As a former British RallyCross champion, Jonny Milner could have been forgiven for expecting to do reasonably well as he entered the recent Stock Hatch category of the championship round at Blighton airfield. It was perhaps with a bit more...
As a former British RallyCross champion, Jonny Milner could have been forgiven for expecting to do reasonably well as he entered the recent Stock Hatch category of the championship round at Blighton airfield. It was perhaps with a bit more surprise that the current British Rally Champion clinched victory and the maximum 100 points on offer after a near 13 year absence from the sport!
The Huggate driver took up the invitation to drive a 1600cc Peugeot 205 loaned to him by Jim Cooke, a rallycross regular. Jumping at the chance to go back to his roots and support his first love of rallycross, Milner was delighted to get back to the thrills of racing against others after many years of rallying at the highest level in the UK.
In the first of three qualifying races, Milner suffered a late puncture but still recovered to grab second overall by the time of the chequered flag. As the Yorkshireman began to remember the skills of racecraft again, he got progressively quicker. The second race saw Jonny start from the back of grid to fight all the way through the field to grab second by the end. Milner also recording the fastest lap of the race. For the third Stock Hatch race, Milner started from pole position, but dropped to second off the line, before recovering to finish strongly, again setting the fastest time.
With the two best times counting, it was no surprise that Milner lined up in pole position for the final. With highly rated driver James Harold alongside on the grid, it was Harold who took the early advantage with Milner slipping to second place once again. Harrowing constantly, Milner stepped up the pressure in the four lap race to close on the bumper of his rapid rival. As the course turned onto the loose gravel section, Jonny seized his chance and took first position back. There was no catching the Yorkshireman from then on, and he was more than delighted to take the victory, celebrating in true rallycross tradition by standing out of the car on the slowing down lap!
The former champion was delighted with his weekend's work:
"I have to thank Jim Cooke for the loan of the car. I've just had a brilliant time this weekend. The car was great fun to drive, and the whole weekend brought back so many great memories from when I used to compete in rallycross all the time.
More than anything, I was delighted to return and support the British Rallycross Championship itself. Not a lot has changed since I left thirteen years ago - the competition is still incredibly hard, but the lads here all enjoy themselves. The cars are all well prepared and we're all here to have fun and race to the end. I really don't think the sport gets the credit it deserves in that sense. After spending the last decade rallying, it was really good fun to go racing again, and trying to remember where to overtake and things like that. I had a fantastic time and I'd love to have another go soon."
Milner's more immediate plans centre around trying to defend the title of British Rally Champion. The Manx International Rally begins tomorrow, and Milner is one of the favourites to win on an event that he has enjoyed in the past.