FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 5, 2001
For more information,
Contact: Patrick Richard
Rocket Rally Racing
VANCOUVER, BC -- Rocket Rally Racing had to drop out of its first overseas rally after a crash early in the event. But the team learned a few good lessons and is eager to push itself again.
The team was racing at Rally of Melbourne, the fifth, and final, round of the 2001 Australian Rally Championship, from August 30 to September 2. Entered in the hotly contested Group N category, the international class for production-based rally cars, the team faced stiff competition from top Group N drivers from the southern hemisphere rounds of the World Rally Championship.
"In Australia they run in a sprint format, which means that they run each stage flat out and there is no need to save the car," explained driver Patrick Richard. "The Australian pace is significantly faster than anything we've seen in North America and the competition is much tighter. Events are won by seconds instead of minutes and there is no room for error. One spin and you drop five places." Though circumstances were tough and it was their first time in the slippery and muddy conditions of the Toolangi rainforest, Richard and his sister Nathalie, who was co-driving for him, found they were able to keep a strong pace.
Running a Subaru Impreza WRX prepared by RACE WORX, the team of 2000 FIA Asia-Pacific Formula 2 Rally Champion Simon Evans, Rocket Rally Racing started the event very conservatively. "We were taking it easy the first day," said Richard. "Our plan was to get accustomed to our pace notes, gradually learning to depend on them more and more, while refining them for the second day." In most North American rallies, drivers are not allowed to see stages ahead of time. Pace notes do allow drivers to see a stage ahead of time and make notes about how fast they can take each corner. Most rallies at the higher echelons within the sport use pace notes and so the team went to Australia to get experience using the notes.
"We realized after the first stage that the notes are extremely important," explained Richard, "and that the speed of the top drivers comes from driving fully, fully committed to the notes. We started driving more and more closely to the notes and our times were increasing. I still wasn't in maximum attack mode - our notes weren't accurate enough for that - but we were going fairly aggressively."
While 12th overall and 7th in Group N, and continuing to climb up the leaderboard, the team ran into problems two-thirds of the way through the 41-kilometre fourth stage. "We came upon a downhill, blind decreasing radius right-hander that went into a one-lane bridge, with no sides to it. I had somehow made a very poor note for that corner. So, coming around the first bit, I was already committed to an inside line when I saw that it tightened and then narrowed into the small bridge. I had two choices: spin the car around and risk rolling into the water or take the trees. I took the trees with the hope that we could drive out, but I holed the radiator and pushed the engine back slightly." The worst was yet to come for the team: shortly after impact, two 20-foot sections of trees fell on the car, smashing out all the windows. The incident effectively ended their rally.
"It was very frustrating, most of all because we were about just off the hottest pace in a similar car and I knew that deficit could be overcome with better notes and more commitment to them. We were ready to step it up on the second day."
"I know now that our notes need to be impeccable, and we have to place great emphasis on the reconnaissance we do before the event. That is the only way if you want to take every corner flat out. I'm looking forward to having another opportunity at an international event of this calibre."
The team's overseas adventure with RACE WORX was made possible by Philip Rodgers in conjunction with Jamie Drummond of Drummond Motor Sports (DMS). Australia-based DMS has supported the team in North America since its began racing. The team is also sponsored by Subaru Canada, OMP and SPD Tuning. Rocket Rally Racing also drives a car as a member of the three-car Subaru Canada Rally Team.
Next chance is closer to home
The team's next event is on more familiar ground. Rocket Rally Racing will be at the Wild West ProRally this weekend, September 5 to 8. Wild West, held near Olympia, Washington, just outside of Seattle, is Rocket Rally Racing's "home event" and the team is looking forward to a top placing with its Open class Subaru Impreza.
The pre-event press release for the Rally of Melbourne implied that Patrick Richard was the first Canadian to compete internationally in several years. Rocket Rally Racing apologizes to the crews that compete every year in international historic rally, marathon rally and special rally events, all of whom deserve credit for making the effort to start, finish, and sometimes win, these international events.
Patrick Richard, Rocket Rally Driver
p. (604) 803-6095