Silverstone Tyres BRC Challenge Rally of the Midlands 20/21st June 2008 Harrison takes a max, Pinchin takes the win The third round of the Silverstone Tyres BRC Challenge seemed likely to offer up a third straight victory for series...
Silverstone Tyres BRC Challenge
Rally of the Midlands 20/21st June 2008
Harrison takes a max, Pinchin takes the win
The third round of the Silverstone Tyres BRC Challenge seemed likely to offer up a third straight victory for series leaders Richard Sykes & Simon Taylor, but by the finish of Saturday the order has been well and truly shaken up.
At the finish ramp of the Rally of the Midlands in Hinckley town centre, there were just two Silverstone shod runners remaining, with BTRDA prize winner Darren Pinchin and Karen Watts taking the winners champagne.
Taking maximum Championship points were David Harrison and Glyn Thomas, who plummeted twenty places in the final three stages despite a valiant effort to maintain their hard-fought lead.
The event began on Friday when Pinchin surprised with an early lead in his Proton, but as he is not registered for points, the Championship status quo appeared to be continuing, with Sykes pulling fourteen seconds clear of Harrison on the opening three stages. Harrison responded though, taking a couple back at the first of the Mallory Park stages, the pair on equal times on the next run.
However, by the close of play on Friday evening, Sykes had a twenty second cushion to Harrison, with nearest Championship rivals James Watts & Oliver Ettlinger sidelined on the first stage with a broken gearbox mount. Pinchin's early lead had also gone after a broken driveshaft lost him several minutes.
With Tony Simpson a no-show, next up were Callum Bendall & James Haugh, who were under strict instructions to get to the finish, after destroying last years Championship winning KA on the Jim Clark Rally.
Saturday's change to rain prompted a change in fortunes at the front of the field with young David Harrison taking four straight stage wins. The first two edged him to within thirteen seconds of Sykes, but the longest stage of the day saw him stop the clock sixteen seconds quicker to move him three seconds clear.
Sykes dug in though, reversing the positions on the next stage and taking another three on stage eleven, but Harrison was not finished yet, halving the gap on their third visit to Mallory Park. The stage obviously suited the 1400cc Peugeot, as by the end of their final run he was back ahead, this time thirteen seconds in front.
It seemed that by the end of the next stage, Higham 2, the final order would be set when Sykes attempts to retake the lead were dashed after he missed a gear change, the resulting over revving engine cried enough, ending a great day long battle. Scotsman Bendall retired with transmission problems on the same stage, the two retirements leaving the way clear for Harrison to cruise to victory.
Pinchin understandably continued pushing; taking the next two stage wins from the Manxman, albeit by a handful of seconds against his four and a half minute deficit, but his persistence paid off.
Harrison arrived at the finish in Hinckley trailing Pinchin by over three minutes. A relieved look on his face he explained the time loss, "We only had third gear after the last service, so were dropping loads of time on every stage." Continuing, "We had everything crossed to get to the finish. After Richard (Sykes) retired we realised we could close the gap in the championship and I think we're only one point behind now."
Pinchin was also pleased and relieved to get to the finish after his first day problems, "We had a free entry from Silverstone Tyres and I'm delighted to reward them with a class win," he said, "Obviously we could have finished higher overall without the driveshaft problem, but overall it has been a great event."
The next round is a double header with Rally Isle of Man counting as rounds four and five over Saturday and Sunday 18th/19th July.