Woffinden's Hat-Trick, Metcalfe's Title
South of England Tempest Rally 5 - 6 November 2004 - Shaun Woffinden took his third straight victory on the Tempest Rally this weekend, but the 2004 Fiat Stilo Rally Cup drivers' title went to Tom Metcalfe.
The event was the final round of the series and of the Kwik Fit Pirelli British Rally Championship, which has used the Aldershot based gravel stages as its finale for three years. The Stilo Cup points permutations meant that it was mathematically possible for any of the top four to take the crown, but Chris Davies started the rally only needing a finish to be champion.
He set about the task with some style, and although he gave second best to Paul Tod and Tom Metcalfe on two of the three stages on Friday night, he was never slower than second and led by six seconds from Metcalfe. The young Scot described a stage two indiscretion: "We came over a crest into a hairpin left and I had to go for the hand brake to try and turn the car in." he continued, "It was all a bit frantic but we managed to stay on the road even with a 360 degree spin."
Tod found the crests quite difficult to read in the dark as they did not show up in the daylight recce, but his first stage victory kept him in touch with the top pair at the end of the first night. Fourth placed Shaun Woffinden was just under 20 seconds behind the leader, attributing his comparatively slow pace to a couple of factors,:"I thought we'd bent something on the rear, but it was a catching wheel scraper," he reported, "and Bob (Duck) and I have never competed before so it's a bit of a learning curve for us both."
Saturday dawned damp and overcast, but the daylight obviously suited Woffinden who immediately laid down the gauntlet with a fastest time. Davies still led, but the margin was down to 3.9 seconds and it was Woffinden at his heels. Both Tod and Metcalfe had gear selection difficulties on stage four, Tod managing to stay in touch with second placed Davies while Metcalfe dropped over a minute to the leader. "We've had the same problem for most of the year," said a resigned Tod, "but just when we thought we've got it fixed it's come back again." Metcalfe was in a worse situation, having never encountered a similar mechanical problem; he limped through most of the next three stages to service. Woffinden was quickest on all three stages but he had his own tale to tell at service. "I couldn't believe it," he grinned, "first I passed Tom, then Paul and when I saw Chris parked at the side of stage five, I thought, "That's it, if I finish, I've won the championship!" I couldn't concentrate for the rest of the stage."
His report of Davies' demise was confirmed by the Welshman's crestfallen service crew, "He's parked in stage five with a broken driveshaft," was the brief description given. Both Tod and Metcalfe however, made it back, and were despatched to the next loop of four stages, Metcalfe now in the same position that Davies had occupied: finish and win the Stilo Cup.
The reports at each successive service were very similar, aside from Woffinden sneaking two further fastest times, all the remaining ten stage victories went to a storming Paul Tod. Stage fourteen saw Tod encounter a brief gear problem again, but try as he might, he could not catch Woffinden who by now had a commanding lead. Metcalfe did the sensible thing, "I'm slowing down for potholes, jumps, corners, anything!" he said, "All I have to do is finish to make my 21st birthday complete."
The finish area was in darkness by the time the three Stilos completed the final stage of the final round of 2004. It did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of two camps in the Stilo service area, Woffinden and Metcalfe making it event and series winners respectively. Paul Tod was not too disappointed though, taking second place on the rally, his best result of the year.
There was champagne for both winners but the photographs with the prize Super 1600 Fiat Punto were reserved for Tom Metcalfe. The birthday boy congratulated Chris Davies' championship winning co-driver Nathan Parry, as Kirsty Riddick only joined the Metcalfe camp on round three. Woffinden's hat-trick of victories catapulted him from fourth to second in the final points table while Davies slipped to third.
Next year will see Tom Metcalfe contest the British Rally Championship in the Super 1600 Punto, while another batch of hopefuls battle for the title of 2005 Fiat Stilo Rally Cup champion.
The Fiat Stilo Rally Cup would like to thank Fiat Auto (UK) for the enthusiasm and support in this first year and acknowledge further support from Hi-Tec, Toora Competizione, PIAA, Bardahl, Pirelli and media partners Motorsport News. The staff and competitors of the Cup would also like to thank all those involved in the 2004 Kwik Fit Pirelli British Rally Championship for welcoming them so warmly this year.