18 Nov 2006 - For immediate release
For more information, contact: John Dillon
Widget Rally Team
P. O. Box 1231
Thousand Oaks, CA 91358-0231
Widget web site: www.WidgetRacing.com
e-mail: John @ WidgetRacing.com
Laughlin, NV. Lauchlin O'Sullivan (driver, San Francisco, CA) and John Dillon (navigator, Thousand Oaks, CA) returned to Laughlin to try and reprise their PGT victories of 2000 and 2001. In the five years since they last raced together in Nevada, O'Sullivan went on to become a factory driver and Dillon earned the 2004 national championship. Unfortunately for the two, a blown turbocharger prevented them from finishing the 2006 Laughlin International Rally.
"This is like the 'Widget Reunion Tour,'" laughed the codriver at the start of Stage 2. "We're in the same car, with the same crew, at the same event, and we think even the same car number as we had five years ago!" The car, a 1991 Mitsubishi Eclipse, was generously offered to Lauchlin by current owner Bruce Davis. Tom Laeng and the rest of the Laengworks team provided service for the car, just as they did at the turn of the century.
"This car has seen a lot of hard stage miles since Lauchlin last drove it," reported the car owner. "It still has the same suspension, the same seats, and pretty much the same everything else since he last ran it in 2001. At least the engine was rebuilt once or twice since then!" He complimented O'Sullivan, saying "If anyone can put this car on the podium against all these modern Subies and Evos [Subarus and Mitsubishi Evolutions], it's Lauchlin."
"I wasn't sure I could make this event," observed the driver. "Fortunately our marketing partners Hankook tires and Perforce Software stepped up and made it possible for us to race." He extended special thanks to Denise McMahon, the team manager who helped bring some sponsors to the party.
O'Sullivan and Dillon got off to a rough start, with plenty of hard landings on the roller coaster hills of the second stage interrupting their concentration. Said Dillon, "At the end of the stage, Lauchlin commented that he didn't remember the stages being so jumpy. I agreed, then pointed out that we were on different roads five years ago!"
When they returned to the service area, O'Sullivan and Laeng, along with input from Peter van Bogart at Cascade Motorsports, readjusted the suspension settings, giving the car much better handling characteristics for the remainder of the rally.
They finished the first day eighth overall, but they dropped a position on the first stage of day 2 because of a flat tire. It happened early in the stage so they had to stop and change it, which cost them almost six minutes. "We had a leaky valve or something," said O'Sullivan, "so the tire lost pressure overnight. We didn't realize it until a couple of minutes before starting. In hindsight we should have changed it just before checking into the control, even if it meant lateness penalties."
On the return run they made up over a minute on their PGT competition, leaving them just a couple of minutes down, so they felt they had a long shot at once again earning the class victory.
The start of the next stage, Diamond Creek Down which takes competitors to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, was delayed a few hours because of an emergency, so by the time the teams started the downhill run, only a wee bit of daylight was left.
"We were just a couple of miles into the stage when the car lost power," reported O'Sullivan. "We limped along for another couple of miles, but when we saw a big cloud of white smoke in the mirrors and John saw the oil pressure drop, we knew our day was done. We coasted just beyond a radio checkpoint to a nice, safe spot, then set out the warning triangles and OK sign. We had become spectators."
"Naturally, we're disappointed," sighed Dillon. "It took a lot of work to make Laughlin a reality for us this year. To have it end this way is bittersweet. I've been a competitor at every one of the Laughlin rallies, and it's my favorite event of the year. The roads were probably in the best shape I've ever seen them. Still, it would have been great to be there at the finish. Oh, well, Widget will return next year for Laughlin Rally number 10!"
The team used Hankook tires in Laughlin, while Perforce Software (www.perforce.com) offerered financial support. 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.
Photos © 2006 Bill Rogers of Motorsports Memories
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