Rautenbach rues punctures on Pirelli Overcoming a series of punctures and encountering some extremely stiff competition from no less than 7 previous British Rally Champions, young Conrad Rautenbach did not put a foot wrong as he tackled the ...
Rautenbach rues punctures on Pirelli
Overcoming a series of punctures and encountering some extremely stiff competition from no less than 7 previous British Rally Champions, young Conrad Rautenbach did not put a foot wrong as he tackled the infamous Kielder Forests on this weekends Pirelli International Rally and left Carlisle with a fine 10th overall to his name.
Despite very limited gravel testing in his brand new N12 Subaru Impreza Conrad battled event long with some of the finest drivers in the British Isles and had it not been for some very time consuming punctures his overall result could have been far different.
16 stages, run over 2 days, and consisting of over 110 miles of competitive action in the famous stages of Kielder forest, the Pirelli Rally was the opening round of the 2006 Tesco 99 Octane British Rally Championship. And with 7 previous British Champions with no less than 9 British titles amongst them competing head to head with the young Zimbabwean, this event was to be a true test of his skills. Conrad opened his account with a solid run through Bower 1. 9th quickest and only 2 and a half seconds off Guy Wilks, in a Suzuki S1600 was not bad.
Stage 2, Rushy Knowe, saw Conrad drop time with a puncture, but he fought back on the next 2 stages to return to Carlisle, and first service, in 12th position, less than a minute off the leaders. The difference between 10th and 12th was only a handful of seconds and thus Conrad set off on the afternoon loop with this target in mind. Clean runs in the next 2 stages, including going 8 seconds quicker in the re-run of Bower, meant Conrad was now 6 seconds ahead of 1995 British Champion Alister McRae!
Stage 8, Kershope, is a well known stage from the RAC Rallies of old, and has a fearsome reputation. Alas poor Conrad suffered with another puncture and lost a lot of time in the stage, allowing McRae to move ahead of him. Conrad retaliated on the very next stage, going 15 seconds quicker to re- take 11th overall!
Day 1 ended with a short blast around the 'P zero' spectator stage before the cars headed back to service and then parc ferme for the night. Despite the punctures Conrad was confident of making up time and had his eyes on the 10th position of fellow Impreza driver Julian Reynolds, who was only 19 seconds ahead.
Sunday began with a re-run of Ash Park, which was pretty deeply rutted, and Conrad opted to conserve the car. This approach was to pay dividends as others struggled with mechanical problems and punctures and allowed Conrad to post some solid times and moved him up to 10th overall. All event long Conrad had been trading times with the more experienced Julian Reynolds and Conrad was still very much in with the chance of catching him through the final loop of stages. Another competitor to come dangerously close to being overhauled was young Mitsubishi pilot Stuart Jones, but Conrad eventually ran out of stages, and had to be content with 10th overall, a mere 7.8 seconds behind Jones.
'The rally was ok for me, but the 3 punctures on Saturday spoilt my rhythm a bit. After that I was just looking after the car as Kielder is notorious for catching you out. The car ran faultlessly all weekend and I must give full credit to the boys at Geoff Jones Motorsport for preparing the car perfectly for me.'
Although the next round of the British Championship is the Jim Clark Rally in June, Conrad flies out first thing on Monday to begin the recce for the Sardinian round of the Junior World Rally Championship, a series in which Conrad is contesting a Renault Clio S1600.