Magical Milner makes his mark on the Clark. British Rally Champion Jonny Milner wowed the crowds and the opposition alike as he took a maximum haul of Pirelli British Rally Championship points and a fine second place on this weekend's Jim Clark...
Magical Milner makes his mark on the Clark.
British Rally Champion Jonny Milner wowed the crowds and the opposition alike as he took a maximum haul of Pirelli British Rally Championship points and a fine second place on this weekend's Jim Clark Memorial Rally.
With Welshman Nicky Beech alongside, Milner got off to a dream start, leading the event after the opening spectator stages at the Ocean Terminal in Edinburgh. However, the Team Dynamics Pro Rally Toyota Corolla WRC suffered a puncture early on the opening stage of the second day, losing well over a minute as Jonny struggled for around seven miles to the end of the stage with three tyres and one wheel rim.
Fortunately, the Team Dynamics motorsport wheel stood up to the test remarkably well, with the whole wheel and rim remaining intact for the stage as Milner watched rivals Tapio Laukkanen and Jari Matti Latvala move over a minute ahead of him. Jonny also found himself in the unusual position of 25th overall as a result.
Fired up by that early misfortune, Pirelli backed Milner took nine places back to nab 16th overall after four stages on the slippery tarmac roads near Duns in Berwickshire. However, the repeat of the stage where Milner suffered his tyre deflation was to prove dramatic and perhaps highly significant in the team's quest for the 2003 series title.
Early in the stage, a square right corner was to prove extremely unfriendly to the two Finnish drivers. Firstly Laukkanen damaged his Subaru Impreza WRC as he hit a wall, forcing him to retire just metres further on. Then in more spectacular fashion, youngster Latvala also hit the wall but at much higher speed, causing immediate retirement after a major accident.
Huggate resident Milner had work to do though. Three drivers ahead of him were in points scoring positions, so Jonny had no option but to turn up the heat in the Toyota Corolla WRC for the rest of Saturday. Three consecutive fastest stage times put Milner back into the top ten, as he fought tooth and nail with the more advanced Subaru of Irish tarmac ace Andrew Nesbitt in a battle for fastest stage honours.
By the end of the day, Milner had moved up an astonishing twenty two places to grab third overall, just 1.4 seconds behind another state of the art Subaru, driven by rapid Ulsterman Derek McGarrity. Perhaps more significantly, Milner's fearsome pace had helped him to leapfrog all the other leading British Rally Championship points scorers in the process.
However, the Sunday leg of the Jim Clark Memorial Rally belonged to Jonny Milner and Nicky Beech. In eight stages they scored an incredible seven fastest times - despite not needing to fight against the other drivers for points. Milner the entertainer thrilled the crowds with some terrific driving on the final day, and McGarrity saw his second place disappear as Jonny eventually finished second overall, just forty three seconds behind rally winner Andrew Nesbitt. Jonny was delighted with his weekend's work in conditions that had caught out many around him:
"We were lucky in the sense that our two main championship rivals both retired on the same corner of the same stage, but our own rally was fantastic despite the treacherous conditions on Saturday. After the puncture I thought I had it all to do - but fortunately the Corolla WRC proved that its still a competitive package, and setting 12 fastest stage times and 5 second fastest stage times is proof enough for anyone to see that I gave it my all this weekend. The whole team around me did a fantastic job, and the car was just superb to drive on such awesome stages.
Championship wise, its been a dream weekend for Nicky and myself. Now that Tapio and Jari Matti have not scored any points at all on this event, it really does put the pressure back on them for the next round. Ok, you can say that without the puncture it would have been super close with Andrew (Nesbitt) for the overall win, but the Pirelli tyres worked an absolute treat all weekend - in some of the most difficult conditions you could imagine.
Now that we have created a strong position for ourselves in the championship, its very important to fully focus on trying to make it British Rally Championship title number two. As a result I won't be contesting the Oregon Trail Rally in the USA before the Manx as I want to make sure that the car is absolutely on song for one of my favourite rallies. I'm absolutely thrilled to bits with our performance on the Jim Clark Memorial Rally and I cannot wait to get stuck into the Manx Rally at the end of the month. I'm more than ready for the challenge."