ProRally: Rim of the World: Jonny Milner summary

Milner boxes clever to claim top ten result. Jonny Milner showed his undoubted pace on the Rim of the World Rally in America last weekend, setting several excellent stage times as he finished just over a minute off sixth position in his Team ...

Milner boxes clever to claim top ten result.

Jonny Milner showed his undoubted pace on the Rim of the World Rally in America last weekend, setting several excellent stage times as he finished just over a minute off sixth position in his Team Dynamics backed Subaru Impreza WRX.

With Duncan McMath alongside, the British Rally Champion was looking forward to the event based in Palmdale, Northern California after his recent 2nd overall on the opening round of the Pirelli British Rally Championship.

3rd overall on the first round of the 2003 SCCA Pro Rally Championship at the Sno*Drift Rally had given Milner great confidence in his rented Prodrive Impreza ahead of the wet gravel roads in California.

Unfortunately for the Huggate driver, the even started off in the worst possible fashion. A pinion in the Subaru's 6 speed gearbox broke on the way to the first stage, leaving Jonny to coax the car through the opening three stages with only 2nd and 3rd gear. Jonny's mechanical sympathy allowed him to nurse the stricken Impreza back to service with over 7 minutes time lost, the gearbox so badly damaged that it took Jonny 13 minutes to do 2 miles on the road. Fortunately, Milner's service crew worked wonders to replace the gearbox within 25 minutes and the Pirelli shod Subaru was on its way again.

Part way into the fourth stage of the rally, Milner rounded a bend to find Subaru Team USA driver Ramana Lagemann off the road. Jonny immediately stopped to help pull the works Impreza back onto the road, allowing Lagemann and co-driver Mike Orr to continue, but losing a minute himself in the process.

Heavy rain and high winds were to be the story of the rally on day two, eventually forcing the organisers to shorten the rally on safety grounds. Milner however, was in no mood for backing off on the second day. With nothing to lose, he stepped up the pace, grabbing a third fastest time on one power sapping stage. Despite giving away around 100bhp to the works cars, Milner recorded fastest time on the next stage as he flung the showroom specification Subaru through the muddy conditions.

Unfortunately for Jonny, the thick mud was to be his downfall on the next stage. Flying once again on the muddy roads, Milner was forced to back right off midway through the stage as the engine temperature soared. Mud from the previous stage had clogged the radiator of the Subaru, but no damage was done, Jonny still able to set 5th fastest time. As the conditions worsened, the organisers made the tough decision to prematurely end the rally on safety grounds, leaving Milner just over a minute behind 6th place in 10th by the end as he mounted a fierce comeback drive.

"I'm delighted to have been able to set a fastest time in what is very much a showroom specification car" quipped Jonny. "Having the gearbox problem that we did could easily have forced us out of the rally before we had even started. Fortunately we were only just able to get the car through to service and the guys did a fantastic job in changing the 'box. As we'd lost such a huge amount of time, we also decided to stop and help Ramana Lagemann out of his ditch on the next stage as we were never going to pull back 8 minutes on the leaders.

Day Two was much better and it showed that the Team Dynamics Subaru is a competitive package in America. The stage conditions were similar to "Rally GB weather", making them very challenging. The car worked well, as did the excellent Pirelli Tyres, and I was delighted that Duncan and myself were able to set a genuine fastest time - I think we would have been Top 6 if the rally had run its full distance. Of course we are still learning the car and the events, so I'm feeling positive after this weekend, despite us not getting the result we would have liked".

Its Pennsylvania next for Milner as he switches attention to the next round of the SCCA Pro Rally Championship, the Susquehannock Trail Pro Rally, on June 7/8, one week ahead of the next round of the Pirelli British Rally Championship, the Scottish International Rally, where Jonny took an excellent win in 2002.

-je/td-

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Series SCCA