GARETH MACHALE MOVES IN SIGHT OF TOP TEN
Gareth MacHale and Paul Nagle finished the first day of their first Wales rally GB in an excellent thirteenth place after starting cautiously in their Ford Focus.
At the ceremonial start in Cardiff on Thursday night Gareth admitted that he would be playing catch up in the early stages as he has not competed for nearly three months. He said, "I'd be happy if we finished the event inside the top ten, but with 23 World Rally Cars out this weekend, I know it is going to be difficult."
The team managed just 50 miles of testing in the 2003 Ford Focus WRC and with two runs on the shakedown session, they started Friday knowing they had work to do. The first loop comprised three stages and 43 miles and despite their lack of match practice, they still managed to post a time within the top twenty. "We were in the same boat as the other competitors with patchy fog but as it our first attempt at the event, I was reasonably happy with the first stage. The 2005 car's diffs are sharper so I've had to adapt to the way this one behaves on the inconsistent surface. It was difficult to commit to some of the corners but it improved as we completed more stages."
By the first service they had begun to push harder and moved up to fifteenth place despite a gearbox scare. The car began jumping out of fifth gear but it was easily fixed at service when it was discovered that the gear activator was overheating. "We used some heatproof tape and it sorted the fault straight away," explained Gareth at the service area in Swansea.
The next three stages were a repeat of the first and the pair was immediately happier. "We were faster through stage four than we had been when it ran this morning," said Gareth, "and we closed the gap to the guys in front. It just goes to show how important it is to be out competing on a regular basis."
At the final 45 minute service of the day Gareth and Paul were pleased with their progress but Gareth promised more to come. "There is still a long way to go and we will continue to push tomorrow. Thirteenth is a good position to be in after the first day and we'll try to keep the momentum from the start."
The event restarts tomorrow with a 10 minute service at 07.20 with the first stage Crychan at 08.50.