BUFFUM ADDS FIRST PRESS ON REGARDLESS TITLE TO 1978 CROWNS
HOUGHTON, Michigan --
Closeted by the darkness of a Michigan woodlands night,
John Buffum sat calm and controlled in the co-driver's seat of his British
Leyland TR7. The lively but scratchy strains of a 60's rock hit on the car's
out-of-place cassette player blared as he waited to start the telling second
half of the Sports Car Club of America's Press On Regardless National Pro
Rally, run November 4 and 5 over 604 miles of the state's Upper Peninsula.
"The music helps me relax, and it sure makes the transits go faster,"
Buffum explained pleasantly. The music may have made the transit time pass
quickly, but it was the team of Buffum, co-driver Doug Sheperd and the Jim
"Salty" Sottolano-prepared Triumph TR7 that took care of business on the
21 stages of America's most famous rally.
Enroute to his first-ever POR triumph in nine tries, the already-crowned
1978 SCCA National Pro Rally Series Champion turned in the fastest time on
14 stages to leave the remainder of the 63-car field to pick through the
billowing backroads dust. Closest behind Buffum-Sheperd were the duo of
Taisto Heinonen of Langley, British Columbia and Erick Hauge of Sacramento,
Calif. in an impressive Toyota Celica.
Heinonen and Hauge, hampered early by the loss of over 1000 rpm's in their
16-valve powerplant, chalked up fastest stage times twice despite their
handicap, but a six-minute off-course error in the fifteenth stage virtually
excluded any possibility of catching the flying Buffum, who had built a
2.66-minute lead by the half-way dinner break.
Similarly, it is Heinonen chasing Buffum in the standings of the North
American Rally Cup Championship, and with his number two placing in the POR,
a win in the November 19-21 Nevada Rally will place him in a tie with current
leader Buffum for the NARC title. Although both men would then have four
wins in their home country, and a first and a second in the neighboring land,
Heinonen would become the NARC champion under the tie breaking rules.
Twenty-eight of the original hopefuls were able to go the distance which
varied in character from dry, hard packed, fast sections to slower rutted,
twisting stages. At the half-way point, 43 teams still survived, but fatigue,
heavy rain on several stages and some tough terrain would yet take their toll.
Third was the team of John Smiskol and co-driver Walt Krafft from Illinois
in a Datsun 260Z, followed by John Chalmers and Bill Potvin in a Dodge Colt
and Ralph Brooks and Richard Messal in a Datsun 280Z. Potential contenders
Eric Jones/Roger Seiling, Hendrik Blok/Damon Trimble and Scott Harvey/Randy
Graves were all sidelined ... Jones by mechanical woes that drastically slowed
his pace, Blok by engine failure in the ninth stage and Harvey by an
off-course excursion up a tree.
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