GASS'S PROMISING MANX THWARTED Darren Gass and Neil Shanks finished the newly named Rally Isle of Man having set promising times in the Super 1600 category this weekend. The crew went to the Isle of Man having fitted the long-awaited ...
GASS'S PROMISING MANX THWARTED
Darren Gass and Neil Shanks finished the newly named Rally Isle of Man having set promising times in the Super 1600 category this weekend.
The crew went to the Isle of Man having fitted the long-awaited Reiger suspension to the car but spent much of the first leg fine-tuning it to suit the ultra fast Manx lanes. The Third round of the British Rally Championship was another first for the eighteen year old from County Armagh and he held third in the BRC S1600 class after Thursday night's five stages.
Friday was to prove difficult for all the crews as the weather was predictable unpredictable. "It is so hard to know which tyres to use," said Neil at the Douglas TT grandstand service area, "The roads down here are dry but with those clouds it could rain at any time." He was right, as the roads on the first stage proved wet and the pair had a scare mounting a bank and teetering on the edge of rolling the car. "The first stage was very bumpy and slippery but we got to grips on the next one," commented Darren.
They continued to keep in touch with Clark in second place, even maintaining the pace when the Round Table hairpin caught them out. "I made a mess of the hairpin and picked up mud on the front tyre," explained Darren, "It felt like we'd picked up a puncture so took it easy until we realised what it was." Four more good stages followed with two runs round the Ramsey spectator special, leaving them just outside the top twenty overall and third BRC Super 1600 crew with just three Friday stages remaining.
The next stage, Baldhoon, had been stopped during its first run by an accident further up the field so the pair didn't start it, being issued a nominal time instead. The stoppage was repeated on its second running but with more serious consequences for Darren and Neil. They were the ones who stopped the stage, having clipped an unseen rock, breaking the front suspension. The car ground to a halt in a narrow section with terminal steering and suspension damage with the wheel wedged against the wheel arch, preventing any forward motion.
The final day was a bonus for the team, running under Super Rally rules that allow retired crews to take a hefty time penalty on any incomplete stages. "We effectively lost half an hour in penalties," explained Neil, "but it means we can complete Saturday's stages as a test now the car is repaired." Unfortunately the first stage of the day was marred by a puncture and the second by an accident ahead. "We only got two clean stages on Saturday as the alternator packed up on the very last test," shrugged Darren, "But our times on the clean stages were promising and now the car has its new suspension and engine mapping I feel a lot more confident that we can progress."
The next round of the British and Irish Rally Championships is the only one that Darren has experience of as he contested the Ulster International in 2005. "I'm really looking forward to doing my home event," said Darren, "The rally base is less than ten miles down the road so we'll have lots of local support." The Ulster Rally takes place on the 1st & 2nd of September and is the last tarmac event on the 2006 BRC calendar.
-credit: darren gass rallying