Richard Sykes rounded off a frustrating weekend in the Kielder forest with 8th overall in the Peugeot 206 Super Cup, after a double header of points scoring rounds on the Pirelli National Rally. The Stourbridge driver was once again partnered by...
Richard Sykes rounded off a frustrating weekend in the Kielder forest with 8th overall in the Peugeot 206 Super Cup, after a double header of points scoring rounds on the Pirelli National Rally.
The Stourbridge driver was once again partnered by experienced Chelmsford co-driver Mark Andrews, but the pair were lucky to even start the rally in Gateshead. Knowing that the Friday evening leg of the rally was to run in darkness, Sykes tested his Trade Paints Services backed 206 in a Welsh forest on the Thursday night - and rolled the car during the test.
Consequently, Sykes and the mechanics worked all night to ready the Peugeot for the long journey to the North East. Sure enough, their hard work paid off, and an energy drained Richard made the start on Friday evening after a sleep free 24 hours.
Sykes took it easy on the short opening spectator stages with the rough surface's potential for causing problems apparent - Sykes even getting held up by an accident to a crew further up the field. Richard later admitted that he nearly fell asleep on the way out to the first proper forest stage of the rally in Kielder, where the rally proper began.
Thick fog made visibility virtually impossible as soon as they entered the stage. At times neither Richard or Mark could tell if they were on the road or off it. Sykes was caught midway through the stage by the flying Seb Ling, who was soon allowed to pass. Richard was experimenting with different light settings on the car, and approaching a square left after a long straight, the swirling fog had settled right on the corner, making it impossible to see. Unfortunately, the G.I. Sykes Ltd machine dropped into one of Kielder's infamous ditches and 4 minutes were lost extricating the Peugeot.
The fiercely determined Sykes thought about giving up at that point with any chance of a good result gone and sleep badly required. However, the plucky Midlander decided to press on. After a couple of moments early on in the following stage, their rally came to a premature end when a Kielder ditch swallowed the car for good on the penultimate test.
With the Saturday leg of the rally a separate event to Friday, it meant that Richard had another chance to score points after a no score the evening before. With a few hours sleep overnight, Sykes was keen to get on with things on the Saturday, as the crews contested six stages before the Gateshead finish.
Sykes settled into 8th position after the first loop of stages, the car not handling 100% to his liking and also admitting to being a little down on confidence after the roll and two offs. Looking at the times, it was clear that Sykes could get into the Top5 with an afternoon charge. Sure enough, the bulldog spirit took over and Sykes attacked through stages three and four, closing to within six seconds of 5th place man Mike Faulkner.
In the penultimate stage, Richard drove his heart out - but three miles from the end, a massive bang from the front of the Peugeot caused much concern inside the car, with no drive to the wheels. Fortunately, the car had actually jumped out of gear - and after three or four seconds lost, Sykes was on his way again. In the last stage, Sykes had two massive moments in the first couple of miles. Rather than risking another accident, Richard backed off slightly, and settled for 8th position after a trying weekend:
"I'm disappointed with the rally. Rolling the car on Thursday night was not the ideal way to prepare, and the car isn't 100% as a result. I think the shell is probably a little bit bent so we'll have to check that now. The conditions were atrocious on Friday evening and there was always going to be someone going off as a result - sadly it was us!
To be fair, I was so tired on Friday night I just didn't get into any sort of rhythm. Saturday was much better, although I was not happy being so far off the lead pace. I can only put that down to confidence. I'm going to have to get the car back to perfect condition and do some testing as soon as possible. The next championship round is the Scottish Rally, so I'll have to be back on the ball for that one."