Vauxhall takes its first major title of the 21st century, winning this year's Mobil 1 British Rally Championship. Outright victories in three of the five rounds so far held this year, together with a string of podium places has confirmed...
Vauxhall takes its first major title of the 21st century, winning this year's Mobil 1 British Rally Championship. Outright victories in three of the five rounds so far held this year, together with a string of podium places has confirmed Vauxhall's position at the forefront of British motorsport.
"This is a great achievement in what has, so far, been one of the most closely fought seasons," said Mike Nicholson, Vauxhall's Motorsport Manager. "Our drivers Mark Higgins and Neil Wearden have done a tremendous job, each winning rallies outright as the year progressed, and Ray Mallock Limited (RML) has surpassed itself in building and running the Astra Kit Cars to an extremely high and competitive standard - the standard necessary for Vauxhall to take its first manufacturer title of the new millennium."
Vauxhall first stamped its authority on the 2000 Mobil 1 British Rally Championship in March, when Mark Higgins, co-driven by Bryan Thomas, won the forest based Vauxhall Rally of Wales outright and was followed across the finish ramp in second place by Neil Wearden/Trevor Agnew. The second round, in May, provided a pair of rare non-finishes for the Vauxhall drivers on the Pirelli International, held in the forests of the Scottish borders, but hopes were strengthened by a third place Scottish Rally finish for Higgins/Thomas in June - although Wearden/Agnew were unlucky to finish as low as sixth when they lost the rally lead almost within sight of the finishing forest stages.
In July the championship entered its second half of all-tarmac rallies and the Vauxhalls bounced back in a formidable show on the Borders based Jim Clark Memorial Rally. Higgins/Thomas again scored victory, with Wearden/Agnew settling for third after an early lead of this unique nighttime event held over specially closed public roads. Later the same month, Wearden/Agnew were spraying the champagne as winners of the MSA Rally, a pilot all-tarmac event in the east of England, but that left Higgins/Thomas licking their wounds after a surprising accident which wrecked their Astra front suspension whilst leading the short, sharp single-day event based in Grantham.
In a year which has produced exciting, close competition, Vauxhall has faced a tough fight on its way to title success. Victory on two of the rally events went to cars from rival manufacturers: Volkswagen, driven by the reigning British Rally Champion, Tapio Laukkanen and Mitsubishi, the former World Rally Champion marque. Hyundai has thrown in the towel by not entering the final round.
The Manx International Rally (September 7/9) remains as the final round in the championship, and could see Neil Wearden continuing Vauxhall's success by clinching the Driver's title - a chase in which he currently holds second place behind Finland's Marco Ipatti.
2000 Mobil 1 British Rally Championship - after 5 rounds of 6 (provisional): 1, Vauxhall 46 pts; 2, Hyundai 36; 3, Proton 33; 4, Volkswagen 32; 5, Peugeot 30.