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Codriver for Champions

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For immediate release
For more information, contact: John Dillon
Creativity in Action
P. O. Box 1231
Thousand Oaks, CA 91358-0231
Phone: 805.906.7797
web site: www.WidgetRacing.com
e-mail: John @ WidgetRacing.com

John Dillon, the 2008 national Open 4WD and 2004 national Open codriver champion on the American rally circuit, has used his talent in the navigator's seat of a performance rally car to help lead several teams to victory. Along the way he's codriven to the overall victory at the famous Pike's Peak International Hill Climb, the inaugural Pike's Peak Rally, and the inaugural Colorado Cog ProRally. He and driver Leon Styles won back to back divisional championships in 2002 and 2003, and complemented their 2002 trophies with California Rally Series championships. His first major trophy was a Production GT (PGT) divisional title in 1999 and an overall victory that same year at Gorman Ridge.

[John Dillon - photo by Bill Rogers] John teamed up with several drivers over the years to help them earn National class wins in Open, Group 2, Group 5, PGT, and numerous other podium finishes. Additionally, he has been recognized by his peers for his support of the sport, receiving the Carl Merrill Sportsmanship Award in 1999, the Bill Moore Co-driver Award in 2000, and most recently, the Kenneth Zimmerman Award in 2003 for outstanding contributions to the sport. San Diego Region honored him as the region's Co-Driver of the Year for 2000.

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 ProRally rookies. 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, Dillon and Ronn 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 wouldn't be his last.

The 1999 season began when Dillon joined Team LeConte, navigating for National competitor Kendall Russell. Russell said "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 codriving for Russell.

He 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 in an Open class Talon. As a result, he finished second in the PGT co-driver's championship, a "quite presentable" outcome for a rookie year of National rallying.

Dillon, who also volunteered as the SoPac ClubRally steward for two years, took time out from the National season to race with Anton Musev in the Gorman Ridge ClubRally, where the pair finished first overall. The duo teamed up again for the same rally in 2000, but a roll-over on the second stage ended their day prematurely. (By the way, this rally was part of the honeymoon for John and his new wife Donna.)

For much of the 2000 season, Dillon co-drove with Mark Nelson in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV. In Nelson's maiden National season, the team started off high in the Group N championship hunt but at mid-year several mechanical problems and unlucky breaks took their toll, eventually ending their season when the car ended up in the trees at the Wild West ProRally. In Prescott and again in Laughlin, Dillon co-drove to class victory. Teaming with Bryan Hourt in a Honda Civic, the pair finished fourth overall on their way to the Group 5 victory in Prescott.

In the final rally of the season, the Ramada Express International Rally in Laughlin Nevada, O'Sullivan and Dillon joined forces again with spectacular results. Not only did they win the Production GT title in a Mitsubishi Eclipse, a car almost a thousand pounds heavier than Open class racers, the two finished third overall behind two full-tilt Open class rally cars. They duplicated this feat in 2001.

The Laughlin rally was a shake-down event for the coming year. Twin victories served as bookends for the SCCA 2001 season, still racing with O'Sullivan in PGT. The year began with a dominant result at the Cherokee Trails International Rally, finishing seventh overall and fifteen minutes ahead of the second place PGT car. Subsequent mechanical problems forced their team owner to fold up the operation in mid-season. Undaunted, Dillon, O'Sullivan, and crew chief Tom Laeng put together a new effort, a newly independent Widget Rally Team, culminating in another dominate win at the Prescott Forest Rally, again finishing seventh overall, followed with the overall victory at Treeline and the PGT victory (third overall) at the 2001 Ramada Express.

With O'Sullivan scoring a factory ride in 2002, Dillon partnered with Leon Styles for the next three years with great success. First in an Audi, then later in a pair of Mitsubishi Evolutions, the team proved to be strong contenders all around the country and have earned several victories in the process. In 2004 the duo earned their first national championships.

Over the years Dillon has rallied in all wheel drive, 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 through 2001 promising years for John Dillon and the Widget Rally Team. The promise came to fruition with divisional championships in 2002 and 2003 and national trophies in 2004.

Based upon a foundation of preparation and a history of victory, expect success from Dillon and his partners in speed. Keep your eyes on the Widget Rally Team--you'll be watching champions!

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(Page last updated: Sun, Oct 28 2012)