Nichol leads Swifts from start to finish Swift Sport Cup round three Local driver Gordon Nichol and co-driver Emma Morrison sealed their first victory in the British Rally Championship's 2009 Swift Sport Cup, the Jim Clark International Rally...
Nichol leads Swifts from start to finish
Swift Sport Cup round three
Local driver Gordon Nichol and co-driver Emma Morrison sealed their first victory in the British Rally Championship's 2009 Swift Sport Cup, the Jim Clark International Rally last weekend.
Their one and a half minute winning margin does not do justice to the competitiveness of the event though, since four of the six crews set fastest times on the 150 mile event.
After a ceremonial start in Edinburgh, the Swifts set off into Friday evening, six stages running into the Berwickshire darkness. Nichol set the initial pace, but by the narrowest of margins, only one tenth of a second ahead of Luke Pinder and Peter Scott. The Yorkshire youngster had obviously put the high speed roll from the previous event well and truly behind him, but he in turn was hounded by Richard Sykes and Janice Moore, who were within two seconds of Pinder at the end of stage one.
Fourth was newcomer to UK tarmac, Australian Molly Taylor and Cumbrian Jemma Bellingham, pleased to be close to the pace on the unfamiliar surface. Fifth was a youngster used to asphalt, David Harrison ably co-driven by Glyn Thomas and still only 8.5 seconds behind the leader. In a distant sixth were Nick Everard and Chris Davies, their game plan to get to the finish and gain tarmac experience.
With another fastest time, Nichol pulled twelve seconds ahead, but it was Sykes on the attack, passing Pinder who was delayed by an accident on the stage. Harrison also had a charge and also moved ahead into third, but the story of stage two was written by the championship leader.
As the crews arrived at Duns for two blasts round the town, it was clear that Molly Taylor was missing. Reports came back that it was her accident that had delayed Pinder in stage two, later confirmed when she arrived at service.
"We went off and bounced across some rocks," she explained, "which pitched us onto the other side of the road where we bounced across more. It punctured both front tyres and bent both front wishbones so there we stayed."
Meanwhile it was Pinder setting the pace on both runs in Duns, but Harrison's spurt continued, having had to use the first stage as a shakedown. He overtook Sykes for second who was still less than two seconds adrift.
Status quo was then restored on the re-runs of stages one and two, Nichol increasing his lead to over half a minute, as Sykes slipped back ahead of Harrison who seemed to struggle in the closing darkness. Pinder's brakes went off, causing him to hit the wall of a house on a tight right hander, but the damage was minimal and he also ended the day ahead of Harrison in third. Everard had an eventful pair of stages, clipping a bank and struggling to engage third gear in his Swift.
Saturday dawned with the distant threat of showers, but this didn't dampen Sykes' enthusiasm. Now gelling with new co-driver Moore, they set their first of four fastest times throughout the event, but Pinder responded, reeling them in over the next three stages.
Taylor returned to the fray on Saturday, carrying a heft fifty minute penalty for missing five stages on Friday. Her goal was to make it to the finish and pick up both points and experience, but this didn't stop her becoming the fourth driver to pop in a fastest stage time on SS9.
The day's opening test saw the exit of David Harrison from a promising fourth place, a driveshaft letting go to leave the Swift with no drive. By stage ten Everard had also gone, mechanical failure robbing him of several stages experience.
Nichol continued to drive well within himself, the pace-note system that had caused trouble on the first two events now coming good. But it was the battle for second where the action was to be seen, Pinder passing Sykes for the position on stage eleven. Sykes responded with a fastest time to close the gap, but it was not to be. On the very next stage he rolled the yellow Suzuki, clearing a hedge and ending upside down in a field.
The resulting time loss inevitably dropped him back behind Pinder, but he stayed well clear of series leader Taylor whose tenacity was rewarded by fourth. Pinder cruised to second, but was never going to catch Nichol and Morrison at the front.
The amiable Scot never relinquished the lead from the first stage, the accompanying maximum points haul from the weekend closing him to within five points of the top of the Swift Sport Cup.
The next event in the Swift Sport Cup calendar is the longest of the year, Rally Isle of Man. The classic tarmac event will further test the drivers skills, the weather on the Island often playing its role in the outcome of the rally.
The Swift Sport Cup will be featured on Sky Sports' Rallyzone programme on the 8th July in the week leading up to Rally Isle of Man.