Press Release

October 22, 2003
Contact: Eric Burmeister
Burmeister Rallysport
Phone: 313-792-2397

Burmeister and Krolikowski "Press On Regardless"

DETROIT, MICHIGAN -- The Lake Superior ProRally in Houghton, Michigan lived up to its traditional name, "Press On Regardless," last weekend for the MAZDASPEED Rally Team USA as the 2003 championship season drew to a close. Beginning the rally with a 3 point lead over Chris Whiteman's Mopar Dodge Neon team, the Mazda team was prepared for an all out battle for top championship honors in the Group 2 class.

After extensive development work with Autosport Engineering following the last round in Washington, the Mazda Protege was in winning form at the start of the rally on Friday night. The team of Eric Burmeister and Cindy Krolikowski got off to an impressive 30 second lead after just 2 stages despite breaking a critical rear suspension bolt on Stage 1. Then on Stage 3 things began to unravel. The hood flew up a half mile into the 16 mile stage and the pair had to scrunch down and look out the gap below the hood at the bottom of the windshield to navigate the course. Since the auxiliary driving lights are mounted on the hood, they ran with the limited visibility of the stock headlights through the blackness. "I wasn't too worried," said Burmeister. "We were taking enough time off of them to make up for the mistake well before the end of the rally."

But Stage 4 had more drama for the team. The soft sandy road at the start of the stage provided little traction and the cars ahead of the Mazda had dug quite a hole in the ground from launching. As the clock wound down to zero to start the stage, Burmeister tried to launch the car and found himself high-centered on a mound of the soft sand. Cindy Krolikowski's husband, Henry, was entered in the car immediately behind the Mazda and pulled the team backwards to high ground where they could get a clean start, but not before losing another 2 and a half minutes.

"At this point I knew I had to start driving at 10/10ths to ensure a victory," explained Burmeister. Unfortunately, on Stage 5 the combination of this speedy strategy and a cold October rain that left the road slippery worked against the team as they went wide and suffered a high speed roll. The car came to rest on its wheels after rolling several times down the road. The team were able to continue, but since the lights were re-aimed upward by the roll, Henry Krolikowski again came to the rescue by driving right behind the Mazda and providing light to finish the stage and get back to the service area.

"Henry has gone above and beyond not only the call of duty, but of marriage," said Cindy.

The crew worked feverishly with sledge hammers to ensure tire clearance and re-aimed the lights at the next service. Amazingly, the stout Racecraft/Burmeister Engineering built Mazda Protege was still mechanically perfect after the violent incident. A fresh windshield was installed and the team went on to win 9 of the remaining 10 stages in the rally with authority including every stage on Saturday, but the time lost in the previous misfortunes proved insurmountable.

"The data shows the revs going over 10,000 RPM in that rollover as I was still trying to save it," said Burmeister. "My Sunbelt prepared engine just fired right back up and it was still the strongest Group 2 car in the field!"

It was a disappointing end to a very long championship fight, but the Mazda team goes away knowing that the development work is paying off on the stages and knowing that they did indeed "Press On Regardless!" The class was won by Chris Whiteman and Mike Paulin who, as a result, take the championship. Second went to Jake and Silas Himes in a Nissan Sentra. The MAZDASPEED Rally Team USA took third place and second for the Group 2 national title.

The rally will air on Speed Channel on Thursday, November 6, at 11pm EST and again on Friday, November 7, at 5pm EST.

For information on the SCCA ProRally series, check:

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