SUPER RALLY TO GASS'S RESCUE Darren Gass and reigning BRC production champion co-driver Neil Shanks were highest placed Super 1600 privateers on this weekend's Pirelli International Rally even after retiring on day one of the event. New ...
SUPER RALLY TO GASS'S RESCUE
Darren Gass and reigning BRC production champion co-driver Neil Shanks were highest placed Super 1600 privateers on this weekend's Pirelli International Rally even after retiring on day one of the event.
New regulations for the 2006 British Rally Championship mean that any crew failing to finish the first leg of the event can re-start on leg two albeit with a hefty time penalty. The system is borrowed from the World Rally Championship here it has been successfully used for a couple of years now and means that spectators have a better chance of seeing their heroes in action.
Darren and Neil's BRC campaign was always going to be a steep learning curve and the Carlisle based event is a daunting one, as it uses the world renowned Kielder forest. After testing a similar Fiesta in Wales the team had instructions to start slowly and build confidence and speed, but ultimately to bring the car to the finish and gain experience.
The first day consisted of ten stages and the team's plan was going to plan until stage eight; 25th overall, Darren had altered his driving style to increase traction from the front wheel drive 220bhp Fiesta and was building his pace, but part-way through the first running of Kershope the car was reported stopped. "The front suspension broke," explained Neil, "and with it the steering went. Luckily it wasn't a fast section but it dragged us into a ditch where we found a boulder." He continued, "It flipped the car right over and back onto its wheels but we were going no further."
The car remained stuck in the stage until around 8.30 pm when the Crozier Motorsport mechanics were allowed access to assess the damage. It was another three hours before they made temporary repairs and recovered it back to Carlisle, and midnight when parts arrived from M-Sport. A Herculean effort by the team overnight meant the car arrived for the re-start on Sunday where the final six stages awaited. "The lads went beyond what was expected," said Darren, "they didn't finish until five thirty on Sunday morning and just had time to wash and get changed before they had to be back at service. I can't thank them enough."
The team's efforts were rewarded, posting some excellent stage times, the best of which beat Suzuki driver James Wozencroft and snapped at the heels of Barry Clark's similar Fiesta. Any further progress up the leaderboard was hampered by a puncture on the penultimate stage which they sensibly elected to stop and change. "It was about half way through the stage and there was no point in damaging the car by continuing on the rim," explained Neil, "Anyway it was good practice and we didn't have anything to lose."
Despite the eventful rally, the pair finished fourth in Super 1600 with the three drivers in front all factory supported. But most importantly they gained invaluable experience and as a result of sterling work by the team and the innovative Super Rally rules, they completed mileage that would normally have been lost.
He next scheduled event takes them back to asphalt with the fourth round of the Irish Tarmac Championship, The Donegal International Rally based in Letterkenny in mid June.