'TOUGH TIME FOR JONNY AT THE BORDERS'. Double British Rally Champion Jonny Milner was on course for maximum Mitsubishi Evo Challenge points on the Jim Clark Rally. The Yorkshire ace from Huggate was holding down 5th spot in the Tesco 99 British...
'TOUGH TIME FOR JONNY AT THE BORDERS'.
Double British Rally Champion Jonny Milner was on course for maximum Mitsubishi Evo Challenge points on the Jim Clark Rally. The Yorkshire ace from Huggate was holding down 5th spot in the Tesco 99 British Rally Championship in the process, but cruel luck was once more to blight Milner's progress on an event that has never been kind to him in the past.
Arriving in Kelso, Team Merlin International were quietly confident of a good result in the Pirelli Tyres backed Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Supported by Merlin International, Eden Tyre Services and Team Dynamics Alloy Wheels, the Tom Walkinshaw Group built Lancer, run by MSR Motorsport, had recently returned from the Donegal Rally in Ireland. Milner used the Irish event to set up the Lancer for tarmac, and was very happy with the Production Cup specification machine after the three day test.
Partnered by Welshman Nicky Beech, Jonny was determined to improve after a steady start to the season on the Pirelli International Rally. Milner finished 5th after some fuel pump problems with the car, and now the series made its customary switch to tarmac during the mid season, Jonny was keen to put his experience to good use on an event he knows well.
Sure enough, Jonny started brightly, as he found himself involved in a tough battle for Mitsubishi Evo Challenge honours with another former British Rally Champion, Gwyndaf Evans. Evans and team-mate Stuart Jones were pushing Milner hard on the fast tarmac stages near to the small town of Duns, home of the late racing legend Jim Clark. Cloudy skies were giving the crews cause for concern, but Jonny settled into a solid pace initially and was just 25 seconds behind Evans at the end of the first leg.
Supported by John Bean Garage Equipment, Snap On Diagnostics, Goldline Bearings, NGK Spark Plugs, Sparco, and Ferodo Competition Brake Pads, Jonny knew he had to improve on day two. Evans was forced out with mechanical failure early in the day, so Jonny and Nicky set about maintaining their advantage over Stuart Jones in the battle for Evo Challenge honours. Milner had extended his lead to just over 30 seconds when disaster struck on the Little Swinton stage. Early in the 9 mile test, Milner collected a mystery puncture despite not hitting anything. The crew stopped to change the offending item, and carried on at pace.
As if that was not misfortune enough, Milner then suffered the agony of a rear suspension failure over one of the more famous jumps that the rally is famed for. The Lancer struggled out of the stage, and Jonny lost over three and half minutes in the process. Fortunately, the Team Merlin International mechanics were able to fix the problem at service, and Jonny returned to the stages in style, as he set competitive times to try and move himself back up the order.
The sting in the tail came on SS20, the fifth running of the popular Langton stage. Milner dropped nearly twenty minutes as he tried to repair a transmission problem. The Lancer shuddered off the start line of the stage and was not keen to go further. Jonny eventually resolved the problem but by then all hope of a credible result had well and truly gone, as they reached the finish 29th overall:
'There's not a lot to say really' said a disappointed Milner. 'We came here to do well and give the guys a good run for their money. Leading the Evo Challenge was good, and I was very confident that we were going to hold that position till the end. I really don't know where the puncture came from - we didn't hit anything. We had little option but to change it, and then for the suspension to break over a jump was a real sucker punch. The driveshaft problem on the Langton stage was really the icing on the cake! However, we never give up, and we were still able to bring the car home to the finish. It was a very disappointing way to finish though, as we looked like scoring plenty of points again. Unfortunately that's rallying, and we've had ups and downs plenty of times before. The main thing I'm disappointed with is that we are still not quite able to set the kind of stage times that we are used too. Nicky and I are both doing our utmost, so I think we need to have a good look at the car and really try to optimise everything ahead of the next round. I think with a few changes we'll be able to get back on the pace where we belong.'
The next round sees Milner return to his most favoured venue in British rallying - the Isle of Man. Milner has tasted success on the island before, and makes no secret of his love for the unique challenges the tarmac roads offer on the Manx International Rally. Jonny and Team Merlin International will be on the Island from August 3rd-5th.