BRC

Gateshead: Ford Rallye Sport event report

Higgins guides Ford Focus to British win. Ford Rallye Sport driver Mark Higgins guided his Focus WRC rallycar to a dramatic victory on the Pirelli International Rally at Gateshead today (Sunday). The 30-year old British ace had to fight hard for...

Higgins guides Ford Focus to British win.

Ford Rallye Sport driver Mark Higgins guided his Focus WRC rallycar to a dramatic victory on the Pirelli International Rally at Gateshead today (Sunday). The 30-year old British ace had to fight hard for his ultimately comfortable winning margin after rolling his car in the Kielder Forest yesterday and dropping 70 seconds behind the leaders.

By Saturday evening he had posted two fastest stage times, climbed to second place and reduced that gap to under 12 seconds. This morning Ford's official Focus WRC test driver continued his great come-back drive, overcoming a couple of punctures and a slipping clutch. Hungry to notch up Ford's 14th win on this classic event, Mark powered through the first two Sunday stages at tremendous pace, setting two more fastest times and turning that overnight deficit into a 45 second lead.

"Driving the Focus in testing is always exciting," commented Mark, "but it can't compare with the thrill of driving a top-class rallycar on a seriously challenging event like the Pirelli Rally. The Focus is a strong car and the mechanics did a great repair job yesterday after my roll, and this afternoon when they fitted a new clutch. I'm absolutely delighted to take this famous Ford (McRae's 1999 Safari winning machine) to another victory and I hope to tackle other British Championship events later this year."

The new-for-2002 Ford Junior Team claimed a highly impressive second place in the Super 1600 class when 21-year old Puma pilot Guy Wilks enjoyed an almost trouble-free run to beat all but the hugely experienced Gwyndaf Evans, and even managed to enjoy the daunting stages through the Northumbrian forests.

"I'm just over the moon to finish runner-up in the Super 1600 class," enthused Guy Wilks. "Everybody said Kielder Forest would be tough -- and it certainly was -- but I really enjoyed the long, fast stages. They are the best stages I've driven on so far and the Puma handled it all perfectly. To come home behind such a star as Gwyndaf Evans (a past British rally champion with Ford) is an honour and but for an intermittent gear selection problem, we might have been closer. I think we've enjoyed a pretty good debut with the new Ford Junior Team and now I can hardly wait for the Welsh Rally."

Wilks' Ford Junior team mate and reigning Puma 1400 Champion David Henderson had a troubled event. On Saturday an impact with a rock broke the steering rack mounting and left him with vague steering on the two longest stages and later a rear disc brake exploded. Today, his 16-valve Puma engine suffered a mysterious unwillingness to pull properly at high revs in a high gear -- though the telemetry indicated that all was well with the Ford powerunit.

"I must admit to being a bit disappointed with my showing on this event," confessed Henderson. "We had a mysterious engine problem today and I think we lost ground on the long straights no matter how hard I drove around the corners. Other aspects of the Puma were fine, so it was a frustrating afternoon for the whole team."

Colin McRae Scholarship winner Kris Meeke made a fantastic debut with his Puma Super 1600 and was heading for a dream-finish -- holding third in class and closing on second-place man Guy Wilks -- until the penultimate stage. Coached by Jimmy and Colin McRae, 22-year old Kris was advised to take the event steadily and finish.

"I really wasn't taking big risks when I crashed," declared a disappointed Kris Meeke. "We were catching up with Guy, but I was caught out by a puncture and my own inexperience. Just 2 miles from the end of the penultimate stage, the Puma slewed sideways on its soft rear tyre and hooked a wheel into the ditch, rolling us well off the road. Spectators helped us get back onto the stage, but it took a long time."

Kris did finish, 27th overall but not last after a highly\impressive performance.

-frs-

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About this article
Series BRC
Drivers David Henderson , Colin McRae , Mark Higgins , Guy Wilks , Kris Meeke , Gwyndaf Evans