'NOT A SUPERALLY FOR MILNER IN WALES'. Double British Rally Champion Jonny Milner ended his season tied on points at the top of the leaderboard in the Ralliart Mitsubishi Evo Challenge. An incident packed Wales Rally GB, final round of both ...
'NOT A SUPERALLY FOR MILNER IN WALES'.
Double British Rally Champion Jonny Milner ended his season tied on points at the top of the leaderboard in the Ralliart Mitsubishi Evo Challenge. An incident packed Wales Rally GB, final round of both the Tesco 99 British Rally Championship and the FIA World Rally Championship had drama in store like no other round this year. After three days in the forests of South Wales, Milner ended up losing out on the coveted prize of a works Mitsubishi drive in the BRC 2007 - on a tie break.
Driving his Team Merlin International, Pirelli Tyres and Team Dynamics Alloy Wheels backed Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, Yorkshireman Milner and his Welsh co-driver Nicky Beech were looking forward to the Cardiff based rally. The pair's last outing on the stages in South Wales had been a successful win in a Hyundai Accent WRC on the Swansea Bay National Rally in 2002. Then the stages were hot and dusty, but this time it was water and mud that lay in store for the popular crew.
Supported by John Bean Garage Equipment, Snap On Diagnostics, Goldline Bearings, Go-Sim Global Sim Cards, NGK Spark Plugs, Sparco, and Ferodo Competition Brake Pads, Milner's rally soon hit problems. The Tom Walkinshaw Group built Mitsubishi was running fine until Milner crested a small bump in the road. The seemingly innocent impact would have dire consequences as the fuel pump stopped working on the Lancer. 12 agonising minutes were lost as Milner tried to fix the problem. Jonny had plummeted down the leaderboard, leaving arch rival and Welsh favourite Gwyndaf Evans in command of the race for Evo Challenge honours.
After this point, the drama was to unfold in a manner that almost defied belief. Milner's MSR Motorsport run car was still suffering from internal problems with the fuel pump, but Evans looked favourite for the title. No sooner had the tables turned, but Evans was to break the gearbox in the Mitsubishi, leaving him stranded. 'Superally' rules allow competitors to continue in the rally, even if they cannot physically continue over the remaining days stages. Instead, each crew is allocated a stage time, but a 5 minute penalty is also applied for each stage. With Evans seemingly gone from the equation, the Welshman congratulated Milner at the roadside knowing that his chance had now gone.
However, another twist in the drama was set to unfold. Milner was to leave the road on the tenth stage of the rally, and unable to rejoin, he also had to opt for Superally tactics, causing some frantic calculations of points tables from both teams. Jonny knew he had to get into the top three of the Evo Challenge results on the final day - a tall order in the circumstances. Hitting a straw bail on the final day was to cause more misery for Milner and Beech, and at the finish ramp it was Evans was declared the champion despite both he and Milner finishing the series on equal points. Evans had won the opening round of the series, and as such, he claimed the title honours. Jonny, understandably, was bitterly disappointed with the outcome:
"First of all I want to say well done to Gwyndaf as he's shown that he's still got plenty of mileage left in him! He drove well all season, so I'm pleased for him. As for us, what can I say? I've never been a fan of the Superally system as I believe to win rallies or score points you have to cover every single mile of the stages. If you take Superally out of the equation, we'd have wrapped this championship up well before we even got to Wales. Of course we can only play to the rules as they are, and in this case they have worked in Gwyndaf's favour, and not ours. It is a very bitter pill to swallow at the moment and it makes it very hard to explain to people how someone can win a championship by not completing all the rallies! Overall I'm very pleased with our season. It took a while to adapt to driving the new car, and there were some teething problems to iron out. Since then, we've been very happy with our results, and we've come away on equal points and in the top three of the British Rally Championship overall. Finally, a big thank you to all of our supporters, sponsors, and in particular MSR Motorsport for their help this season. Without their enthusiasm, we would never have been in the position to have the chance of winning a works drive at all. Thank you."
Milner will now use the winter break to evaluate his options for the 2007. Jonny will make an announcement on his plans in the New Year.