"Irish Battle at French Round" Rallye Le Touquet - 4th, 5th & 6th October 2002 Eleven British 206 crews made their way across the Channel for round 7 of the 2002 Peugeot 206 Super Cup - The Rallye le Touquet to contend the second to last...
"Irish Battle at French Round"
Rallye Le Touquet - 4th, 5th & 6th October 2002
Eleven British 206 crews made their way across the Channel for round 7 of the 2002 Peugeot 206 Super Cup - The Rallye le Touquet to contend the second to last round of the season. It was thought that this may be the deciding round of the championship between Irish contenders Shaun Gallagher and Garry Jennings. However after a battle for first, Gallagher finished the rally ahead of strong contender Jennings. Jennings now only has to finish inside the top 5 on the last round of the season to take the 2002 206 Super Cup title.
Leg One began on Friday evening with two stages to the north of Etaples, and leading contender Shaun Gallagher immediately set out to show the way round in the dark, whilst his main rival Garry Jennings had lost his brakes on the run out to the first stage and eventually traced the problem to the master cylinder.
George Philippedes had a challenging start as his power steering belt had snapped, giving him "a good workout with the steering wheel". This also eventually caused his lights to fail and fellow competitor Trevor Martin sportingly followed him back into service to act as rear marker. Philippedes just made it into service without running out of petrol, with Martin himself struggling with his new gearbox.
After almost 20 kilometres of stages, Shaun Gallagher was leading by 16 seconds from Chris Moore, and lying 16th overall, causing something of a stir amongst the French pressmen as this was six seconds faster than the leading French 206 Championship contender. <pre> End of Leg 1: Shaun Gallagher/Richard Pashley 10:54.8 Chris Moore/Mark Andrews 11:12.5 Marko Ramanen/Ian Bevan 11:12.7 Garry Jennings/Paul Nagle 11:14.1 David Wright/Mike Panes 11:14.8 Richard Sykes/Craig Parry 11:35.1 George Philippedes/Barry Young 11:51.8 Patrick Richard/Alyson Marlow 11:53.2 Trevor Martin/Ray Cleghorn 11:55.7 Gareth MacHale/Joe Downey 12:00.3 </pre> Leg 2 (Saturday 5th) began in earnest on Stage 3 shortly after noon, Marko Ramanen being the first casualty of the day after an off caused the clutch to jam losing drive. David Wright had an accident after the flying finish, bending the radiator and track control arm which were replaced at Service in the busy and picturesque town of Desvres after Stage 4, although he lost 50 seconds on that stage. Cont'd.../
Mike Bird also retired before service when his engine failed. Patrick Richard had a lucky escape when his cold tyres locked up at the end of a long straight and resulting in a high speed head-on crash with a straw bale bending the bonnet and losing all water from the radiator. However, he managed to keep up an air flow to cool the engine on the fast road section back to service. Trevor Martin also fell foul of the same flying finish on Stage 3.
At service, Gallagher held a 21 second lead over Moore, with Jennings a further 4 seconds behind having collected a 10 second road penalty from the previous night.
Stage 5 at 30kms is one of the longest on the rally, and Jennings set a storming pace of 17.47 seconds, an average of just over 101 kms per hour through the lanes and villages of Picardy. Patrick Richard found himself deeper into rural France than he had anticipated when he got stuck in a bush and following the marshal's instructions attempted to drive on through, only to find himself in a front garden. After subsequently losing a wheel and finishing the stage on the hub, the stricken car was fitted with new struts and brakes at service.
Trevor Martin's rally ended on this stage when his engine overheated. Meanwhile, Gallagher had lost his domination of the French 206 Championship leaders when he lost time with three overshoots in the stage, dropping him to 25th place overall but still leading the UK Peugeot 206 Super Cup from Jennings who had narrowed the gap to just 8 seconds.
A further service and regroup followed, with all three stages then repeated. Gallagher was much happier with his car after the suspension was changed in service and was only one tenth of a second slower than Jennings, who was taking things steady. Moore was definitely not taking things steady and as a result fell foul of the same bend that claimed Marko Ramanen. Spectators were on hand to help him regain the road, but he had lost his comfortable lead over Wright. <pre> End of Leg 2: Shaun Gallagher/Richard Pashley 1:10:18.9 Garry Jennings/Paul Nagle 1:10:35.2 David Wright/Mike Panes 1:12:02.4 Chris Moore/Mark Andrews 1:12:08.6 Richard Sykes/Craig Parry 1:12:59.7 George Philippedes/Barry Young 1:13:38.5 Gareth MacHale/Joe Downey 1:14:06.6 Patrick Richard/Alyson Marlow 1:22:05.2 </pre> Leg 3 (Sunday 6th) presented the Cup contenders with fresh challenges when it began to rain after the crews had left service after Parc Ferme. Gallagher swapped his rear intermediate tyres to the front, but having only one spare intermediate, started the stage with one slick on the rear, provoking a "huge spin which took ages". He was further hampered by catching non-rally traffic which had strayed onto the stage. Jennings had chosen to compete on intermediates all round, but was also held up by the traffic.
Moore had opted for slicks and paid the price, aquaplaning down the road into a chicane, hitting a bank on the exit, pushing the front wheel back into the arch and bending the track control arm. A battle had began between Richard Sykes and Gareth MacHale after Sykes dropped time whilst lost on the notes. An overshoot nearly cost him dearly when a French competitor narrowly avoided him at the same junction. MacHale held the advantage with a storming run in the wet to take 5th by less than 10 seconds.
Pacenotes were a problem for Pat Richard, even though he became Canadian Rally Champion last weekend, he set off from the stage start and immediately realised that they had recce'd the wrong roads! They were also on slick tyres, and Richard's first event on tarmac was proving to be a steep learning curve.
After a short service, the roads were drying out for Stages 10 and 11 but were still extremely slippery with mud after farm activity subsequent to the recce. Richard, undeterred by his earlier performance set fastest time on Stage 11, beating Gallagher by 3 seconds and setting 14th fastest time overall.
The morning's three stages were repeated after service and regroup and on the Desvres stage, Moore appropriately hit a fire hydrant which prevented him from going straight on into a garden. However, on the last two stages of the day, he too showed that he was still a force to be reckoned with and set the fastest 206 Cup times, 14th Overall. Gallagher and Jennings both professed to be taking things steady, holding station to the finish, but this did not prevent Jennings from a spin on the penultimate stage, damaging the front of the car and smashing the rear screen. Richard had gained too much confidence from his earlier fastest time and rolled the car on Stage 13 although he was able to limp through to the finish and claim 8th place.