Press Release

July 1, 2003
Contact: Matt Cleary
Phone: (317) 722-1838

Air Force Reserve Rally Car grabs 3rd place at Pikes Peak

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE. Georgia -- In round four of nine rounds in SCCA ProRally Championship, Tim OíNeil, driver of the Air Force Reserve Rally Car scored third place in the 81st running of the Falken Tires Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with a time of 12:13.60. OíNeil drove the Air Force Reserve Ford Focus, which was prepared by AV Sport.

This was the first time for this event to be included in the overall SCCA ProRally Championship as a points event. Mark Lovell took the win in class with a 11:39.63 run up the 12.42 mile course.

The Pikes Peak event provided the field with some unique challenges, and the format is distinct from any other round in the championship. The course begins on a hard packed surface, and varies as the drivers race toward the clouds, putting crucial emphasis on set up and tire selection. The rally is also only one stage, which puts a premium on the ability to perform in a high pressure situation. The Air Force Reserve Rally Car did just that with a fast time, and a safe finish, to take third in OíNeilís fifth run up the mountain, but first time in the Open Class.

"Iím very happy overall with the way this rally went," said OíNeil. "It was nearly two minutes faster than I have ever gone up the hill. Of course, there are some spots I think I could have done better, but thatís the way it is anytime you donít win. I am constantly trying to find the best time while making sure we finish the rally and score some points, and I keep moving my comfort level in the car up as I get more miles in it under my belt. Having our own pace notes for this event made a big difference to me, giving me confidence to drive the car like it was the last lap of the Indianapolis 500 in some sections!"

OíNeil is happy with not only his own progress, but also too with how much potential he feels that this combination has, saying he and co-driver Alex Gelsomino are working well together as a team.

"I am making fewer and fewer mistakes inside the car, and we just keep getting faster, so I am looking forward to the rest of the season to see how far we can move up."

Gelsomino had previous experience at Pikes Peak, but felt as though this was his best experience on the mountain.

"The third place finish was really fantastic, nearly as good as the feeling when we crossed the line at the top," said Gelsomino. "It was just a dream! This is a really patriotic event, and we could feel the support of the fans as we went up the mountain, they really liked that we were driving an American car with the colors of the Air Force Reserve. Tim did an outstanding job in the car as well, to keep focused and to manage the engine cooling while still driving for a very fast time. He is really getting a handle on that car, and I am looking forward to the rest of the season as we become even more competitive."

The mountain setting also creates havoc for the engine, as it must operate at peak output while dealing with vastly different environments as the car gains thousands of feet in elevation on the run. Andy Brown of AV Sport believes that the testing that the team did in preparation for the Pikes Peak event played a big role in the teamís strong performance.

"This is a fantastic result for us to score a podium considering the level of competition Tim was up against," explained Brown. "The challenge of performing at this altitude is unlike anything we do. To see the factory teams suffering from failures shows how truly difficult this event is. This was a strong driver from Tim, and it shows his maturity in the car to find the right speed to be competitive but to still preserve the equipment."

The SCCA ProRally Championship is a flat-out race over closed sections of rural roads by modified production automobiles, with each car racing against the clock rather than directly against each other. OíNeil Racing competed in the Group N Class in 2002 and has moved up to the Open Class in 2003 with the Team Air Force Reserve Ford Focus.

Tim O'Neil is a winner of five U.S. and North American Rally championships. Tim first got his hands dirty operating and repairing equipment for his family's logging business in Whitefield, New Hampshire. He began rallying in 1986 and formed Team O'Neil Motorsport in 1989.


U.S. Air Force Reserve
1000 Corporate Pointe, Warner Robins, GA 31088
Telephone: (478) 327-0655 Fax: (478) 327-0138 DSN Prefix: 497
Release No. 09-06-03 June 9, 2003

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