Who Knows What Evo Lurks...
Seed 6 driver wins Texas duo
by Tim Winker
PARIS, TX -- Bill Morton took home the gold in both the Wandrin’ Star and Paris By Night SCCA ClubRallies, only the second time he has entered a rally in the United States. Morton did have the proper equipment to do the job, a 1998 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV, a car designed for the World Rally Championship series. Co-driving for Morton was Michael Busalacchi. Both Morton and Busalacchi are technicians at TAD Motorsports in Illinois, one of the top rally car builders in the country. The only previous U.S. rally that Morton entered as a driver was the Gorman Ridge event in California during 1992, and the Ford Escort he was driving did not finish. Because he had not finished an SCCA ProRally, Morton was considered a Seed 6 driver, a beginner under the SCCA regulations. However, he drove several rallies in his native New Zealand in the mid-1980s.
Morton won all stages in the two rallies except one, in which he gave up only one second to eventual second place finisher Arthur Odero-Jowi. Odero-Jowi’s Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX finished 1:05 behind Morton’s Evo-IV on Wandrin’ Star and was 1:31 in arrears on Paris By Night. Jim Hurley was Odero-Jowi’s co-driver for both rallies.
Morton’s drive was marred by only one serious incident, when the engine lost oil pressure during a stage. He slowed, but completed the stage, still taking the fastest time for the stage. Odero-Jowi towed the crippled Evo-IV into service where the problem was diagnosed as a dipstick that had popped out of its tube. The engine was re-fired, the oil in the engine compartment mopped up, and Morton continued on for the win.
Despite some mechanical difficulties, Mike Hurst drove his Mazda RX7 to third place and won the Group 5 class in both events. Hurst lost over a minute on the third stage of Paris By Night when he stopped to repair the air cleaner assembly. "There’s a hood scoop on the RX7 with the opening to the rear, so I could see the nut backing off the air filter," said Hurst. "Rather than risk having the nut drop down the carburetor and destroy the engine, I stopped in the stage and put it back together."
While Hurst and co-driver Rob Bohn were making repairs, the Production GT class Eagle Talon of Mark Larson and Jeff Burmeister was able to get ahead of Hurst’s Mazda on the road, and the Dodge Omni GLH of Mark Utecht and Diane Sargent moved into the Group 5 lead. On the final stage, Utecht had a 27 second lead over Hurst, so rather than risk not finishing by pushing too hard, he kept up a steady pace. Hurst, on the other hand, decided it was "checkered flag or crash" and "I drove the stage of my life." He beat Utecht by 30 seconds on the stage, to take the Group 5 win by only 3 seconds.
The Production GT trophies went to Larson/Burmeister in the first rally, and to Karen Burrows and Ken Cassidy in a Mitsubishi Galant in the second event after Larson’s Talon hit a deer while leading and was forced to retire with a leaking radiator. Mike Halley and Michael Brown took Production class honors in both rallies, aboard a very stock Dodge Ram 50 pickup truck, as they were the only entrant in the class. The only Group 2 car entered was a Volkswagen Golf GTI driven by J.B. Niday and Al Kintigh; they were awarded first place points for Wandrin’ Star, but did not finish Paris By Night due to a leaking transmission seal.
The only other DNF occurred after Stage 2 of Wandrin’ Star, when the Open class Chevy S-10 of Ken Stewart and Ralph Starr holed a piston.
Both rallies took place within the confines of Camp Maxey, a National Guard base just north of Paris that was a Prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. The gridwork of roads on the base is now used for equipment testing as well as National Guard training. Organizers were able to configure many different stages using the grid of roads, coming up with over 100 stage miles for the two rallies. Spectators were able to see as many as ten of the fourteen rally stages from a single intersection. All service was from a single location and not more than about five miles from the farthest point of the rally.
Organization was a bit loose, but improved from previous years. Wandrin’ Star started a half hour late, and Paris By Night was an hour late in getting flagged off. Other delays and the threat of a thunderstorm caused the cancellation of the final stage, a 12-mile loop of the entire camp. Despite the organizational problems, drivers were unanimous in their praise of the roads, and overall gave the event a very good rating.
Of the twelve cars that showed up to compete, three were new to the rally circuit. Niday’s VW replaces the Ford Fiesta he rolled at Sno*Drift last month. Richard and Juanita Miller recently completed installing the safety equipment on a 1985 Saab 900 Turbo for Group 5 and had not yet done any performance modifications. Morton’s Evo-IV was purchased late in 1998 and built for rallying over the past few months. If his car looks familiar, it was the same Evo-IV that appeared in the Mitsubishi display at the Chicago Auto Show in early February, photos of which were featured on an earlier Wink Timber page.
Click HERE for complete results of Wandrin' Star and Paris By Night.
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