Atlanta, Michigan- David Higgins has helped give Team Mitsubishi Motor Sports America and the new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution an impressive debut by winning the 2003 Sno*Drift ProRally in the snow and ice of Michigan's lower peninsula. Higgins' teammate and rising American star Lauchlin O'Sullivan finished 4th overall and he and his American co-driver Mark Williams were the top placing all-American team in the two day, 115 mile event.
The team's initial goal for their debut event was for both cars to reach the finish and to demonstrate their potential, yet the cars' performance and patient driving in the treacherous conditions combined to produce an unexpected dominant victory.
After finishing Friday's stages just over twenty seconds off the leader, Saturday's stages saw Higgins make a quick charge to the top of the leader board. After only the first three stages Higgins had built up a lead of over thirty-five seconds and thereafter began to pull away from his rivals. Higgins went on to win nine of day's eleven stages in his red and silver Open Class Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution rally car, winning the event by over one minute.
"These were by far the worst conditions I have ever rallied in, one second there is grip and the next none at all, this is the type of rally you have nightmares about," explains Higgins. "But we had the right car and the right team for this rally, I'm just so impressed with how everything went on our debut event."
Higgins' was guided to victory by his co-driver Daniel Barritt, who attributed some of their success to their in-car communication. "We both decided to play it safe and didn't take any risks, but most importantly our timing with the notes was spot on," said Barritt.
O'Sullivan drove a smart rally on Saturday as he continued to learn the Lancer Evolution's handling traits in the snowy conditions. After ending Friday in 6th position, O'Sullivan slowly increased his pace throughout the final day and finished an impressive 4th overall.
"It's the classic story of the tortoise and the hare, I went slow and steady and learned about my new car while some of the guys ahead of me pushed too hard and crashed out," commented O'Sullivan. "Its pretty incredible, it really couldn't have gone much better, we were the top finishing all-American team and that means a lot to me and the rest of the team."
The two all new Open Class Lancer Evolution rally cars performed flawlessly in the harsh and cold Michigan conditions. "The car took a beating and just kept going, we hit a few icy snow banks very hard but the car is so strongly built that it was no problem at all, we just kept going" O'Sullivan explained.
"Our HKS engines were our greatest asset today, they have so much torque and the power delivery is so nice and smooth and flat that it made driving in the slippery conditions much more forgiving," said Higgins. "I felt so positive about the car that after the first couple of stages I told Lance Smith (Team Director) that we would be having a lot of parties this year!"
The Sno*Drift ProRally was the debut of Team Mitsubish Motor Sports America and their two new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution rally cars and the results couln't have been better. A victory for the new car on its very first event has given the team a dose of confidence, and they are all looking foward to continuing this success at their next event, the Quebec International Rally at the end of February.