Powys based David Higgins battled valiantly against the cream of Word Rally Championship drivers this weekend, as he and co-driver Daniel Barritt made their debut in a Barretts of Kent Subaru Impreza World Rally Car on the Network Q Rally of Great Britain.
After securing a late deal to run a Ken Skidmore provided Subaru Impreza WRC99, Higgins and Burnley co-driver Barritt were in a confident mood ahead of the Cardiff based event. The SCCA Pro Rally and British Production Cup Rally Champions have had an excellent year of rallying and were determined to go to Britain's only round of the World Rally Championship to show their undoubted pace.
With the very latest and best rally tyres being provided by Pirelli UK, Manxman Higgins started steadily as he learned the new car. The Friday leg of stages saw Higgins in a strong battle for top privateer with WRC regulars Armin Kremer and Tomasz Kuchar. A turbo problem towards the end of the leg meant that a turbo change was required, and with this easily made in the service time at the end of leg, Higgins was looking forward to the Saturday stages.
The first stage of Saturday, Resolfen was the longest on the rally at just over 54 kilometres. After a good start to the stage, David was held up when he caught the struggling Peugeot of Juuso Pykalisto, and Higgins lost over half a minute as he trailed the Finn on the narrowest part of the stage.
Sadly, just two stages later, Higgins and Barritt would be forced to retire from the rally after a bizarre incident that forced them off the road, as David explained:
"On the Halfway stage, we were flat out in 6th gear and approaching the braking point for the next bend. As I hit the brakes, the car immediately swapped ends and we went off the road backwards. Unfortunately there was a ledge on the other side of the bank and the car came to rest there. I walked back to where we had braked and the tyre marks looked as though we had gone off facing forwards. It was a very strange incident and I'm still completely bewildered as to why it happened.
I was a little disappointed at how big the gap was between our 99 spec car and the current WR cars from the works teams. Despite driving at a speed that would be higher than normal speeds at British Rally Championship level, there was nothing we could do to make up the time difference despite going 100%. Having said that, it really was an excellent experience and I must thank our sponsors, Barretts of Kent, Steel River and Alpinestars for their help on the rally. I cannot praise Pirelli enough for their support and also throughout the year. They have given us tremendous service this season."
Higgins will now concentrate on securing a deal for the 2003 season, and has also been invited to contest the ever popular Bologna Rallysprint in Italy, a traditional season ending sprint to coincide with the Bologna Motorshow.