The Mitsubishi Motors UK works Rally Team went to round four of the Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship, the Todds Lead Ulster International Rally, with one goal in mind -- and that was to retain its chances of retaining both the team's...
The Mitsubishi Motors UK works Rally Team went to round four of the Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship, the Todds Lead Ulster International Rally, with one goal in mind -- and that was to retain its chances of retaining both the team's and driver's titles -- which is exactly what they did.
Having taken the lead from the start, Guy Wilks and co-driver David Moynihan initially looked uncatchable at the front. However, a problem with their car's rear differential on stage four, followed by a spin when they were pushing hard to make up for lost ground, saw them finish in second place. Team-mates Gwyndaf Evans and Paul Nagle drove a perfect rally and did what they set out to do by finishing third.
Based in Armagh, the event featured a total of 134 competitive miles split into six timed special stages on Friday evening, followed by a further ten on Saturday, all on closed public roads not far from the host town.
Wilks got off to his now familiar flying start and went through the first stage three seconds quicker than anyone else. Mark Higgins occupied second spot, with Evans third, who admitted he was having to dial himself back into competitive rallying after a 10-month lay-off, whilst also acclimatise to his new co-driver Nagle.
All was going according to plan until Wilks felt something amiss with his car's rear differential and he coasted across the finish line of SS4. With only two-wheel-drive for the remaining pair of stages before the overnight halt, the reigning British Champ did well to only drop 38 seconds to Higgins and end the day still in second place, Evans now holding a comfortable third.
With the demanding nature of the Ulster roads and 84 rally miles remaining, there was a more than realistic possibility that Wilks could claw back the lost time and, when Saturday dawned, he went on a charge to do just that.
On the first stage of the day he scythed nearly eight seconds of his deficit, but on the very next, Wilks locked-up on some mud whilst trying to slow the car down for a square right. Normally he could have just overshot the junction, but because the exit road was blocked by spectators, he spun his Evo into a bank, broke a wheel and severely bent the rear suspension.
Although the damage was repaired at the next service halt, Wilks was now over a minute down on Higgins. Also, his car did not handle as it should for the next loop of two stages and any chance of regaining time was lost. Meanwhile, Evans was maintaining a solid third place, although his task was made more challenging due to an inconsistent feel to the brake pedal.
With the onset of rain for the final two loops of three stages, any chance Wilks had of mounting a final push was washed-away and therefore, the team decided that the best strategy would be to hold station and therefore be in a position to collect the spoils if anything happened to the leader.
But Higgins was having a good weekend and he went on to record his third BRC victory of the season. Wilks consolidated his second place, whilst Evans's familiarity with his surroundings grew -- as did his pace -- as the day progressed.
The Mitsubishi team were pleased to come away with a double-podium result and keep their team's title hopes on track. However, for Wilks a win next time out on the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire on 27th September is what's needed if he is to keep his bid for the driver's title on course.
The team's two Lancer Evolution IXs are built by Chesterfield-based ADR Motorsport, who also provide the on-event technical support. The team is sponsored by Lovell Group and Virgin Money, together with its technical partners: HKS, Sparco, Speedline Corse, PIAA and Ricardo.
"I'm pleased for the team that we got two cars home, but to be honest I'm disappointed not to take the win. I'm sure that if we hadn't had the mechanical problems on Friday that things would be different, as I wouldn't have had to push so hard on Saturday. It just makes the rest of the year a bit tougher, but I still think we can do it."
"Jumping straight into a rally car and expecting to be on the pace from the word go is more difficult than it looks, so I'm very pleased to have finished a comfortable third. It was a case of keeping a watching brief on Mark and Guy and picking up the pieces if anything happened to them. I'm also pleased that I was able to deliver the result the team had asked this weekend."
Paul Brigden (General Manager for Ralliart and Team Principal)
"Considering we were under a lot of pressure to perform on this event and we came under considerably scrutiny, I have to praise the whole team for their efforts. Guy did what he could and it sounds like he avoided what may have been an even bigger incident. Gwyndaf did the job he was asked to do and we've come away keeping our title hopes alive. I'm now looking forward to the Trackrod Rally and hope we will see a repeat of last year's victory."