Press Release

October 4, 1999
For more information, contact: John Dillon
Creativity in Action
P.O. Box 1231
Thousand Oaks, CA 91358-0231

Widget Team Honored with
Carl Merrill Sportsmanship Award

Prescott, Arizona -- The Widget International Rally Team was honored with the Carl Merrill Sportsmanship Award after competing in the Prescott Forest Rally on Saturday, October 2nd. The rallyists, Mark Tabor of East Linn, Oregon and John Dillon of Thousand Oaks, California, were racing a Mazda 323 GTX sponsored by Shults Dot Com and Pacific Foto Supply. They finished 6th in the Production GT category despite racing two long stages without brakes.

"This award honors Carl Merrill, a racer who always believed in sportsmanship," said Jeff Hendricks, one of the rally's organizers. "Carl passed away from a heart attack here last year so we created this new award in his honor."

Together the workers and organizers decided who best deserved this award. Michael Taylor, another one of the organizers, explained why Tabor and Dillon were the inaugural recipients. "At every stage these guys made a point of thanking our workers for volunteering their time to stand in the dust and heat and make the rally possible. They really went out of their way to make our workers feel appreciated. In turn, the workers voted overwhelmingly to recognize the Widget team."

Dillon, not known for his quiet demeanor and a past president of the Conejo Valley Toastmasters Club (an organization dedicated to improving one's speaking skills), was rendered speechless by the award. Out on the stages, however, he and Tabor were vocal in their support of the volunteers. They also delivered bags of candy at each checkpoint. They'd joke with the crews, telling them, "You guys have eaten plenty of dust today--here's something sweet to eat for a change."

The Widget Team's race result, while less than they would have liked, underscored their resolve to finish the rally despite all obstacles. A flat tire near the end of stage 3 didn't hinder them at all, nor a flat just after a service period, but a big rock ruptured a brake line just before stage 8. In the first corner, Tabor discovered the problem when his brake pedal went to the floor. He quickly grabbed the hand brake to negotiate the turn and for the next 23 miles (Stages 8 and 9) he drove with one hand on the wheel and the other on the brake lever. Matters were complicated further when darkness fell before Stage 9 began. "We were unable to install our driving lights at the previous service break," said Tabor, "so we lacked the necessary candlepower, in addition to the stopping power, to set a quick time on this stage."

Once the Mazda arrived at the Drake service area, everybody leapt into action. Crew chief Gerald Koellermeier and his team replaced the brake line, bled all four wheels, refueled the car, installed racing lights, replaced two tires, and even cleaned the windows in the short half hour they had available to work on the car. The powerful brake pads themselves, sponsored by Porterfield Enterprises, were not hurt by the ruptured brake line and provided solid, reliable service as long as there was fluid in the reservoir. The Tabor Rally Group Mazda was once again able to romp across the rocky roads of Mingus Mountain, and the two finished the rally ready for more action. "Can we run these two stages again tonight?" asked Dillon at the final checkpoint.

John Dillon currently leads the Production GT co-driver championship hunt, a position he's held since the Maine Forest Rally in July. With one event remaining in the National series, the Lake Superior Pro Rally, it's possible he can hold onto the lead to earn the championship crown. Meanwhile Tabor, who had never before raced in a National event, has already moved up one seed as a result of this finish in Arizona and is considering a move to campaign the full season next year.

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