FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 8, 2004
Contact: John Dillon
Creativity in Action
P.O. Box 1231
Thousand Oaks, CA 91358-0231
Gaylord, Michigan -- Both cars of the Widget Rally Team successfully finished the Sno*Drift Pro Rally, the first time they've ever tackled the two day long challenge on the slippery roads of upper Michigan January 30-31, 2004. Leon Styles, principal driver and his codriver John Dillon finished fifth in the Open class to earn ten points towards the 2004 SCCA ProRally championship. Teammates Nick Korpal and Eric Schleicher finished seventh in class and 23rd overall.
"Our team is California-based so we've never had the opportunity to race in a full-blown snow rally before," reported Dillon. "We found it quite challenging. Since these cars are based out west, they're set up for warm weather." Both cars are Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions. Styles drives an Evo VII while Korpal campaigns an Evo 6.5.
Styles added, "Naturally we would have liked to do better, but considering the conditions and our lack of experience in the snow, we're satisfied with the result. A lack of driver confidence and some mechanical issues kept us out of the top ten overall, but we met our goals by finishing and taking home ten valuable points." He admits to making some wrong tire choices which left them spinning and sliding all over the road for three long stages on Friday.
Even before the rally started there was drama in the Widget camp. Both cars refused to start in the near-zero temperatures. "We finally resorted to borrowing Doug Robinson's pickup truck and 'drag-starting' the cars," remarked Frank Brown, the team's engine technician. "We knew it was going to be cold, but nothing like this!"
"The guys had a misfire on the first stage," noted crew member Eric Cantore. "Fortunately we've got satellite phones from WCC Global Satellite Communications (www.wcclp.com). There's no cell phone coverage in this part of the country, but with the satellite phones John was able to call us and report the problem. While they raced out the next three stages, Frank [Brown] worked on revised engine mappings to download as soon as they entered service. I'm looking forward to having these phones at all the rallies from here on out."
In addition to using the satellite phones to keep in touch with the crew, the Widget Team is working with Applied Satellite Engineering (www.ase-corp.com) and Rally America (www.rally-america.com) so that future events will have live in-car audio available via the web in real time.
Widget selected the Best Western Alpine Lodge in Gaylord, MI as team headquarters. "Everyone at the hotel was so friendly and helpful," said Denise McMahon, team manager. "We enjoyed our stay and look forward to returning next year."
Korpal added, "The Alpine Lodge parking lot had lots of room for the cars and semi trailer, which is important for a trucking company like ours." Korpal owns 7-24 AirX, a domestic and global transportation company, which transports the cars to rallies across the country.
On the second day of the rally, Styles and Dillon picked up the pace. "I gained a little confidence as we got used to the icy conditions, but we still tried to stay conservative. It's really easy to get caught out, as our earlier spins proved, so we just took it easy and brought the car home safely." He pointed out that "We're racing for the championship, not just individual wins, so we're gonna race steady all year and step it up when we can safely do so."
Perforce Software (www.perforce.com) provides financial support to the Widget Rally Team. The team is also supported by 7-24 AirX (www.7-24airx.com), a domestic and international trucking and air cargo company; Tombstone Paintball Park (www.tombstonepaintball.com); and Worr Games (www.worr.com), manufacturers of tournament-quality paintball guns. The team insists on brakes by Porterfield Enterprises (www.porterfield-brakes.com) and utilizes the web services of Shults Dot Com (www.shults.com) for its internet needs.
You can see the Sno*Drift ProRally on prime time television in the near future. Watch Speed TV on your cable or satellite network for air dates.