Simon's solid second keeps title dream on track
Welsh rally star Simon Hughes retained his lead in the 2005 Skoda Fabia Rallye Cup, after taking a fine second in the points and twenty third overall on this weekends Valasska Rally in the Czech Republic.
After dominating the opening round of the series on snow and ice, Colwyn Bay based Hughes would find warm sunshine and dry tarmac on offer for two days of intensive action near to the Polish border. Partnered by Ulsterman Glenn Patterson, Simon was determined to maintain his excellent form from the first round, and was looking forward to twelve special stages on the fast and bumpy Czech country roads.
Series rival Josef Sedlaček was widely tipped to be the man to watch on this event, as it was home territory for the Czech driver, who lived in the region. It was not a false warning - as the local man pushed hard on the opening loop of stages to take the lead from Simon, who admitted he had been over cautious on the first stage of the event.
As Friday dusk turned into a cold and dark evening, a change to softer Michelin tyres was a good move for Simon. Hughes recorded his first fastest time of the rally on SS4, and continued to increase his pace. Despite Simon pushing hard, Sedlaček was on the limit of adhesion and beyond as he moved into a near thirty second lead over Hughes as the rally drew to a close at midnight.
Saturday was another fine sunny day, and Hughes was keen to close the gap on his rival. Simon set an excellent pace in the opening stage of the morning as he drastically increased the gap to the competitors behind him, but once again, Sedlaček was pressing home his superior knowledge of the stages as he pulled away from Hughes. A bent wheel hampered Simon's charge on one stage, but the MAX Racing run Fabia had run superbly throughout the weekend. With one final loop of three stages to go, Hughes once again notched up some fastest times to end on a high, but Sedlaček had shown the young Welshman that he will be a highly competitive rival over the remaining rounds of the series this year.
'Fair play to Josef - his pace this weekend was really something else' commented Simon at the finish. 'We were pushing hard pretty much all weekend, and although we were able to match his pace on a few stages and beat him, he really made the most of his local event and local knowledge on the longer stages. However, second is a result that Glenn and I are happy with, as it means we still lead the series jointly with Josef now.
We know the pressure will be on us to beat him on the next couple of rallies, so we'll be very keen to raise our games higher in order to make sure that its a good fight on the next rally. Josef really deserved his win on this rally, so we're very much looking forward to the next event in the series as its all to play for'.