In Co-ordSport Driver / Team
Team Mitsubishi Motor Sports America contested last weekend’s Rallye International de Quebec for testing and promotional purposes, and the Anglo-American SCCA ProRally Championship leading team came away from Canada delighted with results, having led at the halfway stage.
The all American crew of Lauchlin O’Sullivan and Mark Williams fought through nearly six inches of fresh snow on the final day to record their first stage win for the UK-based Co-ordSport and US-based Vermont SportsCar team, finishing 4th overall. Team-mate David Higgins, the reigning SCCA ProRally Champion, set the pace to lead after day one, but retired on day two after gear selection problems.
After a cautious start, Higgins spun his Mitsubishi on SS3 – a spectator stage run around an ice and snow covered trotting track – and got stuck on a narrow section of road between two snow banks. Conditions were so slippery on SS3 that O’Sullivan also spun, while another competitor crashed through a fence whilst driving slowly up to the stage start!
After ending the first three stages over 50 seconds down on Canadian Rally Champion Patrick Richard, Higgins launched a stunning comeback. He was faster on SS4, despite spending over 20 seconds in a snowbank, and a superb run through SS5 saw Higgins enter the final stage of day one just 8 seconds behind the rally leader.
The opening day ended with a showdown between Higgins and Richard on a super-special stage, as they ran head to head on parallel courses at the 3km Hippodrome horse track in Quebec City. It was Higgins who came out on top, as he convincingly beating Richard by 18 seconds, catapulting him into the lead by 10 seconds at the end of day one.
Having shown the pace of the Mitsubishi in unfamiliar territory, Higgins’s rally came to an end on the opening stage of day two when a gearshift cable problem left him struggling to find gears. Co-driven by Daniel Barritt, Higgins then slid off the road and got stuck in a small snowbank. In a display of true sportsmanship, Paul Choiniere, who was lying in 3rd position at the time, stopped to try and help Higgins back on the road, sacrificing nearly a minute. O’Sullivan then came through the stage and he too stopped for nearly two minutes to help Higgins get back on the road. With O’Sullivan’s help, Higgins got his car on the road and drove to the end of the stage stuck in 3rd gear. With two stages to go until next service, Higgins decided to call it a day and not risk damaging the car.
Higgins said: “I think we could have won, but really it is for the best that we had this problem here. We came to Canada to get more miles on these new cars and to find any faults before our next U.S. event where everything counts. Now we have time to make sure this gear selection problem doesn’t happen again.”
O’Sullivan said: “We put on snow tyres for the last set of stages and it was a real learning process. I have never driven in the snow on true snow tyres. We spun on the very first corner of the first stage that we used them, but I soon began to get a feel for them. They were great, really amazing.”
Peter Collinson, Managing Director of Co-ordSport, said: “It was a very successful weekend as we were just here for testing and promotional purposes. We had a very good reaction from the Canadian public who are keen for us to return again. We’re now looking forward to moving to warmer climate, with an extensive warm weather tests planned in March and April, ready for Rim of the World Rally in California.”