|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
October 25, 1999
|For more information, contact: John Dillon|
Creativity in Action
P.O. Box 1231
Thousand Oaks, CA 91358-0231
Houghton, Michigan -- Widget co-driver (navigator) John Dillon was named the 1999 Production GT Co-driver National champion at the Lake Superior ProRally awards banquet on 23 October 1999. Recognizing that a clerical error had occurred, he announced at the lectern that he should have been scored as second in the championship, then presented his trophy to Claire Chizma. John McArthur, ProRally Series Steward, later said that a simple transposition of numbers had occurred that led to the error. 1999 was Dillon's rookie year on the National ProRally circuit, so a first runner-up finish after eight races is still a respectable result.
"Our goals for this season were simple," stated Dillon. "First and foremost we were going to have fun, and that we most definitely did!" Along the way he had a chance to visit places he'd never seen before and make lots of new friends. "In eight National events, only Rim of the World and Prescott were familiar to me," said the co-driver. "I never thought I'd get a chance to compete against some of the fastest racers in the country. What a thrill to finally meet the people you read about and see on television."
Dillon was instrumental in bringing on board a pair of sponsors to the rally world. Shults Dot Com, an internet service provider and more, hosts the Widget Racing and Team LeConte web sites and provided valuable crew assistance at Rim of the World as well. Porterfield Enterprises, a recognized leader in racing brake products, gave Dillon's teammates the stopping ability needed to go faster.
Dillon began the season racing with Kendall Russell and Team LeConte. Almost immediately they found themselves on the podium, and by the end of July, Dillon had vaulted to the top of the PGT co-driver points standings. When Russell couldn't make the Ojibwe Forest ProRally in August, Dillon linked up with Lauchlin O'Sullivan in Mark Tabor's Mazda 323 GTX car, where the team finished second in PGT to solidify Dillon's points lead. Shortly thereafter Russell replaced Dillon with experienced co-driver Dave Weiman to act as driving coach, but she encouraged Dillon to complete the season with another pilot. In Arizona, Dillon and Tabor joined forces, racing the now-familiar Tabor Rally Group Mazda 323 GTX. The pair were selected by the volunteer workers and organizers to receive the inaugural Carl Merrill Sportsmanship Award. A torn brake line at the event left them stranded in sixth place at the finish, shrinking the co-driver points lead to just 0.2 points. The championship would be decided at the final race of the season, the Lake Superior ProRally if--and it was a big if--Dillon could secure a PGT ride.
At this point Paul Dubinsky of FLX Racing stepped forward and offered the Widget navigator a ride in the right seat of FLX's Eagle Talon. The car had been racing in the PGT class all season, but twenty minutes before the start of the rally a protest was filed against the vehicle. It turns out that the suspension didn't meet specifications. While they could have attempted to challenge the findings, the FLX team chose instead to change to the Open class. "We came to LSPR to have fun," said Dubinsky. "I agree absolutely," added Dillon, "Naturally I'm disappointed to lose the title before the start [of this rally], but Paul will still drive as fast, and the ride will be just as exciting, regardless of the class designation on the car." The team finished the rally in mid-pack after losing almost ten minutes when their car slid into a ditch, so the championship outcome would not have changed had they raced in class.
"This has been a great season for the Widget International Rally Team," said the navigator. "I've raced with five drivers in nine events and enjoyed every partnership and venue." In 1999, Dillon raced in a Mazda, an Eagle, an Audi, and a Dodge, on roads ranging from baby-bottom smooth to tank-buster tough, to soupy mud, in temperatures from below freezing to over 100 degrees. He pointed out that "The diversity of this season has, I think, really improved my skills as a co-driver. I hope I can continue to hone those skills next year." His best finish came at the Gorman Ridge ClubRally in August when he and Anton Musev teamed up and won the event outright. Along the way to his PGT runner-up title, he notched a 2nd, three 3rds, a 5th, and a pair of 6th place finishes.
Though the National championship season has ended, Dillon plans to race at least once more in 1999. He and Anton Musev will team up again in December for the Ramada Express International Rally in Laughlin, Nevada. Meanwhile, negotiations are under way to firm up plans for the R2K (Rally 2000) season. If the right sponsorship package can be arranged, expect to see a respected driver and Dillon racing up front in the entire 2000 series.
The end of the first millenium promises to be another exciting rally season for Widget International--stay tuned!