allowing the drivers to go full out on this final round of the 2003 Candian Rally Championship presented by Subaru and Yokohama.
Tall Pines marked the return of Canada’s WRC hero Patrick Richard and 6-time champion Frank Sprongl in his new EVO. Add Tom McGeer, Andrew Comrie-Picard and Antoine L’Estage and it must have been the most competitive Canadian field ever assembled. Of the 50 starters only 16 finished the 465 km course which included 170 km of special stages.
The number of fast drivers at the front of the field was the big reason for the breakneck pace right off the start. The first to hit trouble was car #1, Pat Richard in his ’04 Subaru WRX Sti. He went off road on a slippery section of the course on the first stage losing 30 minutes. Despite damage to his car, Richard went on to win three of the following stages before retiring after stage A9.
Andrew Comrie-Picard was leading until a ball joint broke causing the left front wheel to come off his ’97 Mitsubishi EVO 4. He ended his rally just two kilometres into stage A4.
Peter Thomson and Sylvain Erickson were both victims of the loose road surface. Thomson shattered both right wheels on his ’02 Subaru WRX after hitting a rock on stage A5. Erickson hit a rock which damaged the power steering and the water pump, causing the engine of his ’97 Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 4 to overheat. His rally was over on stage A6.
Tom McGeer in his ’02 Subaru WRX was stuck in the mud on stage A7, costing him nearly 15 minutes. He posted six consecutive stage times to claw his way back from 17th to finish fifth.
Sprongl only won two stages outright, but a smart tactical drive gave him a winning margin of six minutes and 13 seconds. It was Sprongl’s eigth win at the Rally of the Tall Pines.
Antoine L’Estage and co-driver Marcel-Paul Raymond finished second in their ’97 Hyundai Elantra. Brothers Rejean and Art Losier took the final podium spot with their ’99 Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 5.
McGeer had already clinched the 2003 Canadian Rally Championship going into the Rally of the Tall Pines with a 32 point lead on Richard. This is McGeer’s sixth Canadian championship title.
Scott Comens’ one second lead over Steve Walkington on the final stage of the rally secured his championship win in the P3 class.
The P4 championship win went to Julien Pilon of Brownsburg-Chatham, QC. Albertan Gord Olsen defended his Group 2 title. Rejean Losier was the top driver in Group N.
The 2004 Canadian Rally Championship begins February 7 with the Pierce-Neige Rally in Maniwaki, QC.
For more information, visit the Rally of the Tall Pines website www.tallpinesrally.com or contact Keith Townsend, Rally Organizer, at 416-806-2640.