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Origins: Subaru in American Rallying – Part 2
 

 

2003 Season

 


Ramana Lagemann gives the thumbs-up in his Group N WRX STi
as he gets ready to tackle a stage on the 2003 Rally New Zealand,
a round of the WRC. He drove well and finished 10th in Group N,
just six seconds behind Stig Blomqvist, who was driving a similar WRX.
Photos: John Rettie

When Lagemann joined SRT USA, he was promised at least one ride in a Group N car in a WRC event, and that turned out to be New Zealand in April 2003 with Mike Orr, a British co-driver. Lagemann's consistency and smooth driving gave him 10th place in Group N and 26th overall, just six seconds behind former WRC champ Stig Blomqvist, who drove a similar WRX STi. As one of only a handful of Americans ever to compete in an overseas WRC event, Lagemann performed well.

 

Ramana Lagemann gives the thumbs-up in his Group N WRX STi as he gets ready to tackle a stage on the 2003 Rally New Zealand, a round of the WRC. He drove well and finished 10th in Group N, just six seconds behind Stig Blomqvist, who was driving a similar WRX.

 

When it rains in Southern California, the dusty tracks at the Rim of the World Rally turn into a muddy mess. So many cars got stuck in the 2003 event that several stages were cancelled, and Lovell finished 2nd. Afterwards he said conditions were worse than any he had ever encountered, even in rallies in often-wet Britain!

 

Once again, SRT USA ran into problems in the early part of the 2003 season. It was not until the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in June that Mark Lovell, back with his longtime co-driver Roger Freeman, easily won the "Race to the Clouds."

 

When it rains in Southern California, the dusty tracks at the Rim of the World Rally turn into a muddy mess. So many cars got stuck in the 2003 event that several stages were cancelled, and Lovell finished 2nd. Afterwards he said conditions were worse than any he had ever encountered, even in rallies in often-wet Britain!

  

Alas, this was the last event they would win. Both were tragically killed in a terrible accident on the first stage of the Oregon Trail Rally – the next round of the SCCA ProRally championship. It was a serious blow to the team.

 

Nevertheless, SRT USA continued running a car for the remainder of the season with Lagemann as driver. He showed courage under duress, and consistent driving garnered him four 2nd-place finishes. That gave him 3rd place overall in the drivers' championship at the end of the season.

 

SRT USA brought a couple of European drivers over for the final few events in order to gain points for the manufacturers' championship. Despite Finnish rally champ Pasi Hagstrom winning the penultimate round in Olympia, Washington, SRT USA was unable to capture that championship in 2003. A privateer – this time Shane Mitchell from Ireland – clinched the Group N class in a WRX.

 


Photo: Lars Gange | rally.subaru.com

2004 Season

 

SOA elected not to support a factory effort the following year. From a marketing point of view, the team had done what it set out to do – promote the WRX and establish it as a highly regarded sport compact car in the United States. As James Han of SOA motorsports marketing overseeing SRT USA, said, "After the devastating loss of Mark and Roger in 2003, we accepted 2004 as a year of transition for SRT USA."

 

Although SRT USA was dormant in 2004, SOA continued to support private entries with contingency money and a spare parts truck at SCCA ProRally events. During 2004, a young extreme supercross bike rider had his first taste of rallying and he took to it like a duck to water. Travis Pastrana had been "discovered."

 

Act 3

 

The next part of SOA's rallying history was about to begin. Find out in the next issue how Pastrana's arrival on the U.S. rally scene eventually led to the resurrection of SRT USA.

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