Press Release

Contact: Terry Epp
Tel: (905) 640-6444
David Hatter
Tel: (613) 231-3248
Date: September 30, 2001


Round 6 of 2001 championship

PARRY SOUND, Ont. - Six-time Canadian rally driving champion Frank Sprongl, mostly idle this season, made a triumphant return by taking a comfortable win in the Rally of the Voyageurs in Ontario's Georgian Bay area.

Driving an Audi Quattro S2, he led the one-day event, held out of Parry Sound, from the first stage to the last. He completed 160 kms. of special stages - the competitive portions of the rally held on roads temporarily closed to the public - in one hour, 39 minutes, 28 seconds for an average speed of 96.5 kph.

The 34-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., with younger brother Dan as navigator, finished three minutes, 41 seconds ahead of the runner-up Subaru Impreza WRX of Pat Richard and navigator Ian McCurdy.

It was the 35th career victory for Sprongl - the king of Canadian rallying through most of the 1990s - but his first since he won the Bighorn Rally in Alberta in May, 2000. He has rallied only occasionally during the past two years and had not contested a Canadian championship event for seven months.

"I was a little rusty compared to what I used to be," said Sprongl, referring to his recent inactivity. "It's been a long time [since the last win]. This is fabulous. This is like the good old days."

Sprongl's main challenger for most of the day was Tom McGeer, who has recently dominated Canadian rallying, winning eight of the previous nine events since July, 2000. He was hoping to clinch the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama, at the Voyageurs, round six of the eight-event series.

Driving a factory-backed Subaru Impreza WRX, McGeer chased Sprongl throughout the rally until his motor failed on the second-to-last special stage.

McGeer's title quest will now have to wait until the next round - the Rallye Internationale de Charlevoix (Oct. 26-28) - although he still has a commanding lead in the championship with 80 points. Richard (53 points) and Sprongl and Sprongl (50) are the only other drivers who remain in mathematical contention.

For much of the rally, the battle between Sprongl and McGeer was close. After the morning's first seven stages, held mostly in forests around Orrville, Sprongl led by just two seconds. He reported that he was having a gearshift problem, which was corrected by his crew during the lunchtime service stop.

In the next four stages, mostly around Britt, Sprongl stretched his lead to 37 seconds. McGeer reported a slight misfire on his car, but on the evening stages, he began to close the gap again - to 28 seconds when his car failed.

Sprongl and McGeer each was fastest on eight of the 17 special stages; Richard was quickest on the final stage. "It was an almost routine day for us," said Sprongl. "After Tom's motor expired, it was a leisurely drive to the end."

Runner-up Richard took production class honors. This was his third straight second-place finish - despite the fact that his regular street Impreza WRX has about 230 horsepower, vs. 400 hp for the modified cars of Sprongl and McGeer.

"I'm ecstatic," said the 28-year-old Vancouver driver. His only problems came from striking rocks on the road, of which there were plenty. These incidents caused some damage to the car's power steering and front suspension.

Jean-Sebastien Besner, of Montreal, was third in a Mitsubishi Lancer, with father Jacques as navigator. John Paynter, of Nova er, of Nova Scotia, was fourth (second in production class) in an Impreza WRX, with brother Clarke as navigator.

The brother/sister team of driver Julien Pilon and navigator Marie-Eve Pilon made a strong debut at the national championship level by taking fifth place overall - third in production - in a Subaru Legacy.

Besides McGeer, frontrunners who did not finish included newly-crowned Quebec champion Jon Nichols, who was holding third place when he rolled his Impreza WRX, and Sylvain Erickson, who was running in fifth when he came off a crest and landed on a big rock, tearing up the underside of his Mitsubishi Lancer.

Other class winners were the Quebec teams of driver Marc Racine and navigator Dominique Cyr in Group 2 for modified two-wheel-drive cars (seventh overall in a Honda Civic SI) and driver Steve Walkington and navigator Hytham Mokhtar in the smaller-engined production class (eighth overall in a VW Scirocco).

Round 6 of the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama
(driver, navigator, hometowns, car, time)

1. Frank Sprongl / Dan Sprongl, Mississauga, Ont., Audi Quattro S2, 1h39m28s;
2. Pat Richard, Vancouver, B.C. / Ian McCurdy, Whistler, B.C., Subaru Impreza WRX, 1h43m09s;
3. Jean-Sebastien Besner / Jacques Besner, Montreal, Que., Mitsubishi Lancer ES, 1h49m55s;
4. John Paynter / Clarke Paynter, East Sackville, N.S., Subaru Impreza WRX, 1h54m13s;
5. Julien Pilon / Marie-Eve Pilon, Brownsburg, Que., Subaru Legacy, 1h56m07s;
6. John Daubenmier / Stanley Rosen, Michigan, Chevy S-10, 1h56m25s;
7. Marc Racine, Rawdon, Que. / Dominique Cyr, La Plaine, Que., Honda Civic SI, 1h58m49s;
8. Steve Walkington, Hudson, Que. / Hytham Mokhtar, Kirkland, Que., VW Scirocco, 2h01m56s;
9. Karoly Toth, Mississauga, Ont. / Paul Stanczak, Toronto, Ont., GM Optima, 2h03m37s;
10. Seward Ogden, Putney, Vt. / Casey Blust, Guilford, Vt., VW GTI, 2h03m39s

DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP (after 6/8 rounds):
1. Tom McGeer, Georgetown, Ont., 80 points;
2. Patrick Richard, 53;
3. Frank Sprongl, 30;
4. John Paynter, 42;
5. Sylvain Erickson, 37


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