Belfast: Ulster Rally leg one summary

Gallagher Gains Lead The Stena Line Ulster Rally - Leg 1, 6th September 2002 Leg 1 of the Stena Line Ulster Rally, the 6th round of the Pirelli British Rally Championship left Belfast city centre with the first of 16 206 Super Cup cars vying...

Gallagher Gains Lead

The Stena Line Ulster Rally - Leg 1, 6th September 2002

Leg 1 of the Stena Line Ulster Rally, the 6th round of the Pirelli British Rally Championship left Belfast city centre with the first of 16 206 Super Cup cars vying for the hotly contested points and share of £10,000 prize monies.

The first stage, Tardree 1 to the west of Belfast, saw nine miles of drama for the Peugeot Super 206 Cup competitors, Shaun Gallagher being fastest with Garry Jennings only 14 seconds behind despite clutch problems. George Phillipeddes' troubles continued. He had smashed his windscreen and bent his bonnet, when the bonnet flew up on his return from scrutineering the previous night. He went straight on up a bank at a square right, losing eight minutes with few spectators around to help him back on. Those who were there stood well back as a small fire took hold of a mudflap. Chris Moore reported a sticking throttle which in turn was causing the brakes to overheat as well as some scary moments into third place. Alun Pearson's event ended prematurely when he failed to get through the stage, rolling on the same bump as Galligan had earlier.

On Stage 2, Glendun 1, David Wright made nonsense of his lowly seeding and set fastest time, only 3/10ths of a second ahead of Gallagher. Jennings' dashboard lights incorrectly indicated that his engine was overheating, but Chris Moore's brakes were really overheating as he was plagued throughout the first three stages with a sticking throttle. "I can't trust either the brake, or the throttle" he complained. Brakes were obviously the problem of the day, since Andrew Pawley's rear pads had fallen out altogether. Not surprisingly, he said "I'm taking it very cautiously now!" Richard Sykes' end over end roll in this stage was mercifully without injury but put a premature end to his rally.

Jennings car was losing two litres of water per stage by Stage 3, Torr Head 1, but he was still only two seconds behind Wright who in turn was 10 seconds behind fastest man Gallagher.

The crews were relieved to arrive at first service in Glengariff where Gallagher was in the lead by 24 seconds from Wright with Jennings a scant 2 seconds behind that. The feelings of most of the Peugeot crews were summed up at Glenariff by Ben Roper: "I'm going steady because I want to rally again tomorrow." He then added "And I've still got shopping in the car!"

The next three stages were a rerun of the first three and service had provided a welcome opportunity for many crews to put things right. On Stage 4, Jennings took his first fastest stage time with Gallagher two seconds behind. Jennings who pronounced himself "much happier" and Chris Moore enjoyed his first stage with no problems. David Wright, in company with Mike Faulkner, went out on full wet tyres in anticipation of rain which did not materialise on that stage and consequently dropped five seconds on the leader conserving the tyres to the end of the stage.

Stage 5 saw Gallagher fastest once again, and reported that he was "taking it just steady". Jennings too said "it's a long day tomorrow, and I'm happy to have got this far, as I thought my engine was cooking earlier." Wright took 3rd fastest on this stage, dropping to third overall and said "I'm not trying hard, so not having any moments". Finn Marko Ramanen enjoyed these two stages better, as he had found it horribly bumpy on the first run through. Mike Faulkner had regained a lot of his confidence after his Jim Clark demise, while Chris Moore reckons that his car was down on power. He hadn't been in 6th gear all day, and said "you know when you are losing time, and I'm losing time!" A new engine management unit swap was planned for service.

The Dunbabin twins had resolved their earlier intercom problems and had gained confidence towards the end of the day. MacHale had been caught out with darkness falling on the last stage, but it was earlier in the day when he had been "driving like his grandmother"! Pawley had fixed his earlier brake problem and aimed to up his pace without taking chances. Martin Evans confessed to not liking the dark, and had been having handling problems with the car all day making it scary on the fast straights. Irishman Mike Bird also had a problematic tyre choice on the last pair of stages before service and found the car "breaking away" at the back. The Roper cousins were hoping that the service crew had repaired the lamp pod before it was attached at this service. Alan Ring was "very cautious", on his first year of rallying. He wants to finish this event. As does George Phillipeddes, whose dreadful day continued when it began to rain at the start of Stage 5 and his wipers stopped working. He had only been able to change one wishbone in Service, so was also still struggling with one bent one. "I've had better days" he said with a rueful smile.

With the last stage of Tardree, a rerun of the first, run entirely in the dark, it was Garry Jennings who showed a clean pair of heels to Wright, a mere four tenths separating them, with Gallagher just under two seconds behind that being blinded by a dashboard light. The overnight positions show Gallagher with a 25 second lead over Jennings and Wright chasing hard 7 seconds down on Jennings.

<pre> Posn. Driver/Co-driver Total 1 Gallagher/Pashley 0:51:02.7 2 Jennings/Nagle 0:51:28.5 3 Wright/Panes 0:51:35.3 4 Moore/Merry 0:52:31.6 5 Ramanen/Bevan 0:52:35.5 6 Faulkner/Clark 0:53:18.6 7 MacHale/Downey 0:53:24.3 8 Dunbabin/Dunbabin 0:53:40.7 9 Roper/Roper 0:53:53.6 10 Pawley/Sturla 0:54:52.0 11 Bird/Burke 0:55:19.1 12 Ring/Duggan 0:55:50.6 13 Evans/O'Gorman 0:56:13.2 14 Philippedes/Smith 1:03:47.1

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Series Other rally
Drivers Jim Clark , Alan Ring