No points or prizes for Milner on the Pirelli. Reigning Pirelli British Rally Champion Jonny Milner had high hopes of success on this weekend's Pirelli International Rally. The 35 year old from Huggate in North Yorkshire took his Team Dynamics...
No points or prizes for Milner on the Pirelli.
Reigning Pirelli British Rally Champion Jonny Milner had high hopes of success on this weekend's Pirelli International Rally. The 35 year old from Huggate in North Yorkshire took his Team Dynamics Subaru Impreza WRC to the forests of Kielder for 110 miles of fast forest stages north of the event base in Gateshead.
Armed with a 2002 specification Morgan Motorsport leased Subaru, Milner was determined to make his mark on the event as he launched his 2004 title charge. Welsh co-driver Nicky Beech was on the pace notes as usual for the two day event that started in the gloom of the 'killer' Kielder forest on Friday night.
Backed by long term sponsors Team Dynamics and Pirelli, Milner settled into a steady pace over the opening loop of three stages. Early pace setter David Higgins was in flying form in his hired Hyundai Accent WRC, whilst Jonny was content to learn the car whilst keeping in touch with the Manx driver on the stage times. Jonny reported no problems as he arrived at the overnight parc ferme to find himself 26 seconds shy of Higgins, who had started well.
The early morning restart on Saturday would see both Milner and Beech confident that they could begin to reel in Higgins in the R Fuel, Sparco, Green Filters, NGK and Ferodo backed Subaru, but disaster was literally around the corner for Milner, as he left the road on the opening stage of the morning:
"There were a series of crests, about five in total, with a 90 degree left hand bend after the final one. Unfortunately we carried too much speed over the last crest and despite my best efforts to slow the car down, we rolled into the ditch on the outside of the corner. Fortunately the car was not too badly damaged, but the spectators did a terrific job in rolling the car back through the ditch and onto its wheels. I'd just like to say a massive thank you to them for helping us the way they did."
Over 15 minutes were lost extricating the stricken Subaru from the deep Kielder ditch, and Milner was distraught at the end of the stage having lost all chance of victory and a points scoring result. After repairing the body damage at service in Hexham, Milner bounced back with a string of Top 3 stage times. However, the Subaru was not performing well as the clutch had been damaged when trying to regain the road after the earlier incident. At the penultimate service, the team decided to avoid damaging the car further and reluctantly decided to retire from the event in order to preserve the car.
Milner, understandably, was bitterly disappointed with the way the event unfolded:
"Yes, it is very disappointing to start the season in this way" said Jonny. "The Subaru was working very well and I felt I was getting to grips with it nicely. Unfortunately it was a small mistake that has caused us a big problem, and not scoring any points is the worst scenario for us with our limited budget for the season. There is no point in dwelling on the subject though, we will repair the car and will be looking to bounce back to our best on the Rally of Wales. My team have had two excellent seasons where we never finished outside of the Top 3 on any rally, so I'm sure that everyone will be more determined than ever now to get back to winning ways again."
Milner's next outing will be the International Rally of Wales on May 15/16. The Dolgellau based event holds a special place in the heart of the champion, as it was the scene of his first ever International rally victory in 2002, and is Nicky's home event in the calendar.
Over 105 miles of classic North Wales forests will pose the challenge to Jonny and the Team Dynamics Subaru as they look to return to the top of the time sheets in style next month.