'MANX JOY FOR MILNER!'. Double British Rally Champion Jonny Milner produced a polished performance on this weekend's Rally Isle of Man. A twice former winner of the event, Milner recovered from an early setback to take maximum Mitsubishi Evo ...
'MANX JOY FOR MILNER!'.
Double British Rally Champion Jonny Milner produced a polished performance on this weekend's Rally Isle of Man. A twice former winner of the event, Milner recovered from an early setback to take maximum Mitsubishi Evo Challenge points and 3rd overall in the Tesco 99 British Rally Championship points after a fine recovery drive.
Driving his Team Merlin International Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, Jonny and co-driver Nicky Beech were desperate to score as many points as possible after a disappointing Jim Clark Rally in the Pirelli Tyres and Team Dynamics Alloy Wheels backed machine. Milner is an Isle of Man expert, and the pair were both keen to use that knowledge to the full on arguably the toughest event of the BRC season. Milner had let maximum Evo Challenge points slip from his grasp after problems late in the Jim Clark Rally, and the battle was set to start all over again with three days of action in store.
The Tom Walkinshaw Group built machine was in fine fettle ahead of the first stage, Rhenab, south of Ramsey. Milner had planned to attack from the start in the MSR Motorsport run car. Incredibly, the turbo was to blow on the Lancer just a mile into the stage. With another test awaiting Milner before service, the Yorkshireman knew he faced a backs against the wall job to save a huge time loss. Despite his best efforts, Jonny dropped down to 42nd overall after two stages. With the problem sorted at service, Milner completed the leg's remaining three stages at a very strong pace, bouncing back up to 24th overall.
Day two brought a change in the weather, with tricky wet and damp conditions on offer. Jonny turned up the heat in the John Bean Garage Equipment, Snap On Diagnostics, Goldline Bearings, NGK Spark Plugs, Sparco, and Ferodo Competition Brake Pads backed machine. Top 3 BRC times followed as Jonny and Nicky made the most of their experience of the rally. The former winners were not taking risks but were maintaining a solid pace. After stage 8, Milner had fought his way back up to a fine 15th spot, and was happy to remain in striking distance of maximum Evo Challenge points.
Milner's charge continued. By the end of that long second day, he had moved all the way up to an impressive 7th overall, third in the BRC standings, and more importantly, first in the battle for Evo Challenge honours. It was turning into a terrific performance by the pair, and with one more day to go, it was a case of fingers crossed for the team.
Despite the car jumping out of 4th gear on the last two stages, Milner and Beech kept their cool to bring the car home in a fine 6th overall on the event. Long time rival Gwyndaf Evans pushed hard to close the gap on the final day, but his rally was ended with transmission problems. As such, Jonny was able to nurse the car home to finish first in the Mitsubishi Evo Challenge, and third in the BRC points standings. Needless to say, it was a very relieved Milner who celebrated his maximum points haul:
'It was getting a bit nerve wracking at the end' said Jonny. 'When the car started jumping out of fourth gear, I did wonder if we were going to get to the finish! Fortunately it wasn't really a big problem, and the car was fine apart from that. Obviously losing the time on the first couple of stages was a big hindrance in our progress, as without that time loss we could certainly have taken 2nd in the BRC points, which would have helped our championship cause. The way things are going this year, almost anything can happen at anytime, so this result has done us a world of good I think. It will be a good battle for the Evo Challenge honours from now until the end of the season, and I think we stand an excellent chance of doing well with that. We'll just have to see how things pan out with the BRC, but we remain in the fight for the title - but only just! Aside from the problems, we thoroughly enjoyed the rally and we were very happy with our team performance'.
Milner's next challenge will be the Ulster Rally on September 2nd. The Northern Irish event offers bumpy and muddy tarmac roads where tyre choice is critical. Milner will be hoping for more points and more consistency as the season now enters the most important phase with so much at stake for all the teams involved.