Hughes blues after gearbox woes
Welsh star Simon Hughes returned to the top of the timesheets on the Rallye Krumlov, but a mechanical failure on the eighth stage of the Czech event would see him retire whilst setting fastest times. The Colwyn Bay ace had an eventful time on this, the third round of the Skoda Fabia Rallye Cup that Simon jointly lead going into the Cesky Krumlov based rally.
Partnered by Ulsterman Glenn Patterson, Hughes was keen to try and take the Championship lead for himself, and was expecting a fierce battle with main rival Josef Sedlacek. Fabia Cup regular Antonin Novak was also likely to feature well on this event, making the most of his knowledge of the stages. Hughes's MAX Racing prepared Skoda would certainly be put to the test on some of the fastest roads within the Czech national series.
Run over two days, the first day's action would see the crews contest six stages, running late into the night and the dark. Blisteringly hot conditions greeted Simon and Glenn for the event, with temperatures up in the high eighties for the whole week near to the Austrian border.
Unfortunately for Hughes, the opening stage of the rally would prove to be a frustrating one, as the Fabia collected a rear puncture less than halfway into the 11 kilometre stage. The crew drove on the flailing rubber for nearly 6 kilometres, and dropped 30 seconds to the fastest time. Hughes hit back immediately by going fastest on SS2, before a brake pipe failure on the third stage at the end of a long straight would put the Fabia off the road for over two minutes before they could continue.
At service, a deflated Hughes found himself 6th in the Cup standings, nearly two and half minutes from the leaders. Simon set off for the final loop of three stages on the first day determined to move up the field, and a two further fastest times helped move him up to 4th overnight.
Day two would see Simon with a simple plan - to be fastest on every stage. The Welshman was good to his word as he set the pace once more on the opening long stage. With full confidence restored, Hughes set off into the second stage of the day and was surely heading for another excellent time - but the Fabia had decided its participation in the high speed chase was over. Less than one kilometre from the end of the stage, the car suddenly lost all transmission drive, and Hughes had to coast out of the stage. With an hours drive back to service, Hughes rally had ended as the Fabia was unable to select any gears.
Simon said 'Its very disappointing - but it had been a fraught rally for us. The puncture was a bad start and we were lucky not to have done serious damage to the car with the brake failure. It was quite a frightening moment at the time. The main thing is that we showed that we had the pace to match and beat our rivals, and without our problems, we would have definitely been in the three way fight for the lead. Josef Sedlacek is definitely going to be a hard man to beat this year, but I shall be trying hard to do that on the next event in Croatia in two weeks time'.
The Fabia Cup now travels to Zagreb in Croatia for the INA Rallye, a round of the European Championship as well. Patterson is unavailable for the event due to commitments in the UK, so Hughes will re-unite with World Rally Championship co-driver Craig Parry for the rally. Hughes is already fiercely determined to make up for his no-score on the Croatian event.