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Feature   September 1, 2004   by CARS Magazine

Motorsport News (September 01, 2004)

Subaru's Pat Richard goes for Canadian Rally Championship title...

Subaru’s Pat Richard goes for Canadian Rally Championship title

Undefeated in Canada and setting records south of the border, the stakes are high for Subaru Rally Team Canada’s Pat Richard at the Rallye Dfi Ste-Agathe/Duhamel on Sept. 10-11. With his recent finish in Maine, Richard has now locked up the US Pro Rally Championship and is heading for the North American Rally Cup.

He’s favoured to clinch his second Canadian Rally Championship title at the event, but a pair of rally veterans who each hold six championship titles and a hot newcomer could thwart his effort in a fight that’s been anticipated all season.

An aggressive final battle at the Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs in early July saw the Whistler, BC, driver recover from a deficit to finish 13 seconds ahead of rival Andrew “ACP” Comrie-Picard in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV.

Following a pair of second-place finishes in the Canadian Series plus a head turning second place finish south of the border in the Maine Forest Rally, Edmonton-native Comrie-Picard will be driving for a win.

Then there are the veterans. Tom McGeer and Frank Sprongl had been expected to go head-to-head for the championship title all year, but a rollover for McGeer and a blown engine for Sprongl have delayed the contest — perhaps until now.

After writing-off his brand new competition vehicle in a violent crash earlier this year, Subaru Rally Team Canada’s McGeer hopes to debut his second new car of the season at the race. Four Star Motorsports’ Sprongl has rebuilt his competition Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI and is also ready to challenge for the lead. Plus, Quebec fan favourite Antoine L’Estage will also be pushing the leaders in his Hyundai Tiburon.

Richard has been undefeated so far and a first place finish at this rally would secure him the championship title. It is the best four events that count towards the final standings.

The other factory effort in the series, Team Suzuki Canada, is hoping to continue their domination of the P-2 production class. The new team has performed very well since their debut in May, putting in a pair of one-two finishes.

At the halfway point in the Canadian championship, Richard has 60 points, leading Comrie-Picard, with 30. In third place with 22 points is Jon Nichols who, in a Group 2 Volkswagen Golf, has been pushing ahead of many more powerful vehicles in the field.

Cascar: Gibbons wins Great Canadian 300, Thomson hold slim lead in Championship

In last year’s edition of the Great Canadian 300, Peter Gibbons came from 16th at the start to take the win. The Canadian Tire Chevy driver topped that impressive feat on September 5th at Delaware Speedway when he started 34th in the 300-lap APC-CANUSA Great Canadian 300 and battled his way forward to win this prestigious CASCAR Super Series race for the fifth time in his career.

Gibbons was relegated to the back row, by a ride-height infraction, following Saturday’s time-trial qualifying session. Undeterred by the setback, the Stouffville, ON racer fought his way through the pack on Sunday and passed Don Thomson Jr. on lap 256 en route to the win in front of over 10,000 fans.

“We were disappointed with the infraction, but we’re here to race,” said Gibbons, in victory lane. “We’re a high-strung team. We paced ourselves so we’d have something left at the end, and here we are in the winner’s circle. We had a real good car and we made good adjustments on it for the end. I knew what we needed to do to win the show.”

Second-place went to Avenue Motor Works / NMT Dodge driver Dave Whitlock, who started on the outside of the front row and led the first 74 laps of the race. The Wyoming, ON racer came home just over a second behind Gibbons.

The final podium spot — for the second year in a row in this race — went to Thomson Jr., who was involved in an incident with Whitlock on lap 1 that saw him spin to the infield grass before joining Gibbons at the back of the field. Thomson had started on the pole for the fourth race in a row and for the seventh time in 11 outings, this season, but saw that advantage evaporate just seconds into the race.

Determined to make up the lost ground, he and Gibbons carved their way forward with a vengeance. Thomson’s recovery was complete when he took the lead on lap 136 and led for 70 laps. He led again late in the race, but couldn’t hold off Gibbons.

DJ Kennington finished fourth in the Great Canadian 300, overcoming intense heat in the cockpit of his Castrol Dodge. Another Dodge driver, Ron Beauchamp Jr., was fifth. The MOPAR racer was involved in a mid-race traffic jam that left his hood buckled, but his crew was able to make adjustments that made Beauchamp’s ride competitive at the end.

Heading into the final CASCAR Super Series race of the season, in two weeks at Kawartha Speedway, Thomson holds a slim, 17-point lead over Gibbons. Thomson has been the victor on both occasions that CASCAR has appeared at Kawartha, although Gibbons had one of those races all but won, before a cut tire robbed him of the win.

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