Press Release

March 7, 2006
For more information, Contact:
John Cassidy
Last Ditch Racing

LDR Completes Corona Rally Mexico!

Bangor, Maine, USA -- Maine based rally team Last Ditch Racing, comprised of Driver John Cassidy and Co-Driver Erik Lee, completed the Corona Rally Mexico, round 3 of the World Rally Championship. Held in the mountains surrounding Leon, Guanajuato and Silao, the event has the highest elevation of any event in the championship and is known as being both technical and rough.

The event saw the team in a two-wheel drive Peugeot 206XS Cup car rented from Peugeot Sport Mexico. Normally piloting an Open Class Subaru all-wheel drive WRX in the Canadian Rally Championship, the team knew they'd experience a significant adjustment period. The team arrived the Sunday prior to the event and tested the car on Monday with 3 other Cup drivers. After testing, it was clear that Omar Chavez in an upgraded spec car, Uruguayan champion Gabriel Beltran and LDR's Cassidy were the event favorites for the podium spots.

Completing the two days of recce in their rented Renault Clio, the team were thankful for the start of the event. "Recce is clearly more difficult than the actual rally, but crucial for a good performance. Our experience with recce in both Canadian and US events helped tremendously." Joined at the event by Dave Getchell as team manager and crew chief Duncan Matlack, little did the team know what lay in store over the next three days!

Thursday night's ceremonial start started with a grouping in the nearby town of Silao, then continued on when the crews arrived in Gunajuato. "The only word for the experience was surreal-there were tens-of-thousands of fans and they all seemed to want an autograph or a kiss! I've never seen so many people at a rally," said Cassidy. Co-driver Erik Lee was a particular hit with the young ladies and complained of chapped lips at the end of the night! Said Cassidy, "One young lady even opened Erik's door and tried to pull him out of the car! I told her I needed him more than she!"

Friday's stages saw the team get up to speed quickly in the 206. SS2 saw the team loose their power steering after a belt failure, causing them to strike a tree. "We entered a right 5 after a junction. We had understeer then unexpected oversteer-struck the tree and spun around. I restarted the car and we continued almost immediately. I wasn't sure if we'd struck both the front and rear-unlike most offs I've had, this one was not clear in my mind as it happened so quickly. I was sure we had a flat as there were rocks coming over the hood, but the steering seemed ok, so we upped the speed a bit." Finishing the stage, the team did a quick assessment of the car. Finding the skidplate hanging down at the front, front bumper gone, hood, fenders and radiator support all bent, but all tires inflated, they attempted to use safety wire to hold the skidplate up. "It lasted until the next bump," said Cassidy. "We drove the next two stages slower than we would have otherwise due to worry that the skidplate would catch something and damage the car severely. In hindsight, we're happy the tree was there because there was a large exposure beyond."

Said Cassidy "Our notes were working well and Erik's delivery was spot-on. I had forgotten the level of commitment needed to drive a front wheel drive car quickly. I was having to drive the car a bit ahead of the notes and as a driver, it was a very satisfying experience to be able to do it fairly quickly from the outset." Despite all their trials, Friday's results saw the team sitting in third place, behind Uruguayan champion Beltran and Mexican pilote Caneja.

Saturday saw disaster strike for the team. Arriving at the start of SS 8, the team found that one of their helmets was not in the car. The team appropriated a motocross style helmet from a fan and attempted to start the stage, only to be stopped by FIA officials. Said Cassidy, "I've had some incidents in my rally career, but nothing like this. Erik and I were heartsick. It took us all day to recover from the blow and the transit back from SS 8 to service was the most difficult time I've spent in a rally car. We had come to Mexico to race and no one wanted to see us out because of this."

The team elected to restart on Sunday under the FIA Super Rally rules, using Saturday to repair the car. Under the Super-Rally rules, teams accrue 5 minutes penalty for each stage missed or 35 minutes for all of Saturdays' stages. "I told Erik that I wanted to fix the car and go out Sunday and show everyone in the 206 Cup that we could give them some competition! We take great pride in what we do at Last Ditch Racing and we had to put Saturday's events behind us and focus on the final Leg."

Sunday saw SS 15 cancelled due to problems that Group N competitor Ligato had with his car on the stage. It was the longest stage of the rally and the crew were hoping to recover some lost time on their competitors. The team transited to SS 16 and proceeded to set third fastest time in the Cup, just 4.1 seconds of Beltran's pace. The final stage, a repeat of the Nextel Super Special, again saw the team take third fastest time in the Cup.

"It was a strong finish to the event, and i think it earned us the respect of our fellow Cup competitors. They were surprised that we did as well as we did on Friday, but to come back on Sunday and finish the event quickly was surprising to them." Prior to leaving, the team had discussions with Uruguayan Peugeot 206 Cup representatives and were invited to attend a championship race there in November. Said Cassidy, "The competition in the Cup is fantastic. If you do well, it's because you're driving well and that's something that's not often the case in North America where finances often dictate speed. The competitors have respect for each other and are very skilled as the 206 Cup has been around for a long time. We'll certainly be entertaining driving a 206 in the future!"

The icing on the cake for Cassidy came when he met 2006 championship leader and Ford factory driver Marcus Gronholm in the airport on the way home. "I mentioned to Marcus that we saw him stopped on the stage on Friday after he was forced to stop. When he found out we were in the 206, he replied, "You must have caught that car in front of you-you were going very quick!"

The team were the first rally team to broadcast onsite internet podcasts, similar to radio shows, from an event. "It was more of a time challenge than a technical one," said Cassidy, "but I think that they were well received and helped people get to know the team a bit better and experience Rally Mexico in a new way." The team plans a final event podcast which will be online in the next two days. Future event podcasts can be found on the team website.

The team would like to thank Rene Hernandez, Eugenio Perea and Omar Barquet, the Peugeot Mexico service crew, Dave Getchell and Duncan Matlack for all their help and support before and during the event.

Last Ditch Racing would like to thank their 2006 team partners for their continued support!

For more information on Last Ditch Racing and to hear our podcasts, please visit:

For more information on the Corona Rally Mexico, please visit:

For more information on the Rocky Mountain Rally, please visit:

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