Messenger - Vol. 2, No. 2, Page 7
Winter 1993
One of rally racing's best

     Lesley A. Suddard, Delaware '88, is racing to become one of the top
rally car drivers in the country. In a sport dominated by men, she has
always finished at or near the top in her races, and recently, she became
the first woman in North America to win a driving title in the yearlong
Canadian Novice Rally Championship.
     Rally racing means "real cars, real roads, real fast," according to
Suddard. This motor sport takes place on rough roads that the drivers have
never seen before, and the race cars travel at speeds up to 120 miles per
hour. The driver and navigator, or co-driver, wear suits, helmets and
safety harnesses and ride inside a large roll cage.
     Rally racing has three competition levels: driver overall, driver
based on experience and driver according to type of vehicle. Suddard, who
was named Rally Driver of the Year in 1990 and 1991, hopes to repeat her
winning moves this year in her white 1986 Dodge Omni GLH, a modified
production car. "The engine and transmission are stock, but it has an
improved suspension for rough driving on dirt roads," she says.
     Suddard teamed with former Canadian National Championship navigator
Brian Maxwell in the 1992 Perce Neige Rally Championship, where she placed
ninth overall and first in the Canadian novice division. She also earned
the Tom O'Connor Award for the best first time by a U.S. entry and took a
second in the production category. To win the top novice competition, she
competed in five out of eight rally races over a one-year period, finishing
in the top 10 of each. Suddard's co-driver for most of 1992, as well as the
1993 race in Maniwaki, Canada, was seven-time Canadian Ladies Champion
Suzanne Stewart of Calgary, Alberta. Suddard attributes much of her success
to Stewart's skillsas a co-driver. In U.S. races, Suddard drives with Anne
Thomas of Nashua, N.H., as her co-driver.
     Although Suddard has been in a few crashes, which she refers to as
"high-impact parking," she has escaped uninjured. She says her Delaware
sponsors are very supportive and especially good at helping her get her car
repaired quickly so she can get back to racing. Newark Maaco Paint and Body
Shops (owned by Bill Jewell), Belray Oil and NTW Tires on Concord Pike are
her local sponsors.
     After first attending Duke University, Suddard transferred to the
University of Delaware where she graduated with a degree in chemistry and
an interest in road racing. While at Delaware, she says, some friends urged
her into her first car race as sort of a dare. "I walked into the middle of
the autocross event. I didn't even know where I was going," she says. "When
I ended up winning the ladies event that day, I was hooked." She says
fellow student Karen Erner, who would go on to be her roommate and best
friend, first interested her in rallying.
     Although racing does yield some money, most expenses must be covered
by Suddard, who works at SmithKline Beecham, a Philadelphia-based
pharmaceutical company.
     After competing in this year's Perce Neige event, Suddard looks
forward to North American rally competition, possibly competing in the Mt.
Washington and Pike's Peak hill climbs. She expects to take part in a rally
June 5 in Wellsboro, Pa., and, ultimately, she would like to compete in the
world championship for drivers held in Europe.
                                   --Michael W. Hail, Delaware '94Ph.D.