|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
October 3, 1999
|Contact: Noel Lawler Motorsports|
Manchester Village, VT -- Noel Lawler and Charlie Bradley, natives of Ireland living in the U.S., clinched the 1999 Michelin SCCA ProRally Championship with a victory in the Prescott Forest Rally in Arizona. Competing in a factory-backed Hyundai Tiburon, the team delivered the first championship title in the sport of rally to sponsor, Snap-on Tools, and the first rally title in the U.S. for sponsor, Pirelli Tire North America.
The Arizona rally featured 11 rally stages and 102 racing miles through ponderosa forest and high desert. According to Lawler, the roads were the roughest they've seen all season. "It was like driving on the moon," he said. In a sport known for shredding tires, he noted that they haven't punctured a single Pirelli tire all season in getting to the championship.
"It was difficult to read where the road was going due to the topography and the color of the vegetation, especially over the numerous steep blind crests," said Lawler. The only technical problem occurred when a faulty engine sensor caused the engine to over-rev for two full stages. They won nine of the 11 stages.
Lawler and Bradley, who also won the Arizona rally last year, are the only team to win the event twice. The win gave them back-to-back victories since they won the last event in Minnesota. They are the only three-time winners of the 1999 season with wins in Washington, Minnesota and Arizona. They also took second in Pennsylvania, third in Maine and fourth in California.
The Manufacturer's Cup will be determined at the final event of the season in Michigan, October 22-23. Last season the team helped win the Manufacturer's Cup for Hyundai in an Elantra, and finished second overall in the U.S. championship. In addition to Hyundai Motor America, the team's 1999 corporate sponsors include Cargotec, a heavy equipment manufacturer; Pirelli Tire North America; Snap-on Tools; Hansen's Beverage, makers of Energy Drink; and Hella International.
The 348-hp Tiburon features the new developmental engine as part of the testing program by Hyundai Korea for the world rally series. The new engine, which was also featured in their Elantra last season, has run very reliably, with no DNFs in two full seasons of competition. The Hyundai was prepared by Libra Racing, owned by 11-time U.S. champion, John Buffum. Libra Racing now accounts for 19 of the 27 ProRally titles in history. The car also featured Pirelli tires, competing for the first time in the U.S. rally series. These tires have won three straight World Rally Championships for Manufacturers with the Subaru 555 Prodrive Impreza Team.
"One of my lifetime goals has been to win a major rally championship," said Lawler. They join an elite group - Lawler is only the ninth driver to win the driver's championship in 27 years of the sport of ProRally in the U.S., and Bradley is the fifteenth to win the co-driver's championship.
The team will rally next weekend in their homeland of Ireland in the Donegal Harvest Rally, part of the Red Mills National Rally Championship. They will compete in a Group A Subaru Impreza, an ex-works Prodrive car that won the 1995 World Rally Championship for Carlos Sainz. This is a tarmac event that requires a different driving style, and the team wants to gain tarmac experience so they can do more events next season.
The pair, who have competed together over the past nine years in the U.S. and internationally, have an FIA seeding. Lawler is a native of Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, now residing in Manchester, Vermont, and Bradley is a native of Letterkenny, County Donegal, now residing in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.