Photo by Jeff Nadler
Biography John Dillon
Co-Driver, Widget Racing
Thousand Oaks, California
When you ask John Dillon why he loves racing so much, he's hard pressed to find a good answer. He can tell you, however, that even as a child he wrote short stories about motorsports while playing with slot cars.
After several years of volunteering as a safety official for road racing events (and being recognized by several regions for his efforts), Dillon became involved with the special art of rallying. At first, he volunteered as a checkpoint worker, then as a media assistant to Andy Schupack. It was at Rim of the World in 1994 that he met Michael O'Sullivan, who taught Dillon the basic skills of navigating, leaving the co-driver anxious for a chance to rally.
Finally, in November 1995, road racer and corner worker Chris Bradshaw offered Dillon a chance to rally at the East of Indio event. Bradshaw rented a Plymouth Fire Arrow from Dave Turner. The rookie team beat the other Stock class competitors on every one of the first four stages. As evening fell, however, a couple of minor driver errors and subsequent mechanical woes moved them to the back of the pack--but they finished the rally nonetheless.
Limited funds and his duties as Flag Chief for the Cal Club flag team sidelined Dillon's 1996 rally effort, but in 1997 he returned to action, first with Steve Winter and later with Fred Ronn. Both drivers were ProRally rookies, though Winter had rallied many years prior in Europe and Ronn had an off-road racing background. At Rim of the World, Winter and Dillon proved themselves capable rallyists, hitting the scoreboard as the highest-finishing Divisional-only team (finishing second in 4WD behind a National pair). Work commitments kept Winter away from Gorman and Prescott, so Dillon teamed up with Ronn where they came up to speed quickly in a Toyota Celica. Winter returned to the U.S. for the Treeline rally. Dillon rejoined him in the same 4WD Mazda 323, where they finished third overall behind a pair of Nationally competitive cars; it was only their second rally together.
The 1998 season started and ended with a bang. At Rim of the World, Ronn and Dillon surprised everyone by entering the National event, then winning in Group 2. It was their first National. They followed up with a U2 win at Gorman and were poised for a Divisional championship when a slight miscue at Prescott left their car ruined in a double-rollover. Though the team members were unhurt, the car was destroyed, cutting their season short.
Dillon, always anxious to rally, proved his versatility in adapting to new drivers by joining Bill Nation for the Ramada Express International Rally in Laughlin, Nevada. The two worked well together in Nation's venerable Mazda RX-7. The team was especially challenged on Sunday due to weather--ice and snow made the stages treacherous for their rear-wheel drive machine. At one point, the Mazda's traction was so poor that Dillon finally jumped out and climbed into the rear hatch to get some weight on the rear wheels, thus enabling the rotary to reach the top of a hill. Once there, they were loathe to stop, so Dillon patched into the intercom, grabbed the route book and navigated for two and a half miles while hanging out the back of the car! It was this spirit of "can do" that helped the team finish this grueling event. It was also Dillon's first rally in the snow.... but it won't be his last.
The 1999 season began when Dillon joined Team LeConte, navigating for National competitor Kendall Russell. "I'm thrilled to be racing in the full National series this year," reported the co-driver, "especially with someone who has finished in the top three in last year's championship." Russell added "I'm confident that John will help me go faster, especially at the desert events where my experience level is lower." The team traversed the country in pursuit of the Michelin SCCA ProRally Championship, but schedule changes and budget constraints curtailed their efforts early. Nonetheless, Dillon claimed the points lead at the Maine Summer Forest Rally while co-driving for Russell.
Dillon maintained his points lead by riding with Lauchlin O'Sullivan at the Ojibwe Forest Rally and Mark Tabor at the Prescott Forest Rally. In Prescott, he and Tabor were selected by the volunteer workers as the inaugural recipients of the Carl Merrill Sportsmanship Award. Unable to get a PGT ride in the final National race of the season, the Lake Superior ProRally, Dillon teamed up with Paul Dubinsky of FLX Racing, racing in the Open class. As a result, he dropped to second in class at the year-end results, a "quite presentable" outcome for a rookie year of rallying.
Dillon, who also volunteers as the SoPac ClubRally steward, took time out from the National season to race with Anton Musev in the Gorman Ridge ClubRally, where the pair finished first overall. The two will team up again at the 1999 Ramada Express International Rally.
Over the years Dillon has rallied in 4WD, front wheel drive, and rear wheel drive cars, with a variety of drivers, several of whom were deemed rookies. His calm yet competitive nature, coupled with the experience of his drivers, made 1999 a banner year for John Dillon and the Widget Rally Team. Now plans are underway for even greater success in the new year.
Expect success in 2000, and keep your eyes on the Widget Rally Team--you'll be watching champions!
For more information, contact: John Dillon
Creativity in Action
P. O. Box 1231
Thousand Oaks, CA 91358-0231
Web site: http://www.widgetracing.com