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Bangor driver to compete in Pro Rally race in Rumford
By Tom Hale

If racing full throttle through the forest is your type of motorsport, you’ll have a chance to see it when the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Pro Rally comes to Rumford Friday and Saturday.

Pro Rally often conjures up visions of racers from Europe or other foreign shores. Race fans may be pleased to know that Bangor’s John Cassidy with his race team, Last Ditch Racing, will be in the top class.

After a couple years racing at the local Club Rally level and the Canadian rally scene, Cassidy’s team has gone professional this season. Cassidy and co-driver Dave Getchell from Camden are the only team from Maine to compete in three Pro events in 2003.

Cassidy has taken delivery of a turbocharged 1998 TAD Motorsports Subaru Impreza to race in rally racing’s top class, Open. In previous races Last Ditch Racing competed in their non-turbocharged 1994 Subaru Impreza.

The Maine team finished its last race in Pennsylvania ninth in the Open class.

Cassidy, a physician’s assistant, developed his interest in rallying after viewing a race on ESPN. His mechanical background at that time was limited to restoration work on Land Rovers.
He purchased a 1987 Honda which he converted into a rally car and attended the Tim O’Neil Rally School in Littleton, NH, before racing in the 1999 Maine Forest Rally in Rumford.

“We never made it to the first stage because the car had an electrical problem,” Cassidy said. “We were out that quick”.

Rally racing requires a co-driver who acts like an on-board navigator calling out directions during a flat-out wild ride along forest roads, which cannot be practiced on before the rally. Cassidy met his co-driver, Getchell, when Getchell wrote an article about the Maine Forest Rally for the Maine Times.

Getchell was bitten by the rally bug and first joined Last Ditch Racing as a crewmember. He works as an associate editor for the Maine Boats and Harbors magazine in Camden.

In rally racing, unlike oval track races, there are no guardrails or run-off areas to catch an errant car. Races are run on blocked-off woods roads or short highway sections called stages.

Rally racing can be dangerous, as witnessed by the deaths of Team Subaru driver Mark Lovell and his co-driver Roger Freeman, both from England, in the Oregon Trail Pro Rally in early July.

“We were shocked by the loss of such a good guy as Lovell,” said Cassidy, “He always had a smile on his face and was willing to help. The day we found out about his death we did the only thing we could to relieve the stress, we went to our workshop and worked on the racecar”.

“Rally racing in America has soccer-like status,” according to Cassidy.

“The rally race in Maine at Rumford is rated as the most popular rally in the United States with about 100 entrants, yet few folks even know that the race exists let alone that a Bangor-based team will be competing,” he said.

In order for Last Ditch Racing to race, they must have a crew. Cassidy’s home crew consists of wife Sharon and sons John and Cullen. Eric Wages and Margaret Michaels, both from Bangor, Duncan Matlack of Camden and George Hartz of Massachusetts are often the service crew. The service crew will have only two or three 20-minute time periods during the rally to perform whatever maintenance and repair work is needed.

Those seeking more information about Bangor’s Last Ditch Racing rally team or rally racing may visit their Web site at

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