Portrait of a Champion

If you’re a regular viewer of the Speed TV channel (formerly Speedvision) over the last four years you’ve seen a lot of Lauchlin O’Sullivan on your television. Lauchlin is regularly shown because of his skill and consistency behind the wheel. As of the end of 2005, over the last few years he has finished an incredible 23 of 26 events entered, with those three DNF’d events unable to be completed due to mechanical issues. It’s been quite a run…

2005 has been a season of “keeping his hat in the ring” while keeping his skills sharp in rental cars. Taking an Overall win, and also finishing 3rd Overall in the 2 events entered.

The 2004 Season was to be the year for an American to take back the Championship from a run of European Drivers taking the #1 spot in the U.S. Championship. With Lauchlin having a seasons experience in a top class Rally car under him, he was primed to do just that. But, just prior to signing a 2 year contract with Ralliart Europe, Mitsubishi USA Division decided to pull out of rallying in the states. This came too late in the year to muster a full ride for 2004, but undeterred Lauchlin rented a new vehicle for two events. The first event he nursed an ailing car home for a podium position-3rd overall. On the second event went on to take 1st Overall proving again he is the quickest and most consistent driver in the U.S.

2003 was a dream season as Open Class Mitsubishi factory driver. Finally, a proper rally car and team to show his abilities. Going up against other factory efforts, WRC purpose built cars, and famous European Drivers, O’Sullivan was able to hold his own. 2003 highlights include capturing Manufactures Overall Championship for Mitsubishi, Finishing second Overall in the Driver’s Championship and Highest placed American in the Year-end-standings.

O’Sullivan, the 2002 Group 2 National Champion and recipient of the SCCA’s prestigious Woodner Cup (beating out even the larger displacement vehicles for overall best 2-wheel drive car of the year). As of August 2002 he’d finished eight rallies in eight starts, finished third overall in his first ever race up Pike’s Peak and clinched the Group 2, Woodner Cup, and Manufacturer’s championships with two races still to go.

Lauchlin started and finished the 2001 season on high notes, winning his class at the Cherokee Trails International Rally in March and the last three rallies of the year. Indeed, he even drove to a first-place overall result in his slower-spec’d PGT Eclipse last November on his way to winning the 2001 California Rally Series championship.

Twin National victories served as bookends for the 2001 season, still racing in PGT. The year began with a dominant result at the Cherokee Trails International Rally, finishing seventh overall and fifteen minutes ahead of the second place PGT car. A new stage record in a rented car at STPR and a ClubRally win in Maine followed, but mechanical problems made national success elusive and the team owner folded up the operation in mid-season. Undaunted, O’Sullivan, co-driver John Dillon, and crew chief Tom Laeng put together a new effort, culminating in another dominate win at the Prescott Forest Rally, again finishing seventh overall. They followed Prescott with two more wins, one at Treeline and the other at the Ramada Express International Rally in Laughlin.

You may be surprised to learn that in 1999 Lauchlin O’Sullivan won more U.S. rallies than any other driver. Though a limited budget kept him confined mostly to racing on the west coast, he nonetheless managed to win four separate championships that year. Victories included the Doo Wops SCCA ProRally in Washington and the Rim of the World, Sou’Wester, and Trail’s End ClubRally events. At the end of the season he finished fifth in the Open class and ninth in the overall championship despite running less than half the scheduled races. On the way he won seven ClubRally races.

Lauchlin O’Sullivan’s passion for rallying began at the age of twelve when his family stumbled across the famous Safari Rally in east Africa. Two years later he found the sport in the United States, where he watched rallies and volunteered to work events. At the age of fourteen, Lauchlin began co-driving for his father Michael even though the youngster did not yet hold a driver’s license.

His first driving experience came two years later behind a wheel of a Mazda RX3. He finished twelfth overall out of 32 starters in his first event. He went on to campaign a Datsun 610 for several years and led most of the Stock class championship season in 1988, but a brake failure in the last race cost him the California Rally Series title.

In 1989 O’Sullivan began an eight year hiatus from the sport, at least as a competitor. However, during that time he attended rallies in Monte Carlo, Finland and the United Kingdom. He moved to Brazil to study the import/export business. Not one to give up on his love for racing completely, O’Sullivan attended two rally schools in Europe and the Jim Russell driving school in the United States.

Upon his return to California, O’Sullivan not only began working in the auto industry, he returned to the sport of rallying, competing up and down the west coast. After acquiring an Open class 1985 Audi 4000 Quattro, Lauchlin showed tremendous speed, winning a number of ClubRally events overall, as well as earning his first Michelin SCCA ProRally Series win at the 1999 Doo Wop Rally in Washington state. He won the 1999 California Rally Series 4WD championship. In Prescott, he was tied for the overall lead after three stages, but mechanical problems relegated him to second at the finish. Nonetheless, the Prescott Forest Rally helped him to clinch the Northern Pacific Divisional championship. That same year he also earned the Northwest Regional championship.

The 2005 season promises to be exciting. With the right car around him and proper funding, Lauchlin, one of Pro Rally’s biggest stars, has the talent to become Overall National Champion. When you watch Lauchlin behind the wheel, you’re watching a champion.