All change for asphalt As the 2010 Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship reaches its first asphalt event in the guise of the Jim Clark International Rally next weekend, it is a somewhat surprised Jonny Greer and Dai Roberts who lead the ...
All change for asphalt
As the 2010 Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship reaches its first asphalt event in the guise of the Jim Clark International Rally next weekend, it is a somewhat surprised Jonny Greer and Dai Roberts who lead the series.
The Northern Irish driver and Welsh co-driver scored their best ever result on last month's Pirelli Rally after a gearbox scare on Friday night. As an added family bonus, his co-driver Dai was joined by brother Gareth on the podium, as far as anyone can remember the first co-driving brothers to share the champagne on a BRC event.
It was Gwyndaf Evans and Chris Patterson who took the victory in Cumbria though; twelve years after the Welshman's last win on the Pirelli Rally at the wheel of a Seat Ibiza. With his vast experience and undeniable pace, the fifty year-old is more than capable of winning, but the forthcoming Jim Clark Rally has not been kind to him, failing to finish on any of his four International starts.
Greer's fine second place came at the expense of reigning BRC champion Keith Cronin, who suffered an agonising retirement yards before the finish, when a flailing punctured tyre broke the Pirelli TEG Sport Impreza's wiring loom. It was a puncture that prevented him from taking victory on his first attempt at the Jim Clark Rally last year, although the two minute loss on stage two set up a fantastic fight-back, coming within two seconds of the Mark Higgins' lead at one point.
Craig Breen and Gareth Roberts had a frustrating Pirelli Rally, finding it hard to rebuild confidence after a high speed crash on home asphalt. But they come to the Borders fresh from a great result in Ireland, finishing third overall in Killarney. The young crew will want to maintain the momentum after the change to asphalt and put their 2009 Borders retirement out of their minds.
Alastair Fisher and double BRC champion Rory Kennedy have had a nightmare start to the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship season, suffering transmission failure on the first two events while lying within grasp of a win. Their Irish Rally Championship campaign is going somewhat better though, leading the series after excellent back-to back results on asphalt. It is this impetus that they will need to maintain to recover something from a disastrous start to their British campaign.
Icelandic Champion Daniel Siguroarson with co-driver Asta Sigurdardottir used his previous experience of the Carlisle based event to score his career best BRC result with fourth place. The consistent drive not only moved the brother and sister partnership into second in the points table, but moved JR Motorsports into joint lead of the Dulux Trade MSA British Teams Rally Championship with reigning champions Pirelli TEG Sport.
A shock result for 2008 Pirelli Star Driver Adam Gould put him third in Wales, but it was an event done on a shoestring for the youngster, so a GBP 310,000 MSA bursary for the Team UK member was welcome news. It will be another financial struggle to get to his favourite event in the calendar, nevertheless he shares third place in the points with Jason Pritchard, while co-driver Craig Drew shares second with Sigurdardottir.
Driving his first full season in an Impreza is Welsh youngster Pritchard with Robbie Durant alongside for the first time. The pair has gelled well after just two BRC events and Pritchard must be pleased to be joint third in the championship, having been let off the leash following three years learning the events in a Citroen.
Pirelli TEG Sport's second crew Euan Thorburn and Paul Beaton had a cracking start to the season, helping forge a lead in the Teams Championship with a fourth place in Wales. A puncture and heavy time loss was never recoverable on the Pirelli leaving them a lowly fourteenth, but having been second in 2009 on his home Jim Clark until driveshaft failure, they will be looking forward to proving their pace on the Borders lanes.
Thorburn is one of four drivers tied on points for fifth, joined on twenty points apiece by Cronin, Gwyndaf Evans and his son Elfyn, surely the first time father and son have been so far up the leaderboard together in the British Rally Championship.
Young Evans has had a cracking first two events in his first full BRC season. He leads the Dulux Trade MSA British Junior Rally Championship, the Rally 3 category and the Fiesta SportTrophy, despite using the older specification Fiesta ST. To have a pair of top ten overall finishes to his credit in a two wheel drive car and take the Pirelli Star Driver nomination on the opening round must have made dad proud.
Hot on the heels of the young Welshman is another youngster. 24 year-old Finnish ace Jarkko Nikara was thrown in at the deep end with a brand new Twingo in Wales and will struggle here again, this time with an unfamiliar surface in the Borders. However with undeniable natural talent he will be one to watch in the distinctive little Renault.
Dave Weston Jnr and Ieuan Thomas started the season extremely well with second place on Rally North Wales. They trailed BRC Champion Cronin by just two points before the Pirelli, but failed to finish in Cumbria, rolling heavily with two stages remaining. They will therefore use the team's second car on the Jim Clark and hope that history doesn't repeat itself, having crashed on the Leitholm stage here last year.
Just outside the top ten are Owen Murphy and James O'Brien who are equal third in the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge despite a clutch failure on the first stage of 2010. The Irishmen should go well on their favourite surface, but against such stiff opposition it will be hard to predict anyone's position at the finish.
The 40th running of the Jim Clark Rally sees a continuation of the successful Friday evening start, with a chance for the top twenty to meet and greet the fans in Duns before the first stage through the town's streets.
Nearly 130 fantastic asphalt stage miles face the crews, 90 of which take place on Saturday, but the major topic of conversation in the run up to and during the event will be the weather. Not only because it is a British pastime, but because tyre choice in typically changeable May bank holiday weather could easily affect the outcome of this already challenging rally.