FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 21, 2001
Contact: John Dillon
Creativity in Action
P.O. Box 1231
Thousand Oaks, CA 91358-0231
Laughlin, Nevada -- Widget Rally Team members Lauchlin O'Sullivan, San Francisco, and John Dillon, Thousand Oaks, notched their third victory in a row in their final race of the season, the Ramada Express International Rally held December 14th through the 16th, 2001. Racing a Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX prepared by crew chief Tom Laeng, the pair overcame the many challenges of snow, ice, mud, and dirt to win the Production GT class, finishing third overall behind two Open-class cars raced by international rally stars. A year ago the rallyists, racing with another team, finished in the same spot on the Laughlin podium. This year their victory earned Widget $1600 in prize money.
Additionally, Lauchlin was able to secure the Open 4WD championship in the California Rally Series after narrowly edging out George Plsek on the final stage of the day. They actually tied in championship points, but O'Sullivan won the crown based on his greater number of victories in the year.
"This race was all about tire choice," said O'Sullivan. "Snow was prevalent but we had to run the first two stages on rally tires, costing us almost three minutes to the competition. When we fitted snow tires on the Eclipse for the next two stages we were able to regain half of that time, putting us in a better position for the Saturday sequence." Saturday's first stage, dubbed Diamond Creek by the organizers, proved to be perfectly suited for rally tires. The 17 mile road started at the bottom of the Grand Canyon near the Colorado river and ended in Peach Springs, almost a mile high in elevation.
The next three sections grew progressively more icy and treacherous, leaving the team once again at a disadvantage. When the Widget car reached service at the west rim of the Grand Canyon, snow tires were again mounted. With only eighteen stage miles left to run, O'Sullivan and Dillon regained the class lead while setting the overall fastest time on the stage. "Lauchlin drove his heart out on that last stage," noted Lauchlin's co-driver. "We passed Roger [Hull] and Sean [Gallagher] four miles into the 18 mile stage so I knew we had regained the point. The Blizzak tires had phenomenal grip in the snow and ice and played a key part of our victory." "Once again our crew chief gave us a reliable car this weekend," noted the driver. "We've won three races in a row, including an overall victory in November, thanks to the efforts of Tom, Aaron, Chris and the rest of crew."
Performance rally is a sport where teams race across desert paths, logging trails, and other unimproved roads in cars licensed for street use. The team consists of a driver and co-driver, the latter calling instructions from a route book provided by the rally organizers just prior to the start of the event. They are not allowed to pre-run the course.
The Widget Rally Team is still trying to finalize plans for the 2002 season. If additional sponsors step up to partner with the team, O'Sullivan could be found behind the wheel of an Open or Group N classed machine. Existing partners like Porterfield Enterprises for brakes, Wallyworld Designs for graphics, Berdoo Trans and Auto Body, Clutch Masters, Shults Dot Com and Fleet Glass have already renewed their commitment to the team for the 2002 season.
"We were proud to be driving an Eclipse in Laughlin," said O'Sullivan, "especially because Mitsubishi was presenting sponsor for this race." Added the co-driver, "Last year we raced a six year old car and put it on the overall podium... this year we did the same thing with a nine-year old car. We hope for something newer in the 2002 season so we can move up the ladder a couple of notches." Thanks to Mark Cox, Lauchlin had a brief opportunity to test drive a Lancer Evolution 6 during the charity rides. "That Mitsubishi was awesome," he praised. "We really need one of these for next year!" If the team can pull it all together, they plan to challenge for the 2002 Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) National championship.