|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
August 31, 1999
|For more information, contact: John Dillon|
Creativity in Action
P.O. Box 1231
Thousand Oaks, CA 91358-0231
Bemidji, Minnesota -- West coast hotshoe Lauchlin O'Sullivan of San Francisco, California joined the Widget International Rally Team and co-driver John Dillon of Thousand Oaks, California in a last-minute opportunity to race at the Ojibwe Forest ProRally. Although hampered throughout the rally with a damaged suspension, the new team finished second in the Production GT category, racing a Mazda 323 GTX provided by the Tabor Rally Group of Oregon. The finish strengthened Dillon's PGT co-driver points lead in the National series.
The Ojibwe rally was the first time any of the key participants had worked together. "It was pretty impressive that in only four days, all three parties were able to come together and make a decent finish," noted O'Sullivan. "I was anxious to get a ride at Ojibwe," added Dillon, "so when Lauchlin called and said he'd found a car, I was thrilled." Car owner Mark Tabor and his crew chief Gerald O'Tabor delivered the car to Minnesota, ready to race, in just three days. "Lauchlin is a great driver. Given the right equipment, he could easily win a National championship," said Tabor. "I was glad to help him rally at a big event like Ojibwe."
One week prior to Ojibwe, Dillon co-drove with Anton Musev for the overall victory at the Gorman Ridge Rally in Frazier Park, California. O'Sullivan won the Doo Wops National Rally in Washingon last March with sister Farina in the co-driver's seat.
Rally is a form of motorsport where production automobiles are raced over closed sections of rural dirt roads, off road parks, and forest trails. Two people ride in the car, neither of whom are allowed to pre-run the course. The co-driver (sometimes called the navigator) feeds instructions to the driver regarding upcoming hazards, read from a route book provided by event organizers just prior to the start of the race. PGT is the ProRally category for unmodified, larger-displacement vehicles, such as the Dodge Shadow and the Mitsubishi Eclipse. The Mazda 323 GTX falls into this category thanks to four wheel drive and a turbocharged 1600 cc engine.
"It was an interesting rally," said O'Sullivan. "On Friday we were the first car on the scene after Mark Utecht's Dodge ricocheted off the trees. We stopped to render aid, so we took a 'bogey' time for the stage which may have cost us a half minute or more." The next day, O'Sullivan and Dillon were once again the first cars on the scene after the GTi of the Pilzcuks rolled. "This time the two guys were okay," noted Dillon. "There was just enough room to the right that we could tiptoe through. Though we lost some time on the stage, at least we were able to continue."
Partway through the first stage on Friday, the little Mazda landed hard on a rock in the apex of a turn, bending the left front control arm on the suspension and loosening the skid plate beneath the engine. From that point forward the car had problems turning through the tight left-handers, but O'Sullivan and Dillon soldiered on and still managed to set fast time of the stage for their class more often (6 out of 11 stages ?) than any other PGT team. They also chased odometer problems, slowing the driver while the navigator wrestled with calibration factors all day Friday. On Saturday morning the numbers finally fell into line and the duo raced with confidence through almost every corner for the rest of the event.
The team's troubles were compounded on Saturday when the service crew discovered that a transmission bolt had stripped out and left a puddle of fluid beneath the car. With only 90 minutes to work on the car, the crew affected repairs with a generous dose of plumbers tape and hammer blows. (Did we mention that a flexing skid plate contributed to the problem?)
On the positive side, the team's Silverstone tires worked faithfully throughout the 16 hour event. They were the same tires raced over the rocky roads of the Rim of the World rally two months earlier, a tribute the reliability of the Silverstones. "We had enough to do during the service breaks," laughed Tabor. "We didn't need to add tire changes to the mix!"
O'Sullivan returns to the Open class ranks with his Audi Quattro at the Prescott Forest Rally in October. Meanwhile, Dillon hopes to maintain his points lead by teaming up with another PGT driver for the two remaining races of the season. "Lauchlin is incredibly adept behind the wheel and his experience and expertise helped to improve my skills in the 'ballast' seat," praised Dillon. "I look forward to racing with him again sometime."