Georgetown, Ontario The Musketeer Racing Silverstone Tire Mitsubishi Lancer finished in fourth place on this weekend’s Rally of the Tall Pines in Bancroft, Ontario. Although the team suffered from a manifold leak and so was down on power, they pushed through to the end of the rally and gained the points necessary to cinch second overall in the 2015 National Championship and first overall in the 2015 Ontario Performance Rally Championship. The team had already secured the 2015 Novice and Open Class national and provincial titles before the event.
“I’m thrilled!” said driver Andrew Comrie-Picard. “We bought the car in January and started Rallye Perce-Neige as seed 5B novices. Now, at the end of the year, we have won every title we possibly could except that we finished second to Pat Richard’s factory-backed Subaru in the overall national championship. I’m pretty happy with our novice year!”
It was an exciting battle for the runner-up spot in the overall national championship; at this rally, four drivers had a mathematical chance of securing second: Comrie-Picard, Peter Thomson, Sylvain Erickson, and 2001 champion Tom McGeer. “We went out with a very clear knowledge of how we had to finish here,” said Swedish co-driver Christian Edström, “and with one exception everything went exactly according to plan.”
The exception was the failure of a turbo gasket during the first stage of the day which cost the team an estimated 60hp throughout the day. Said Comrie-Picard: “The problem was not so much the loss in peak power although that was serious too but the fact that there was almost no boost lower in the rev range and the anti-lag pressure would leak out on shifts. These cars are set up to balance on a fine edge through the corners, and when you don’t have the power on tap to balance the weight transfer while sliding, they are much more difficult to drive. I would say this was the diciest rally of the year for us.”
This difficulty manifested itself when Comrie-Picard did not have the power available to pull the car through a tight left-hand corner at a junction on stage A2 and went wide at the exit. “We were hardly even off the road” said Edström, “but one front wheel was hanging in the snow and without a limited-slip front differential the wheel just spun in place.” A single spectator tried to push, but it was Jean-Marc Alcaraz in a tiny Subaru Justy who stopped and used every ounce of the car’s power to pull the Mitsubishi Lancer out. “Jean-Marc was a hero to help us out. We lost about 5 minutes on a stage on which I had hoped to get an advantage, but without Jean-Marc we would have lost much more.” Comrie-Picard had pulled John and Clarke Paynter off a snowbank in Alberta in May: “You don’t do these things expecting a karmic credit you do them because it wouldn’t be rallying if you didn’t. But I have to say, I’m glad that Jean-Marc is a real rallyist!” Alcaraz also pulled Peter Thomson back on his wheels after an agricultural excursion that cost Thomson about 12 minutes and his chance at second place in the Championship.
The rest of the rally was difficult but not unusual for the Tall Pines: a mix of a small amount of gravel, ice in the shaded corners, and a few stages with significant snow. Tire choice was crucial, and there were many strategies to be seen during the day, with different approaches even within Team Subaru Canada. But Musketeer Racing made a fairly conservative choice to stay on the Yokohama WR26 snow tire a tire very good in shallow snow, good in gravel, and predictable on ice. Said Comrie-Picard: “I drove out of the icy groove and in the snow ridges for most of the rally to maximize the effectiveness of the tire. It worked, and helped us to late-apex too. We also disconnected the front anti-roll bar at the first service to help the car turn in since we couldn’t rely on the anti-lag to shift the weight to the front wheels, and that helped immensely.” After the change, the team went on to win two of the trickier stages, even while down on power.
Tom McGeer went on to win Tall Pines for the third year in a row with Subaru Canada teammate Richard in second place. Sylvain Erickson moved into third after Comrie-Picard’s off-road excursion.
The team is looking forward to 2003, but has yet to secure a budget and in 2002 have been privateers operating out-of-pocket. “Our sponsors are tremendously helpful” noted Edström, “but to continue we are going to need a higher level of sponsorship. Our main competitors at this level are backed by a major sponsor or the manufacturer of the car. For us, every little bit counts to help us keep running at this pace, but right now we need a big bit!”
Musketeer Racing is Francois Veilleux, Roger Sanderson, Robin Emard, Comrie-Picard, Edström, and the sponsors who support them. Look for their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV at the Grand Opening of Kitchener-Waterloo Mitsubishi on Saturday, December 1 at 300 Homer Watson Blvd., Kitchener, Ontario.