Podium pleasure for resurgent Milner. Jonny Milner finishes third on the Ulster Rally, moving one step closer to BRC glory in 2003. Jonny Milner took a giant stride closer to being a double Pirelli British Rally Champion after scoring a fine...
Podium pleasure for resurgent Milner.
Jonny Milner finishes third on the Ulster Rally, moving one step closer to BRC glory in 2003.
Jonny Milner took a giant stride closer to being a double Pirelli British Rally Champion after scoring a fine third overall on this weekend's Ulster Rally. Milner recovered from a steady start to take second in the British Championship points in his Team Dynamics and Pirelli backed Toyota Corolla WRC.
With Nicky Beech on the pace notes, Milner had to finish inside the top three of British Rally Championship points scorers on the two day event, round five of the PBRC. Starting from Armagh, the rally used a loop of stages close to the town on the first day, before moving to the classic Sperrin mountain stages for the longer second leg. Conditions were exceptionally difficult, with light to heavy rain descending on the stages at times. Mixed with the familiar Irish gravel and mud often found lurking around the next corner, a tough challenge was expected.
Before the rally had started, Jonny had decided that a cautious approach to the 120 stage mile event was best. Cautious was definitely the word as Jonny ended the first leg of six stages in 6th place overall, but crucially 4th in the PBRC points positions. Milner was 38 seconds behind the flying former Irish Tarmac Champion Austin McHale. Jonny had found the car nervous in the constantly variable weather conditions, and was looking forward to the second day, on stages he and Beech felt were better suited to the Corolla's set up.
Sure enough, Jonny was good to his word. A strategic switch to the softer Pirelli intermediate tyre proved to be the right decision for the team. Milner snatched seven seconds from McHale on the opening stage of the morning, Boheraghe. Another nine seconds were taken from the Irishman on the next two stages as Jonny moved up a gear on the patchy wet roads.
The flying Yorkshireman cut further into McHale's lead over the next loop of stages. Milner really throwing down the gauntlet with fastest time on stage eleven - Austin now seven seconds in front. However, on the next stage, Milner went ahead by 0.9 of a second. The all important 3rd PBRC points position was now a real possibility.
McHale's challenge to Milner faded thereafter, as Jonny entered the final stage with a 24 second margin over the Dubliner. Finnish youngster Jari-Matti Latvala was 29 seconds in front of Milner, so Jonny opted for the safe tyre choice of Pirelli wet weather tyres for the final blast. Incredibly, teenage sensation Latvala threw away his second position - losing a minute on the very last stage. As a result, Jonny's persistent charge brought 3rd overall, and second in the points. A good day at the office had become a very good one indeed for Jonny:
"I'm delighted with the result. Of course I have sympathy for Jari-Matti, but second in the points standings on this event has really boosted our chances of lifting the title on home soil in Yorkshire. I think we need to finish in the top seven points scorers on the Trackrod Rally to be sure of both the drivers and co-drivers titles. I've learnt over the years that you can never be sure of anything in rallying, so we will probably take a cautious approach to the rally - just like we did in Ulster this weekend.
Some of these Ulster lanes are so tricky to drive flat out on. The combination of the blind crests, gravel in the road, mud from the tractors and of course the rain really do make it probably the toughest rally of the year. The effort and concentration required to keep the car going at that speed is huge. All the lads in the team did a great job once again this weekend - the car never missed a beat and our decision to go on Pirelli intermediates when others around us chose the safer wets was a good one.
So, its time to go home to Yorkshire, and hopefully we can do as well there as we did last year. We'll give it our very best shot that's for sure."
Pirelli British Rally Championship Points after Ulster Rally.
1. Jonny Milner - 69 points.
2. Austin McHale - 44 points.
3. Tapio Laukkanen - 42 points.
4. Kris Meeke - 31 points.
5. Jari-Matti Latvala - 23 points.