January 30th, 2000
Extremely cold temperatures and crystal clear skies set the stage for the years first round of the Sports Car Club of America’s Pro Rally Championship this past weekend in Atlanta, Michigan, the Sno*Drift Pro Rally, where fifty-two vehicles representing fifteen manufacturers entered round one of the eight-event SCCA Pro Rally Championship series.
The sanctioning body for the series, The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), added two competition classes to the championship series this year, Group A and Group N, both of which have been part of the successful FIA World Rally Championship for years. By adding the two FIA classes to the U.S. Championship series this year, SCCA officials hope to become more “in line” with FIA regulations and to attract international rally competitors to the series as well.
1999 Production Class Driving Champion, Karl Scheible, of Spencerport, NY along with co-driver Russ Hughes of Leroy, New York, captured the first Group N class victory of the year this past weekend in a Vermont SportsCar-prepared 1998 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution V. In addition, the pair finished second in the event overall to Paul Choiniere and Jeff Becker who were driving a John Buffum-prepared 1999 Hyundai Tiburon Open Class car.
Leading the rally for most of the day, Scheible and Hughes were nearly 40 seconds ahead of Choiniere / Becker with two stages remaining when slippery conditions caused them to clip an icy snowbank with the left front of their Group N Mitsubishi damaging the left front corner of the car. Although the damage to the Mitsubishi was basically cosmetic, the .38 second advantage was eliminated and with one stage remaining, it was a virtual tie with 15 stage miles left. Choiniere and Becker went on to win the event overall by a mere 26 hundredths of a minute.
“I spoke with my co-driver Russ Hughes during the last service just before the final stage” commented Scheible, “we decided to go for it! I gave it all I had and Choiniere beat my best. The Vermont SportsCar-prepared Mitsubishi Evolution V ran flawlessly all day. If it had not been for that one slip-up on the next to last stage where we damaged the left front of the car, we might have been looking at a different overall result. I do want to thank Ohlins of Sweden for providing us with the best suspension system I’ve ever driven on and Hella for the excellent lighting system.”
The class victory in Atlanta, Michigan gave Scheible and Hughes a 20 point lead going into round 2 of the SCCA Group N National Championship. The next round of the SCCA Pro Rally Championship will take teams to the Northwestern United States for the “Oregon Trail Pro Rally” scheduled for April 14-15, 2000. For more information on Vermont SportsCar or the SCCA Pro Rally Series, please contact Paul Giblin – Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Vermont SportsCar, 23 Hercules Drive, Colchester, Vermont 05446. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org