Pressure mounts on Wilkes The pressure is mounting on Julian Wilkes and co-driver Will Rutherford to perform on this weekend's Ulster Challenge Rally, after Callum Black and Chris Peart both put in excellent performances on the Isle of Man back...
Pressure mounts on Wilkes
The pressure is mounting on Julian Wilkes and co-driver Will Rutherford to perform on this weekend's Ulster Challenge Rally, after Callum Black and Chris Peart both put in excellent performances on the Isle of Man back in July.
The unique format of the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship's support series, the BRC Challenge, means that crews must select either the Isle of Man or Ulster double header events to score. So despite Black leading the series, he and the remainder who opted for the Manx rally, must sit out the Ulster or compete without the chance of points.
Peart's debut of his S1600 Corsa has also buoyed the Yorkshireman's title ambitions with two second place finishes out on the island, leaving him just three points adrift of championship leader Black who emerged with a win and a zero.
Since the title is decided from the best five of six scores and 2009 front runner Wilkes failed to finish on the Jim Clark, he cannot finish lower than second without ruining his title hopes, despite a perfect tally from the opening two events of the season.
"We sat around during the Isle of Man glued to the computer, waiting for the results to come in" said Wilkes. Adding, "If we have a non finish on the event we can kiss the title goodbye, all the top seven has had a zero score now."
Wilkes will have a tough fight on his hands in the form of two Renault Clios driven by Simon Moore and Russ Thompson. However both will be looking for better luck in Ulster, after a succession of mechanical gremlin related retirements that have blighted the pair this season.
Louise Cook and Alex Laffey will be out once again on the tarmac, after using the Isle of Man as a non-scoring event to gain experience on the black stuff. The Fiesta crews had mixed fortunes as both Cook and Laffey failed to finish day one, Laffey's accident permanently ending his Island education, while Cook managed a fourth place finish on day two.
Northern Ireland will see the return of the Welsh teenager Osian Price as he continues to build up his rallying career on tarmac. Conor Flynn is also returning for the event but without his usual service crew. Instead Wilkes' team has stepped in to offer support, showing the camaraderie amongst the competitors.
So once again the BRC Challenge competitors will have a two day event, with both days counting as full scores. But with no more than five crews completing each day on the previous event, these double header events have proved tough on cars and crew alike.
With the Championship so tight, it could all come down to who now holds their nerve, with just one round remaining after Ulster. Wilkes concluded, "The other guys now have their points scores from the Isle of Man. It's their turn to sit it out and watch the results come in; the pressure is on."
The Ulster Challenge Rally starts on Friday 20th August and continues with the two day competition on Saturday 21st August. This Rally gives the BRC Challenge crews a second sample of tarmac driving this season on Ireland's tough Antrim roads.
Credit: Stu Coady
UK Journalism -- University of Central Lancashire