McCLOSKEY TAKES FOURTH IN EVO CHALLENGE Despite sustaining two punctures Connor McCloskey finished the Ulster International Rally in fourth place in the Mitsubishi Evolution Challenge and maintained his twelfth place overall in the British ...
McCLOSKEY TAKES FOURTH IN EVO CHALLENGE
Despite sustaining two punctures Connor McCloskey finished the Ulster International Rally in fourth place in the Mitsubishi Evolution Challenge and maintained his twelfth place overall in the British Rally Championship.
The event started with a last-minute co-driver change as Jonathan McGrath from County Cork stepped in two days before the rally. "We hadn't met before the start of the recce but I'm grateful to Jonathan for stepping in when Damien couldn't make it." said Connor at the start. The car had been transformed during testing when the DGM team replaced the front differential. "I think it has been playing up for a while," explained Connor, "but it was difficult to diagnose and not a simple job to change it on the off-chance."
Duly sorted, car and newly acquainted crew set off, missing the first stage after an accident blocked the road. Stages two and three was a learning experience as driver and co-driver acclimatised. At service the mood was generally good. "I'm taking a while to tune in to Jonathan but I think it will improve," said Connor, "we only had two stages and the second was difficult anyway because of the low sun, but I suppose it was the same for everyone."
As the event ran into darkness the pair began to find a rhythm, Connor pronouncing himself much happier. The car ran faultlessly and as the crew settled with each other they moved inside the top thirty after an understandably cautious start. "It may be a relatively local event for me," said Connor, "but I'd never driven on these roads before the recce and there's a long way to go, so I'm happy to be here with no real problems."
Saturday morning was a different picture as overnight and continuing rain was made the stages "Like driving down rivers!" The first stage, however, passed without incident but stage seven saw their first puncture of the event. Despite this and slowing for an accident ahead, their time was sufficient to move them up three places. Wet weather Pirellis were the only choice at service, but no soft compounds were available so the crew chose to make heavy cuts to help traction and braking.
Stage nine arrived and the conditions eventually caught out the youngster from Kilrea. Connor recounts the indiscretion, "We came over a double crest into a square corner and I thought I'd braked early enough. But she slid sideways on the mud and we went sideways through a fence. The car stalled and I couldn't re-start it very quickly, but as it fired up I could see a lady appear at her door, obviously surprised to see a car in her garden. I didn't have time to explain or apologise, so I'd like to say, Sorry for breaking your fence and I'm sure the event insurance will cover it."
Another loop of stages in drying conditions brought another unwelcome event. This time a front left hand puncture slowed the pair, but Connor continued, thinking the stage was shorter than the eventual 13 miles. Luckily the flailing tyre did no serious damage to the car but it made a severe dent on the time sheet. Losing around four minutes dropped them eight places and with just three stages remaining, it would be difficult to make up for it.
At the finish after the final trio of stages Connor seemed upbeat, "Those three were probably the best stages of the rally," he smiled, "and we've just discovered that we did them with one rear brake. The pad on one side had completely disintegrated so we've been braking with the piston against the disc."
The eventual result placed them 24th overall and leaves Connor just two points behind works Mitsubishi driver Rory Galligan in the overall British Rally Championship standings. It also maintains his second position in the PIAA Junior category of the Evo challenge with two rounds remaining in both series.