FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 6, 2003
For more information,
Contact: Mike Hurst
Rocket Rally Racing
Montreal. Qubec -- Karlstad, Sweden, and Maniwaki, Quebec, are an ocean apart, but the two places have something in common this weekend as the starting point for the first events of the season in the World Rally Championship for Production Cars and the Canadian Rally Championship respectively.
In Sweden, Sherbrooke-Quebec-born, Vancouver-based driver and defending national champion Pat Richard, will be making his debut in the world championship in the Group N category, the first Canadian to do so. Richard and co-driver Mikael Johannson, of Sweden, will be at the wheel of the Impreza WRX STi road rocket, as Subaru Rally Team Canada (SRTC) becomes the first Canadian-based car maker to back a driver's run for an FIA world title.
Richard will be without his regular co-pilot, veteran Canadian rally driver Martin Headland, who sustained injuries to his sternum and ribs when he and Richard were involved in a collision with a non-rally vehicle on the first day of reconnaissance for the Swedish rally, earlier this week. Richard has been medically cleared to compete, although he is still experiencing considerable pain and does not expect to be in peak form.
"I'm just glad to be able to run," said Richard, who will be competing in six events in the 2003 Group N World Rally Championship, as well as selected events in the Canadian and North American championships. "It was touch and go for a while whether I was going to be able to enter the rally. I don't feel that I'm doing 100%, but it's not 70% either."
With reconnaissance cut short by the accident, Richard was unable to make pace notes for stages 1, 9 and 13, and the Canadian driver is concerned that this will put him at a disadvantage, at least at the start. This is where Johansson, who has more than 10 years of rallying experience and has competed in the Swedish rally on five previous occasions, is expected to play a major role.
"I think Pat is a good driver, but you can tell he is not used to studs," said Johansson. "That first stage is like a dance floor with ice. After the first couple of stages, I think we will go very well."
The Rally of Sweden is the only winter event in the FIA World Rally Championship, and one of two World rallies where studded tires are permitted. Event organizers expect course conditions to be conducive to good rallying, with a hard base to the special stages and at least some snow in the Hagfors region, the site of a new "sprint" stage.
While Richard is making history in Sweden, about 50 drivers will be tackling the tight, snow-banked course in the Maniwaki-Upper Gatineau region of Quebec, north of Ottawa at the Rallye Perce-Neige Maniwaki on Saturday, a rally that Richard won last year. There is no shortage of solid contenders in the open-class category at this years event, the oldest winter car rally in Canada and part of the Canadian championship since 1975. As the 2003 season opener, the date clash with Sweden means Richard will start his Canadian title defence at the second round, the Rallye Internationale de Quebec.
Hi-res media-ready photos of Pat Richard at the WRC Swedish Rally are available daily at the following website: www.morisoncom.com/srtc/media.
For more information, daily satellite uplink information or exclusive
Paul Vaillancourt III
Rocket Rally Racing
(604) 619 1583