After having to stop mid-stage and change a wheel during day-two of the Rally Isle of Man, Guy Wilks and stand-in co-driver David Moynihan battled back to finish second in round three of the Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship, which...
After having to stop mid-stage and change a wheel during day-two of the Rally Isle of Man, Guy Wilks and stand-in co-driver David Moynihan battled back to finish second in round three of the Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship, which took place on 17th -- 19th July.
Mitsubishi team mates Phillip Morrow and Daniel Barritt also had a challenging event: Following an excellent start to hold a solid fourth place, they were caught out by the changeable road conditions on stage 14 and hit a bank. After the team repaired the car, they rejoined the rally for the final day and clawed their way back up to 16th place and, in doing so, scored valuable team's points.
Starting and finishing from the famous TT Grandstand, just north of the Island's capital Douglas, the event featured four stages on Thursday evening followed by a further 12 on Friday and seven on Saturday. This makes it the longest asphalt rally in the BRC calendar at 182 competitive miles and therefore, one of the toughest events of the season.
The Isle of Man has a reputation for its changeable weather, a factor that makes tyre choice a lottery -- and this year was no exception. Initially, Thursday evening started dry and Wilks blasted into the lead following the first three stages.
However, stage four was a different matter and, although unfazed by the slippery conditions, the reigning British Champion collected a puncture just two miles into the 13-mile run across the hills. Without stopping to change the wheel, Wilks made it to the finish and ended the day in second place, 18 seconds behind Mark Higgins who had now inherited the lead.
Intent on doing a good job for the team, Morrow opted for a steady start. Even so, he concluded the first leg in fourth place and reported a trouble-free run.
With the scene set for another front-line battle between Wilks and Higgins, the uncertain weather forecast made tyre selection critical and a last-minute change saw a 10-second penalty applied to Wilks' time after leaving the service area a minute late. Even so, because of the pace of the Mitsubishi, the team were confident about the prospect of Wilks catching Higgins.
However, the plan was thwarted on stage eight, the fourth run of the day, when Wilks slid wide and the car dropped into a small ditch -- normally not a problem -- but a protruding drainage gully broke a wheel, forcing him and Moynihan to stop by the side of the stage and change it. Inevitably over three minutes were lost, which meant they slipped back to fifth place and now had a tough task ahead of them if they were to stand a chance of winning.
Meanwhile, things were going according to plan for Morrow, who continued to set a steady pace and was elevated to third following Wilks' delay. However, the young Ulsterman admitted that he was not feeling completely comfortable with the handling of his car, this being his first time competing over the Manx lanes in the works Mitsubishi.
As grip levels changed almost from stage to stage, conditions were unpredictable and unfortunately for Morrow, he was the front-runner who came off worse. As he approached an uphill 90-degree right-hand bend halfway through the stage, the car momentarily stepped out and, although correcting the slide, the loss of grip in the braking zone resulted in front-end contact with a solid bank.
With a broken radiator -- plus considerable damage to a number of other components -- the once pristine Lancer was going no further for the rest of the day. Once it was taken back to the service area, the team then worked into the small hours to get it ready to run under SuperRally regulations for Saturday's stages,
Although having set a string of fastest stage times and fighting back to third, the drama of day-two was still not over for Wilks, when the rear of his Lancer clipped a bank on the exit of a corner on SS11. This bent the rear suspension and caused the car to handle strangely, until the problem was fixed at the service halt before the last loop of stages.
Realising that unless Higgins was to have a problem a win would be out of the question, Saturday saw Wilks focus on overhauling Mark's brother David in second place - and on stage 17 that's exactly what he did. Following another batch of fastest stage times, Wilks managed to reduce the final margin between him and the leader, but eventually had to settle for second on this occasion.
For Morrow the final day was one of consolidation, as to rejoin under SuperRally rules sees a 10-minute penalty applied for every stage missed. Therefore, a trouble-free run on Saturday resulted in a final of position of 16th, not the result he was looking for, but a finish and points towards the team's championship nonetheless.
The whole team was delighted that, other than accident damage, both of its Lancer Evolution IXs ran faultlessly, the cars built by Chesterfield-based ADR Motorsport, who also provide the on-event technical support.
The team is sponsored by Lovell Group and Virgin Money, together with its technical partners: HKS, Sparco, Speedline Corse, PIAA, Ricardo, and Performance Friction Brakes.
"We knew what we had to do this weekend and everything started well but luck was not running with us. We again proved we had the pace to win and to finish second even after changing a wheel is not a bad result. We therefore need to put the record straight for the remaining rounds to keep our title hopes on track. I have to thank David (Moynihan) for doing a good job and stepping in at the last minute in place of Phil (Pugh), who is currently suffering from back problems."
"I knew how important it was to do a good job for the team this weekend and, although I wasn't feeling completely comfortable with the set-up I had chosen, it was so frustrating that the only real moment I had was punished in such a dramatic way. The team did a great job in fixing the car and getting me back out for the final day and, although the final result was not what we wanted, at least we collected points for the team's championship, which I know is a priority for Mitsubishi."
"Following the result from round two, we came to the Isle of Man with a strategy to get our crews to the finish in strong positions. Even though we again proved that we have the quickest cars, things did not go according to plan, so once we have had a de-brief to assess our position in the team's and driver's championships, we will decide on what our strategy will be for the forthcoming Ulster Rally and for the rest of season in order to keep our championship hopes intact."