Duckworth shines on the Scottish showdown. KUMHO National Rally Championship front runner Roger Duckworth netted his third maximum points score in a row at the Park Systems Furniture Stages Rally this weekend, held in the Galloway Forests of...
Duckworth shines on the Scottish showdown.
KUMHO National Rally Championship front runner Roger Duckworth netted his third maximum points score in a row at the Park Systems Furniture Stages Rally this weekend, held in the Galloway Forests of South West Scotland.
Fresh from recent victories on the Mutiny and Swansea Bay Rallies, Duckworth was re-united with regular co-driver Mark Broomfield as the pair were never headed on the five special stages close to the base town of Newton Stewart. Duckworth finishing second overall, just 7.3 seconds behind non KUMHO registered driver Barry Johnson in his similar Subaru Impreza WRC, despite a day long misfire in his Integral Powertrain backed machine.
The day had started in the most dramatic of fashion however. Championship leader and pre event favourite to lift the KUMHO crown was David Mann. The Flixton Mushroom farmer suffered a terminal gearbox problem less than a mile into the first stage of the rally. Duckworth had to visit the ditch in order to get past the stricken Subaru, whilst the Hyundai Accent WRC of Steve Petch/John Richardson were even less fortunate. As they tried to pass the Subaru on a narrow stretch of forest road, they also took to the ditch - but hit the corner of a bridge parapet - destroying the front right corner of their car.
A few miles further down the road on the second stage, two other leading drivers were also getting ready to go home. Martyn Harrison/Jude Wylie slipped off the road in the classic Glentrool stage, beaching the Metro 6R4 and unable to rejoin. Scottish Champion and one time KUMHO front runner Raymond Munro had a straightforward retirement however, as the engine on his Subaru Impreza WRC let go just a few miles further on.
Those retirements were good news for one of the closest Group N battles seen for a long time. Paul Wedgebury/Neil Dashfield, Anthony Wilmington/Andy White and Steve Palmer/Stephen Greenhill were all fighting tooth and nail for the Production Cup honours on the event. Less than a handful of seconds separated all three drivers during the five stages. Palmer regretting the fact that he had chosen the wrong setting for his Mitsubishi's active centre differential on the first stage, which cost him some time.
"Wedgo" also lost around 10 seconds when he caught Tony Thompson who was suffering with a puncture in his Lancer. "Wilmo's" biggest problem of the day came on the opening stage, when his drinks bottle got jammed under the pedals of his Lancer - causing a few hair raising moments. A rear puncture near the very end of Glentrool was his only other problem of the day. However, after five frenetically paced stages, Wedgebury took home the class honours by 0.1 of a second from Wilmington, with Palmer just 15 seconds further back. It had been a great battle, with the three cars taking 3rd, 4th and 5th overall in the process.
Fourth in Group N were Brendan Crealey/Steve Harris. The pair are better known for being the team to catch in Group N and the Evo Challenge. A finish on the rally would give them the dream prize for next year - a works drive in the 2004 KUMHO series in a full Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII. Brendan duly obliged!
Tony Thompson/Ian Windress rounded of the Top Ten in their TidyBike.com Mitsubishi after a fraught day. A puncture early on was the precursor to the Evo bottoming out heavily in a hole, damaging the chassis leg. Having a less traumatic day were Richard Ceen/Eddie Myatt - the Lancer driver was driving for the first time in Scotland and was taking a while to adapt to the conditions. Ceen kept it going to the end, and was rewarded with maximum points in Class A8.
Super 1600 would see Andy Gwynne and Michael Coomber battling out for the honours. Coomber took the lead when Gwynne suffered a puncture that ripped off his left rear suspension pipes. With that problem solved, Gwynne and junior co-driver Holly Robinson rocketed past Coomber on the final stage to take a very well earned class A6 and S1600 win.
The battle for Class A5 fell to the in form Stephen Petch/Mike Wilkinson. Petchy was never headed in his Ford KA, despite wishing he had an extra 30mph at times on the long straights in the little machine. Kevin Wills gave chase as best he could in his Micra Kit Car, whilst youngster Ed Stallard collected the KUMHO Star of the Meeting award in his Peugeot 106. Ed and John Youd had to struggle with only 3rd and 4th gear for most of the day, but still managed to bring the car home in one piece, giving them a chance of title success on the final round.
With just one more round to go in the series, all is still to play for in terms of the title. Mann needs to collect 16 points to take the title, providing that Roger Duckworth wins the rally outright. Given Roger's current run of form, it would be a brave man to back against him as the KUMHO Championship looks set for one of the most exciting final rounds in recent history.