While the focus of the SCCA ProRally Championship is the factory teams and the Open class cars that run at the front of the pack, there are several classes fitting virtually any budget that offer a challenge for drivers. The stars of tomorrow usually begin in one of the more restricted classes and learn the driving techniques that are unique to rallying.
The cars in the Production (stock) classes are quite restricted, with modifications limited to safety equipment and some suspension tuning. Production is limited to two-wheel drive with normally aspirated engines. Production GT allows all-wheel drive and turbocharged engines.
Recently, there's been renewed interest in the two-wheel-drive classes, Group 5 and Group 2. Dodge stepped up with factory engineering and parts support for several teams. In addition, Mazda provides support for Eric Burmeister's Group 2 Protege. Groups 2 and 5 allow for considerable modification, and there are a variety of makes that are competitive in both classes. Group 2 is restricted to normally aspirated 2.4-liter corrected displacement engines, while Group 5 is open to turbochargers and engines up to 5.1 liters corrected displacement.
Group N is an FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) class, a modified production class that is nearly as fast as the Open Class cars.
Group NIt is not uncommon for the Group N class winner to finish in the top five overall. It's the only SCCA class that follows the same regulations as those used in the rest of the world. That challenge has attracted more competitors every year.
Returning to Group N this year will be the Subaru WRXs of Mark Utecht and Jeff Secor, and Craig Peeper and Ian Bevan. Shane Mitchell and Paul Donnelly will chase the Group N title in an AV Sport-prepared Subaru. Fielding Mitsubishis in Group N are George Plsek and Jeff Burmeister aboard an EVO VI, and Wolfgang Hoeck and Julie Linn in a Rhys Millen Racing-prepared EVO VII.Also aiming at the SCCA Group N title is last year's Pirelli British Rally Champion Jonny Milner, with a ProDrive-prepped Subaru. At the same time, Milner will try to defend his British championship. Backing for the team will be from Pirelli and Team Dynamics Alloy Wheels for both U.S. and UK campaigns.
Group 5Don Jankowski and Pete Gladysz will team in the Dodge SRT-4 that was seen at most events last season. Joining them in Group 5 with a new SRT-4 will be 2000 Production Class champs Brian Vinson and Richard Beels.
Returning to defend their 2002 Group 5 title will be brothers Dave and Rick Hintz from the West Coast in their Mazda RX7. Other challengers will be Bob Olson and Conrad Kettlesen in a Porsche 911, Chris Havas and Dave Keen in a Volkswagen Golf IV, and Jay Streets will team with Ole Holter in a Volvo 740.
Group 2Michigan's Eric Burmeister returns to the Group 2 battles aboard a Mazda Protegff,ff,, backed by Mazdaspeed, with veteran co-driver Cindy Krolikowski calling the instructions. Chris Whiteman and Mike Paulin from Michigan will go after the Group 2 title in a factory-supported Dodge Neon. Hard-charging Matthew Johnson will be back in his VW Golf, with Carl Fisher acting as navigator.
ProductionFormer Production Class champion Trevor Donison will return after a couple of seasons off, in a Guy Light-prepared Acura RSX Type-S. A co-driver for the team has yet to be determined. The Production Class annual trophy, the Donison Cup, is named for Trevor's father Roy, who died in 1979 while practicing in a Production Class Plymouth Fire Arrow.
PGTTwo stalwart teams return to the ProRally circuit to contest Production GT: Bruce Davis and Lee Sorenson, and Sans Thompson and Erick Hauge. Both teams are based out of the Sacramento area and both will be driving Mitsubishi Eclipse GSXs. Thompson and Davis were both active in Production Class in the 1980s. Former Derek Daly Driving Academy instructor and U.S. F2000 road racing ace Jonathan Bottoms will tackle PGT in a Subaru Impreza 2.5RS, with Eric Dahlgren filling the role of co-driver. Bottoms and Dahlgren are both from New York.