'JONNY USHERS TO ULSTER THIRD'. Double British Rally Champion Jonny Milner maintained his lead of the Mitsubishi Evolution Challenge on this weekend's Ulster Rally. Milner finished third in the category on the event, rising to second ...
'JONNY USHERS TO ULSTER THIRD'.
Double British Rally Champion Jonny Milner maintained his lead of the Mitsubishi Evolution Challenge on this weekend's Ulster Rally. Milner finished third in the category on the event, rising to second place within the Tesco 99 British Rally Championship overall standings in the process after a strong drive in difficult weather conditions.
The Armagh based rally offered two testing days of stages on bumpy tarmac lanes, where rain was to play a crucial role in determining tyre choice. The Team Merlin International crew of Huggate based Milner and his Welsh co-driver Nicky Beech were looking forward to the event after a very positive performance on the recent Rally Isle of Man. Milner recovered from a problematic start to take a fine Evo Challenge win in his MSR Motorsport and Tom Walkinshaw Group built Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX.
Arriving in Northern Ireland, Jonny was was keen to repeat that performance, but expected a fierce challenge from close rivals Gwyndaf Evans and Stuart Jones. All three drivers were in similar machinery, and Milner was expecting a tough event in his Pirelli Tyres and Team Dynamics alloy wheels backed car.
Dry conditions greeted the crews on the opening leg, and Milner made the most of his experience as he set a string of competitive times in the Lancer. With chances of lifting the overall BRC title now slim, Milner was concentrating hard on taking as many Evo Challenge points as possible, and the Yorkshire ace moved into a comfortable third in the standings at the end of the first leg.
Not convinced that his Lancer was running with full power, Milner was keen to give a good account of himself on the second leg, as tyre choice became a lottery in the changeable conditions. Milner overhauled second placed Phillip Morrow on the second leg, and was then locked in a battle for third place with youngster Stuart Jones. The John Bean Garage Equipment, Snap On Diagnostics, Goldline Bearings, NGK Spark Plugs, Sparco, and Ferodo Competition Brake Pads backed Mitsubishi lacked punch out of slow corners, and Milner was struggling to hold off the charge from Jones.
Jonny gambled on an intermediate tyre choice for the final loop of stages, but the gamble didn't pay off. Jones was able to keep his second place, but Jonny kept out of trouble to score a very welcome third in the Evo Challenge points, retaining his lead. Disappointed not to have held off Jones for second, Jonny was nonetheless happy to have scored plenty of BRC and Evo Challenge points for the second event running:
'I'm very happy to have retained the Evo Challenge lead' said Jonny at the finish. 'It is a little disappointing not to have had the pace to feature on the overall BRC leaderboard, but the car seems to be lacking some low down power at the moment, as we just don't seem to be able to get on the overall pace. In fairness to Gwyndaf, he drove very well this weekend, and he deserved the Evo Challenge win. We did our best to hold off Stuart Jones, but he drove well and we couldn't take the battle to him in the wet unfortunately. It could have been a lot worse of course, as we've retained the lead in the Evo Challenge and moved up to second spot in the overall BRC points standings, which shows how consistent we have been this year. Next up is my home event in Yorkshire, so of course I'm confident of doing well there. I cannot take anything for granted though, and it will certainly be a tough battle with Gwyndaf, Stuart and the others. Hopefully with a good clean run and a few tweaks to the car we can be right on the pace on home soil'.
Milner will be hopeful of a warm welcome in the North Yorkshire forests. The local favourite has tasted the victory champagne on home soil before, and will be desperately keen to repeat that success this year. The Trackrod Rally Yorkshire uses the classic Yorkshire stages of Dalby, Cropton and Gale Rigg. The stages are some of Jonny's favourites, and Jonny will look to use home advantage and more on October 7th.