Jones & Butler Second In Production Class On British Rally Championship Debut Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge regulars Stuart Jones and Ross Butler today finished the first round of the British Rally Championship, the ...
Jones & Butler Second In Production Class On British Rally Championship Debut
Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge regulars Stuart Jones and Ross Butler today finished the first round of the British Rally Championship, the International Rally of Wales, in sixth place overall and second in the Production class, behind the official Mitsubishi Lancer EvoVIII of Rory Galligan. Jones and Butler were competing on the event in a hired Mitsubishi Lancer EvoVII to preserve their own EvoVIII for the next round of the Evo Challenge.
The pair entered the event to gain additional competition experience to boost their chances for the Evo Challenge, as well as develop their pace note system, in advance of the two rounds which permit crews to use their own notes. Initially they were entered using Stuart's father Mick's Lancer EvoIII but a technical problem meant they switched to a hired Group N Lancer EvoVII, which they hadn't had the opportunity to drive prior to the opening stage.
A problem with the car's anti-lag system at the start of the first stage meant that they competed the first loop without the system in operation. Unfamiliarity with the car also mean they ran with the car's centre differential switched off, something not possible on their regular EvoVIII. "We switched the anti-lag system on at the start of the stage and the engine went straight round to 6000rpm. We lost time trying to sort it out and in the end, turned it off. But this car feels nice and I feel quite comfortable driving it already," said Jones at the event's first service. They arrived fourth in the Production class, behind the works Mitsubishis of David Higgins and Rory Galligan and the Subaru of Paul Wedgebury.
Stuart immediately set about catching Wedgebury's Subaru and a faster time on the third stage promoted Stuart and Ross to third in the production class. They consolidated this position during the rest of the leg, despite the cancellation of the final stage of the day following an accident. "I'm very happy with how today has gone," said Stuart. "I'm pleased with our speed relative to the works Mitsubishis and if I can stay within 1 second per mile of David's [Higgins] pace, then I'll be delighted. We just need to keep the pressure on to make sure we keep Paul [Wedgebury] behind us for the second leg."
Commenting on the development of their pace note system, co-driver Ross Butler said; "We're trying a slightly different speed and style of note delivery and that seems to be working well. We're now building up trust and confidence in our system and hopefully the speed will increase as they do."
The second day of the event saw Jones & Butler maintain the pressure and pace to ensure Wedgebury stayed behind them, setting a string of top stage times in the process. The day's first stage was foggy and Stuart was building confidence in his notes but still set fifth fastest time. "I don't think I can push much harder in this car now. But it seems to be working - we're in front of Paul and the pace to David and Rory is good."
Stuart and Ross had a moment in the penultimate stage of the event, however, as they came across a boulder in the middle of the road and had to change their line. The rear of the car slid wide and into a ditch but bounced out again. But there was a late sting in the tail for David Higgins, who retired on the same stage, meaning that Stuart and Ross arrived at the event's finish in Dolgellau sixth overall and second in the production class.
"I'm delighted with this result," said Stuart. "I think we got everything we could from this car and it served us well. My note system has definitely benefited from this event but there is still more I can learn and more trust and speed to be found. It's also been a very good event after the accident on the Border Counties Rally. It has given me much more confidence heading into the Roush Manx in two weeks' time."
Ross Butler was similarly pleased with the weekend's competition. "It's been a great weekend and this is a brilliant result, not just for us but for the whole team, who have worked really hard. I feel our notes have come on enormously, which will be a huge benefit, since two of the next three events allow us to use our own system."
Commenting on the result, Team Principal and Mentor Mick Jones said; "Of course I'm very proud of their performance this weekend. Stuart has driven very well, with a measured and mature pace and I never had any doubt that he would be able to demonstrate the kind of speed that would put him on par with the works cars. Ross has worked very hard on the note delivery and the organisational aspects of the event and the result is clear.
"As a team, we now find ourselves in an interesting situation though; while we are totally focussed on winning the Evo Challenge, and the works drive that goes with that, we appear to be competitive in the Production class of the BRC. We are in discussion with several parties at the moment to develop a budget to compete in the BRC alongside the Evo Challenge. We hope that we can find a way of achieving both."
The team's next outing in the Evo Challenge will be the Roush Manx Rally, based in Douglas on the Isle of Man, on the 6th and 7th May.
<pre> 2005 International Rally Of Wales Provisional Results 1 Austin McHale/Brian Murphy Ford Focus WRC 1:46:21.1 2 Sebastian Ling/Ian Allsop Hyundai Accent WRC 1:48:38.8 3 Jon Ingram/Shaun O'Gorman Ford Focus WRC 1:48:47.3 4. Rory Galligan/Greg Shinnors Mitsubishi Lancer EvoVIII (P) 1:48:56.0 5. Gareth McHale/Paul Nagle Toyota Corolla WRC 1:49:50.9 6. Stuart Jones/Ross Butler Mitsubishi Lancer EvoVII (P) 1:50:18.9 7. Paul Wedgebury/Gemma Price Subaru Impreza (P) 1:50:35.2 8. Richard Gower/Aled Davies Hyundai Accent WRC 1:51:03.7 9. Lorna Smith/Dave Robson Subaru Impreza (P) 1:54:05.4 10. Barry Clark/Neil Shanks Subaru Impreza (P) 1:54:21.5