FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 1, 2005
Contact: Eric Burmeister
ATLANTA, MICHIGAN -- The Burmeister Rallysport team brought their Protegé up to the unlimited 2wd class of Group5 for the series opener of the Rally America Championship this weekend. The Sno*Drift Rally in the northern Michigan town of Atlanta set the stage for this first round of the inaugural championship year for Rally America.
"We knew we'd be going in under-classed," explained driver and Burmeister Rallysport principal Eric Burmeister. "This is the same Group2 non-turbo car we used in previous years. It is an amazing, well sorted little car, but certainly not as potent as a true Group5 car. We were just gathering a few Group5 points with an eye to the future."
That future looks bright for the Mazda team. They are currently building the new Mazda3 Rally Car, an unlimited 2wd turbocharged rally machine that is due to debut at the next rally of the championship, the Oregon Trail Rally in April.
The drama unfolded with a slew of Mopar Neon SRT4s on tap to flex their muscles. In the end, the little Mazda was second quickest on stages to veteran Doug Shepard's car. A speeding penalty for going 32 mph on a transit section between competitive stages added a whopping 4 minutes, 30 seconds to Burmeister and Shindle's time, though, dropping them to third.
"Just a dumb move," admitted Burmeister. "We were driving the prescribed 20 mph and came across a stopped competitor. After asking if they were okay, they continued and we followed. The 20 limit escaped both of our minds and we both got nailed for 32. It’s a heck of a way to lose a position, but it was a sensitive area and rules are rules."
The rest of the weekend was a nip and tuck battle between the Protegé of Burmeister and Dave Shindle, and the Neon of Chris Whiteman and Mike Rossey. The two cars were within a handful of seconds of each other on nearly every stage. "We had a couple of moments," recalled codriver Dave Shindle. "A complete 360 degree spin at 50 mph on ice certainly gets your attention, but we wound up in the right direction!"
"We had one real 'off,'" says Burmeister. "Lucky for us, it was on a stage that was later thrown out due to scoring issues…and we were very lucky to get a tug from Jake and Matt Himes to keep us in the rally, too!" The fellow competitors stopped and were able to remove an over-rambuctious Protegé from a deep snow bank.
For a brief moment, the Mazda team was promoted back to second place, as class winners Doug Shepard and Bob Martin were disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct. Their result was re-instated after a protest, however, and they were punished with a fine.
It was a kind of confusing weekend in Group5, but one thing that was certain was the new vigor in the series with new sanctioning body Rally America involved. The rally had better presentation than most since rallying's introduction to the US…that's saying a lot for an event in rural northern Michigan in January.
The Rally America Championship series is a "stage" or "performance" rally series that stretches across the nation. Competitors race flat out against the clock for hundreds of miles on a course of back roads closed to public usage. A co-driver or navigator describes the road in tremendous detail to the driver via an intercom system in the helmets.
For more information, contact Burmeister Rallysport at
313-550-4454 Email: email@example.com
Info on Rally America: www.rally-america.com
Sno*Drift Rally: www.sno-drift.org
MazdaSpeed Motorsports Development: www.mazdamotorsports.com