'MILNER ON TRACK AFTER HOME SUCCESS'. Double British Rally Champion Jonny Milner moved a step closer to a factory drive for 2007 after another impressive performance this weekend. The Team Merlin International driver from Huggate was contesting...
'MILNER ON TRACK AFTER HOME SUCCESS'.
Double British Rally Champion Jonny Milner moved a step closer to a factory drive for 2007 after another impressive performance this weekend. The Team Merlin International driver from Huggate was contesting his home event, The Trackrod Rally Yorkshire, based in Pickering, and the penultimate round of the Tesco 99 British Rally Championship. After a day of very close competition, Milner once again took maximum points in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Challenge, along with 3rd overall.
Supported by Merlin International, Pirelli Tyres and Team Dynamics Alloy Wheels, Milner and Welsh co-driver Nicky Beech were previous winners of the North Yorkshire based rally. A long day of challenging forest stages would see the crews visit the likes of Dalby, Cropton and Gale Rigg forests. Fortunately, the recent rain in the area had not left the stages caked in mud as feared, and a dry and generally smooth surface meant that high speed action was the order of the day.
Milner knew that his home advantage would be useful, but was not placing too much emphasis on the subject before the start. The Yorkshireman was quickly out of the starting blocks on home soil though, as he led initially. The battle could not have been closer, as Milner swapped tenths of seconds with key rivals Gwyndaf Evans and Stuart Jones. Works Mitsubishi driver Ryan Champion was also in the thick of the action, as Milner fought valiantly to hold onto the lead through the morning loop of stages. The MSR Motorsport run Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX was running superbly, and Jonny was relishing the battle. The Tom Walkinshaw Group built machine was delivering its potential to the full as Jonny led the Evo Challenge contenders as the day progressed.
Jones was the first casualty as he suffered a broken brake calliper which forced him to retire. Evans also had a few scrapes with the scenery as greasy sections under the cover of trees made the conditions tough to judge. Milner is an experienced and candid campaigner, and he was content to keep out of trouble as the battle continued. Fellow Yorkshireman Champion edged ahead as the rally entered its final stages, and Milner was content to let Ryan and newly crowned British Rally Champion Mark Higgins fight it out for the lead. All Jonny had to do was keep Evans at bay behind him, and with a near one minute thirty second gap, Jonny consolidated his third place spot with third fastest on the final stage. The battle for the outright win had been close, but Milner was happy to concede defeat in order to claim maximum Mitsubishi Evo Challenge points and extend his championship lead. The John Bean Garage Equipment, Snap On Diagnostics, Goldline Bearings, NGK Spark Plugs, Sparco, and Ferodo Competition Brake Pads backed machine hardly missed a beat all day and Jonny was delighted with the result:
'It was one hell of a battle - that's for certain' quipped Milner at the rally finish in Pickering. 'We made a great start as the Pirelli tyres seemed to have the edge in the greasy conditions. I found the car very stable, especially at high speed, and that gave me a lot of confidence to push on. Nicky and I pushed hard all the way, and I'm delighted to see a fellow Yorkshireman in Ryan (Champion) take the outright win. We made sure that we took full Mitsubishi Evo Challenge points, so that was particularly beneficial to our championship aspirations. We'll need another good performance on Wales Rally GB in December if we are to take the title, but I'm confident that our experience can shine through when it matters. Both Gwyndaf (Evans) and Stuart (Jones) will push very hard on home soil, so I know we'll face a tough test. It is still all to play for, so we'll give it our best shot and hope that fortune sides with us and we can take the title. I would certainly be excited at the prospect of having a works Mitsubishi for next season!'
Jonny will compete on the world stage in December. The final round of the Tesco 99 British Rally Championship will be held on Wales Rally GB, a round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The Cardiff based event takes place over three days, and points will be split between those days. Another maximum points score for Jonny followed by a strong finish will be enough for Milner and Beech to win their respective titles. The pressure will be on the rivals chasing Jonny to overhaul him on an event where pace has to be matched with the ability to keep out of trouble.