'5th for Milner on BRC comeback'. Double British Rally Champion Jonny Milner made a successful return to the Tesco 99 British Rally Championship, as he finished 5th on the Pirelli International Rally. The Carlisle event featured two days ...
'5th for Milner on BRC comeback'.
Double British Rally Champion Jonny Milner made a successful return to the Tesco 99 British Rally Championship, as he finished 5th on the Pirelli International Rally. The Carlisle event featured two days of punishing stages in the renowned Kielder forest, and Milner was keen to get the season off to a good start after a season's absence.
Run under the banner of Team Merlin International, Milner was using his brand new Tom Walkinshaw Group built Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX for the first time. Partnered as always by Nicky Beech, the duo were looking forward to going head to head with some of the UK's foremost rallying names in Production specification cars. An immense battle was expected prior to the event, and the driver from Huggate in North Yorkshire knew he would have no option but to push from the start.
Backed by Merlin International, Eden Tyre Services, Pirelli Tyres, and official wheel supplier Team Dynamics, the MSR Motorsport run Mitsubishi was quickly on the pace of the leading drivers as Jonny eased himself back into the pace of the BRC. Milner and Beech were consistently making the most of the Pirelli tyre's grip on the loose gravel surface as they produced a string of consistent Top 5 stage times, including second fastest on the Shepherdshield stage. Unfortunately the Mitsubishi was to suddenly cut out and refused to restart, giving the crew cause for concern as the minutes ticked by. Fortunately the car burst into life again, but arrived late at the next time control, giving a forty second penalty. Such was the competition, Milner dropped from a solid fifth to eighth in one go. Consistent performances over the next batch of stages moved him up to 7th at the overnight halt.
Milner, backed by new sponsor John Bean Garage Equipment and long term rally partners Snap On Diagnostics, Goldline Bearings, NGK Spark Plugs, Sparco, and Ferodo Competition Brake Pads, had it all to do. Just six stages and 45 stage miles made up the second day of the rally, and Jonny knew that he would have to push much harder in order to climb the leaderboard.
Jonny himself admitted he was not on his best form during those final loops of stages. Despite a consistent string of Top 6 stage times, he was unable to make a major dent on the leaderboard, despite rising to 5th with Martin Rowe's retirement and Stuart Jones losing time on the final day. With not much time to prepare for the event and hardly any pre-event testing in the car, Milner was nevertheless happy with his result:
'I'll take 5th thank you!' quipped Jonny. 'The first day went very well, apart from the fuel problem that caused the car to cut out and not restart. Fortunately I was able to resolve the problem after some frantic searching, and we were able to continue. That aside, the Team Merlin International outfit did a great job in its first event together. MSR did an excellent job in tending the car, and our engineer from Tom Walkinshaw Group also made a very useful contribution to the weekend. I was a little bit disappointed with our pace on the second day, as we didn't have the final percentage required to mix it with the quickest guys on the stages, but that's rallying.
I've had a really good sighter for the pace of the championship now, and I'm also very happy with the car. On the very high speed sections it was so stable it had to be driven to be believed. Credit to TWG Ltd for producing such an excellent package. I have to say I really cannot wait to get out on the Jim Clark Memorial Rally next. Tarmac should make for a very interesting battle indeed'.
Milner's next outing will be the Jim Clark Memorial Rally on June 7/8. The Yorkshireman loves asphalt stages and will look to put his experience of tarmac rallying to good use when he goes all out for victory on one of the fastest events in the calendar.