JRM denied podium finish When battling for the lead in round five of the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship, driving the JRM Mitsubishi Evolution X Gwyndaf Evans and co-driver Phil Pugh were forced into retirement after sliding wide and...
JRM denied podium finish
When battling for the lead in round five of the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship, driving the JRM Mitsubishi Evolution X Gwyndaf Evans and co-driver Phil Pugh were forced into retirement after sliding wide and hitting a wall on stage 10, the impact rupturing a radiator pipe and consequently, with coolant leaking out, the engine overheated.
After two victories out of four rounds so far this season, JRM and Evans went to the Todds Leap.com Rally NI looking to consolidate their position in both the teams' and driver's championships. And, following a highly successful test a few days before the rally, the team were upbeat about their chances.
Based in Antrim, the rally featured six stages on Friday afternoon and into the evening followed by a further eight on Saturday. This combination provided competitors with a total of 127 miles of timed special stages on closed roads to the north and south of the town.
Evans and Pugh were the quickest out of the box and posted the fastest time by 4.2 seconds ahead of Craig Breen/Gareth Roberts in a Fiesta S2000 on SS1, with their main championship rivals Keith Cronin/Barry McNulty a fraction of a second slower in third. But with the nature of the roads suiting the Super 2000 machine, Breen took the lead by the time cars returned to Antrim for the first service halt after SS3.
Cronin was still in third place having lost time due to a spin in SS2. However, he fought back during the next three stages - a repeat of the opening three - and pushed ahead of Evans by ten seconds before the overnight halt.
With the JRM team making a few adjustments to the car's handling in readiness for Saturday's eight stages, Evans was happy with his car and set off to close the gap on Cronin. The first stage of the day saw Evans go quickest, but Cronin caught back the time on the next, the two BRC leaders now driving on the limit.
The third stage saw the pair split by just 0.7 seconds, with Evans the faster of the two and it was perhaps inevitable that the blistering pace would take its toll. Unfortunately for JRM and Evans, this applied to them: After a down-hill straight, Evans came over a crest and found he could not scrub off enough speed to negotiate the right-hander that followed.
With the shiny tar under the trees providing very little grip, the Evo slid wide into a hedge and made contact with a wall. After losing around 30 seconds extracting the car, Evans continued, but noticed that the engine temperature was climbing as he progressed through the stage, the cause being a loss of coolant fluid after a radiator pipe had been ruptured in the impact.
Managing to nurse the car back to Antrim for the service halt that followed, the JRM engineers set to work and, although repairing the damage, the engine would not start when Evans and Pugh went to leave. Even pushing and towing the car had no effect and the team had little choice but to retire from the rally.
A disappointing to end to yet another great performance, which gave the event and the British Championship its main focus of attention over the weekend. With Breen/Roberts winning the rally and Cronin/Breen second, the result means that the Subaru paring will have the advantage going into the final round, needing to finish eighth or higher to claim the driver's title.
Evans and Pugh's team-mates Daniel Sigurdarson and Asta Sigurdardottir drove a faultless rally, which was also trouble-free right up until the penultimate stage, when a rear suspension arm broke. With their car handling very strangely and even after clipping a bank, they made it through the final stage and back to Antrim to score points for JRM in the teams' championship.
The season finale sees a return to gravel stages, this time in the forests of North York Moors, for the Yorkshire Rally on 25th September. And, with competitors scoring one-and-a-half times the usual amount of points, there will be a maximum of 30 available to the winner, a factor that provides Evans, JRM and other leading drivers and teams a fighting chance of still claiming the title.
Obviously, I'm very unhappy about the accident. The pace was so fierce between us that I just had to push and, at those speeds any mistake was going to be punished - which it was. Other than dents and scratches there was nothing wrong with the car, so it was unlucky that something had just punctured the pipe. Other than that we could have kept going without a problem. I feel sorry for the team, as they put so much into this campaign and the car has been fantastic."
Chris Hodgson - Motorsports Director (Rally)
We had to keep the pressure on today and this is something that can happen when the pace is as strong as it was. Gwyndaf always gives his total commitment and therefore this is one of the things that can happen. I was very pleased with the way things were going up until the accident, as the car was performing so well, so there are certainly some positives we can take away from this event."
James Rumsey - Team Principal
"I'm disappointed for the whole team that the event ended the way it did. We've had an excellent season so far and what happened this weekend is not a true reflection of that. It now means that to achieve our goals of capturing the drivers' and teams' titles is going to be a tough call on the last event, but in motorsport it's never over until it's over and we'll be there to do all we can to win."