The final round of the Pirelli British Rally Championship (PBRC), based in the army town of Aldershot in Hampshire, proved a challenging event for Peugeot Super 1600 (S1600) works driver Garry Jennings. On a charge at the final round of the ...
The final round of the Pirelli British Rally Championship (PBRC), based in the army town of Aldershot in Hampshire, proved a challenging event for Peugeot Super 1600 (S1600) works driver Garry Jennings.
On a charge at the final round of the season, Jennings had been leading the rally until Stage 11, Yateley 2, when a small error cost him 20 seconds and his chance of second overall in the S1600 Championship.
Having already secured the Nations Cup title, co-driver Gordon Noble takes 12 points for their third place finish securing the S1600 Co-drivers Championship with 61 points.
Stage 1 and Jennings was to suffer from being first car on the road in the slippery weather conditions and slid off causing minor body damage and a broken rear damper. However, undeterred he still maintained a comfortable eight second lead on nearest rival Leon Pesticcio.
Throughout the rally Jennings pushed on, setting stage times well ahead of Pesticcio. Happy in the knowledge of his lead Jennings was disappointed when on Stage 11 an off cost him that lead. He added; I thought I could do it this weekend but with only two short stages to run I dont think I can make the time up.
Jennings appeared through the spectator stage of Rushmoor Arena once more provisionally securing third in the S1600 category. Into the final 10 minute service of the 2003 Championship Jennings commented; It was good to lead the rally for most of the day but annoying not to win it, it was so nearly mine. I am happy with third overall in my first S1600 season.
Gordon Noble commented; This season has had its challenges so its good to have won the co-drivers championship. I have been impressed with the speed of the car and Garry this season. The team have also been fantastic to work with.
Peugeot Motorsport Manager, Mick Linford commented; Garry was trying hard today to secure second in the championship but its rallying and its tough and a small error cost him, but he drove well and we are pleased with the result.
The Peugeot TOTAL 206 Late Challenge Cup lived up to its name on the final round of the Pirelli British Rally Championship when the final stage saw Dubliner Gareth MacHale and Clive Jenkins leap frog into the top spot from third. But the tussle had been mighty the whole rally through.
Leader at the start of the event, Sebastian Ling led the field off in a chilly, but sunny October day. He stamped his mark on the first 6.2 miles of Ash Ranges, with a resounding 10.3 seconds clear of Chris Moore, who had the worst stage of his life. Gareth MacHale was 3rd a further 1.9 seconds back and Spaniard Joan Roca 4th having had a fraught recce the previous day, walking one 5 mile stage when they arrived too late to get their car through the locked barrier. All these four had a chance of winning the prize car from Peugeot Sport if only they won the rally, so the battle lines were drawn.
Unlucky Jonathan Sparks retired from the fray at this point, two rear punctures and only one spare with four stages between him and service, an unfortunate end to this event after the work involved in the complete rebuild following his accident last time out.
Moore took 7 seconds back on the 5 miles of Warren Ranges with his first of four fastest stage times, but MacHale was on form on Yately. The short Minley Manor saw Ling restamp his authority and keep his lead, albeit only of 3.9 seconds. Rushmoor Arena was next before service, the short blast through the spectator friendly army stage saw a large crowd watch MacHale take his second fastest stage time to close the gap on Moore to 2.6 seconds. These three were edging away from Roca who just wasnt happy with his driving.
Yorkshireman Olly Marshall had suffered an overshoot and had to drive up the slip road for some way before being able to turn round. Usual front runner Richard Sykes was on one wheel drive only after his differential had gone, but was still smiling and enjoying the event. Jason Barnes complained of no power steering for the last three stages, while Kent man Paul Jones, local Trevor Martin and Maidstone driver Matt Jessup reported no problems.
Stage 6 Pavilion was short at 2.7 miles but 20 minutes of service had inspired Moore again, and he took this stage plus the longest stage of the day, Stage 7 Longmoor to edge past Ling into the top spot by 2.3 seconds. MacHale had dropped to just under 8 seconds behind, but clawed back 2 seconds on his domination of the Rushmoor stage.
Into service again, with no reports of anyone requiring major repairs, just extra tape required on the windscreens to protect against the fierce low sun. Roca had reported a spin on stage 7, Marshal had a big moment on a Longmoor crest, Trevor Martin thought his trackrod end was bent slightly, while Jessup was going steady as I cant afford to go off! Barnes was enjoying his drive now that the power steering had been fixed earlier. The last group of six stages before the final service were to be fast and furious, with very little road mileage to allow the crews to gather their thoughts.
Sebastian Ling thought he was still leading by 2 seconds, as did Chris Moore, but was actually four seconds down.. The resultant 6 second confusion was to prove a major factor at the end of the day. Ling took Stage 9, a mere 9 tenths in front of a tied Moore and Roca. MacHale reminded the front pairing he was still around with fastest on the repeated Warren in Stage 10, but only by 4 tenths. With the battle so close, everything was to play for and while Chris Moore responded with fastest on Stage 11, all the above four front runners were on the same second.
Going into Stage 12, Moore had a 6.8 second lead over Ling, with MacHale 3.4 seconds further back, and Roca no chance of catching up over 30 seconds behind that, even with his couple of second fastest times. Jason Barnes had retired on Stage 10, the only major accident of the day, despite the hard charging top runners commenting on the frequent change of surfaces from asphalt to gravel while on Michelin gravel tyres. The only other retirement of the day went to Richard Sykes when his steed refused to start up at the start of unlucky Stage 13.
MacHale had decided during service to stay focussed on this last leg, and stay focussed he did. Fastest on all the last group of three stages, he pulled 2.4 seconds off Moore and 2.5 off Ling on stage 12. On Stage 13, he had pulled another tenth, just one, off Ling and 4 tenths from Moore. Still in third place, he had closed the gap on Ling to 8 tenths, but was 7.4 seconds down on Moore, a massive amount to make up with only 1.75 miles on the last stage to go.
But Moore thought the difference was only 1.5 seconds, so he had to make another mighty charge on the last stage. Turning in too sharply to the Rushmoor Arena, he just tipped his 206 on its roof. Losing over a minute dropped him down to fourth place and with it all hope of the final cash rewards to bolster his finances.
Ling also felt the pressure on this last stage, hitting a bale. This cost 3.7 seconds and with that, his chance of the trophy was gone too. He commented that while he was as brave as the rest on the fast bits, his inexperience on the technical sections cost him some time. Roca was close enough to pick up third place. MacHale was justifiably very happy with his performance on the event, a fitting climax to what has been only his second full year of rallying. My car ran faultlessly, and I am delighted he said at the finish. I dont think there is another championship that puts the pressure on and is as close as this one.
The Peugeot TOTAL 206 Winter Cup will start the 2004 season with the Scottish Castle Douglas based Galloway Hills Rally on December 7th 2003.