PIRELLI INTERNATIONAL RALLY OVERALL As the cars in the Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship made the final run back to the finish inCarlisle, the winners of the opening round, the Pirelli International were Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh...
PIRELLI INTERNATIONAL RALLY OVERALL
As the cars in the Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship made the final run back to the finish inCarlisle, the winners of the opening round, the Pirelli International were Guy Wilks and Phil Pugh for the second year in a row.
The Mitsubishi pair took the event by the scruff of the neck as they had in 2007, setting fastest times on all but one stage. Wilks' march to the top step of the podium was unhampered by anything more serious than acting as road sweeper to the following pack.
Fins Juho Hanninen/Mikko Markkula did not disgrace themselves though, taking a fine second in their debut on the Pirelli International Rally in their Subaru. They finished with a flourish on the final test, their stage time only 2.9 seconds adrift of Wilks'.
In a brand new N14 Subaru and third was David Higgins/ Ieuan Thomas, who were delighted to be on the pace again after swapping to the new car. They spent the rally fine tuning the car setup and were consistently close to the pace.
Mitsubishi Motors UK took the lead in the Teams' Championship by virtue of Wilks' win and a fourth place. In that position was team debutant Phillip Morrow who even set a fastest time, beating his Champion team-mate in his first outing in a left hand drive car and just missing the podium by 7.5 seconds. Team TQ.com was second, David Higgins third place making the lion's share of points while team Principal Hugh Evans dropped to 18th after a frustrating off meant he had to use Super Rally to restart. Atlas TEG Sport's Patrik Flodin and Wyn Humphreys took fifth and ninth place respectively and ended the event third, a single tantalisingly point adrift of second. Fourth is the Revolution Wheels Rally Team with just Rob Swann scoring points in eleventh. He had a frustrating event but team mate Karl Simmons retired with transmission problems.
PIRELLI STAR DRIVER AWARD
Juho Hanninen was also deemed to be the most impressive in the conditions by the Pirelli Star Driver judges. He took the "yellow jersey" at the finish in Carlisle by virtue of his performance against drivers with much better knowledge of the demanding Kielder stages. He is the first to be put forward to the end of season shoot-out, the eventual winner taking a fully funded drive in the 2009 British Rally Championship.
Reigning Pirelli Star Driver Darren Gass made a sensible start to his prize season, but a rare pace note error, left the Mitsubishi stranded in a ditch. The pair used Super Rally to gain mileage on Saturday, top ten times recovering them to 14th overall at the finish.
Rally 3/Diesel Cup
In the battle for Rally 3, Irishman Brian O'Mahony returned with an awesome sounding Renault Clio, climbing to 13th overall before a rear suspension component failed, leaving him unable to complete the event. He still took points though, classified as a finisher under Super Rally rules. Stefan Davis' event was fraught with problems from the start, his Puma succumbing to a mystery transmission problem by the end of the first stage.
In the Rally 3 diesels, Fin McCaul not only won the category from Steve Graham, but he took outright R3 victory as well; absolutely delighted with the improvements to his rear wheel drive BMW over the winter break. Astra diesel pilot Graham put up a fight, but a broken transmission joint ended their event, another scoring by virtue of Super Rally.
Rally 2/Citroen C2R2 Cup
Rally 2 is always a hotly contested class, the Pirelli being no exception; Swede Andreas Sjolander being chased by youngster Adam Gould early on. Gould's Clio challenge faded though, when he clipped a bridge and lost a wheel, but it was fellow Swedish Fiesta Championship runner Joakim Nyman who took victory, when Sjolander disappeared in unlucky stage thirteen, reportedly off the road.
Andrew Hockridge took second in R2 and won the Citroen C2R2 Cup in his debut BRC outing, delighted to take the win on his fist foray into a major rally championship. 2007 runner-up Martin Roberts drove well within himself to take third spot despite punctures, while Martin McCormack used Super Rally to take third in the C2s after his early lead was lost with gearbox trouble.
Rally 1/Suzuki Swift Sport Cup
The Rally 1 battle was all about the inaugural Suzuki Swift Sport Cup from where all the five entries came. The competition was close early on, seconds separating the identical specification cars, but the conditions meant that several runners suffered, not least early leader Danish Niki Bjerg.
The lead changed several times former BRC Stars driver Mark Gamble eking a lead ahead of Bjerg, before falling by the wayside with mechanical problems. Gordon Nichol took full advantage, keeping eventual second placed Nick Rowland at bay when he used Super Rally to complete the event on Saturday. Bjerg took consolation points for third in Super Rally, unable to join the others at the podium finish.
The next round of the Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship travels to the Scottish Borders in Kelso for the start of the Jim Clark International Rally on the weekend 24th/25th May.