FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 3, 2003
Contact: Andrew Comrie-Picard
Phone: (917) 692-2735
Four Star Motorsports
Georgetown, Ontario -- In a terrific battle, the Kitchener-Waterloo Mitsubishi/Meade-Sports Lancer took third place in the Rallye de Quebec, held this past weekend in the environs of Quebec City, Canada. This rally, one of the most prestigious in the Canadian calendar and this year under observation for inclusion in the 2004 FIA zone championship, attracted all current top Canadian competitors as well as the new Mitsubishi team USA and one car from US Champion Team Hyundai, making it the most competitive Canadian rally in recent history.
"I'm thrilled with the result!" said driver Andrew Comrie-Picard. "Of the top six overall, we were the only team not sponsored by the manufacturer of the car and we finished third, narrowly out of second." Indeed, Comrie-Picard and co-driver Brian Maxwell were only three seconds behind second-place finisher and eight-time US champion Paul Choiniere after almost two and a half hours of competitive driving. "Three seconds is a pretty narrow margin" said Comrie-Picard, "but the great thing is that the battle was so tight and we four - me, Choiniere, Tom McGeer, and Lauchlin O'Sullivan - were all flat out in the last leg to battle for the podium spots. It's rare you get such a close competition, and to be dicing with these legendary drivers - two of them multi-time national champions and the third surely a future champion - is fantastic."
The rally was won by Patrick Richard, the reigning Canadian champion just returned from competing with his Subaru in Group N on the Swedish Rally. Comrie-Picard finished second to Richard in the 2002 Canadian Rally Championship. "Obviously we can't keep letting Pat win! His increasing experience and confidence will soon be hard to overcome, but at least we have our target!"
In this event, the second in the 2003 Championship, an inferior tire choice on the first loop and a flat tire driven out over 7km in the very first stage hampered the team's Saturday results and overnight they were in fourth place. But aggressive driving led to two convincing stage wins and consistent top-three running on Sunday and at times the crew was a high as second overall. Going in to the last two stages of the rally McGeer (Subaru), Choiniere (Hyundai), and Comrie-Picard were all pushing hard. McGeer had a transmission problem and Comrie-Picard drove flat out on the penultimate stage to win it and take 19 seconds - over a second a kilometer - from Choiniere. They went into the final stage of the rally with Comrie-Picard 7 seconds ahead and having won the long stage on the previous pass earlier that day. "Andrew was clearly pushing hard on the last stage" said co-driver Brian Maxwell, "reading the notes, I didn't have time to look up very often, and when I did the world was coming in the side windows of the car! But Choiniere is a legendary driver in a very high-spec US championship car, and he was able to dig that little bit deeper and beat us by ten seconds over 32km, taking second overall." Added Comrie-Picard: "We would have loved to be one rung higher on the podium, but Paul won his place fair and square. We were just delighted for it to finish in such a competitive manner."
Ironically, the two had started the morning comparing notes on the differentials in Comrie-Picard's car - the same diffs that Choiniere had tried and rejected from his own car in the US championship the previous year. The particular diffs make for dangerous understeer at lower speeds and without full commitment to a corner, and on ice it is almost impossible to turn the car. This hampered Comrie-Picard in the slippery sections and especially on the Parc Techno superspecials, where it was all he could do to make the car go around the course and finish in the middle of the pack. "We gave away 20 or 30 seconds on the superspecials because of those diffs" claimed Comrie-Picard, "and in an ideal world we would have more sophisticated equipment than our 6 year old car. But you have to do the best with what you've got, and fortunately the basic Mitsu design is excellent and remains competitive."
Of note in the event was the retirement of British Group N and US SCCA ProRally champion David Higgins in the lead car of Mitsubishi Motor Sports USA. He was widely-tipped to win the rally but went out early Sunday with a shifter cable failure that prevented him from engaging some gears and as a result went off into a snowbank. "Of course it was a shame the David retired," said Comrie-Picard, "we gained a place in the standings but we wouldn't have wanted it to be that way."
On the other hand Comrie-Picard was delighted to be battling with Mitsubishi's other driver, Californian Lauchlin O'Sullivan. "Lauchlin was obviously getting faster through the day as his confidence, like ours, was growing on snow." It was Comrie-Picard's third snow rally and O'Sullivan's second. "We are delighted to be the top Mitsubishi here, but the great thing is that Lauchlin and I were on pace with each other and we were swapping seconds until the end. I look forward to competing with him in the future."
Of special importance to the team is the contribution of their all-volunteer service crew of Francois Veilleux, Roger Sanderson, Robin Emard, Dan Nault, Adam Dowsett, Gilles and Julie Nault, and Rob Metcalfe. "It takes a lot of energy and enthusiasm to keep a rally car in the hunt" said Maxwell, "and this crew never tires, never complains, and never fails. To a large degree we owe our successes to them."
The next major rally for the team will be the Bighorn Rally in Edson, Alberta, 17-19 May, 2003. Last year Comrie-Picard finished on the podium at that event and so will be looking to consolidate his championship position again this year. "We're just going from rally to rally on our limited budget" said Comrie-Picard. "When I can't buy groceries I will have to reassess my position but until then we are in the Championship!"
The team gets invaluable and enthusiastic assistance from its sponsors:
Kitchener-Waterloo Mitsubishi -www.kwmitsubishi.com
Meade-Sports Lancer and STi Parts
Inside Track News
Team O'Neil Rally School
Tri-City Carstar Collision
(519) 578 9111
The car is maintained by Kitchener-Waterloo Mitsubishi
and Four Star Motorsports
Further information is available at
www.musketeerracing.com or by email at
Photos of the Rallye de Quebec are available at