Driver Nicholas Kennedy and the IML Rallysport team are finally back in the country after an outstanding performance on the French round of the World Rally championship. The team took third in class and were 4th British Crew home in the rally's...
Driver Nicholas Kennedy and the IML Rallysport team are finally back in the country after an outstanding performance on the French round of the World Rally championship. The team took third in class and were 4th British Crew home in the rally's overall results. Now they must see whether their performance there will be enough to bring them into the final of The Roger Clark Award.
The rally was far from plain sailing. Four days before they were due to depart the team's original co-driver announced that he was unable to take part in the event. Not until the day before the core crew left was a replacement, Linda Whitmore, found who could take the necessary time off work.
This unique event - The Tour de Corse - also known as the rally of a thousand corners - takes place on the Island of Corsica in the Mediterranean. Stages are all tarmac, but vary between woodland, scrub and near desert. Almost all are set on mountain sides and some reach heights of up to 1500 feet on very narrow roads with nothing to protect you from a very long drop indeed.
"Our vehicle performed faultlessly. We spun on gravel in the first stage, and the automatic fire extinguisher set off on the last day, but we took a superb result. I hope the first of many at this level of competition."
On Thursday night voting closes for the Roger Clark Award - the premier prize in Junior Rallying. Nick who was nominated for the award early in the year hopes to secure a place in the final. Votes may be cast electronically at www.therogerclarkaward.co.uk.
In detail: .....
The event was not without incident. Both of the Mitsubishi works crews went off within 400 yards of each other and a second day stage was run non-competitively after Colin McCrae's accident. Other Brits to suffer were Brian Cameron and John Southall who's Mini Cooper broke a differential.
IML finally had a smooth run - our season has been plagued by the teething troubles of the new car. On this occasion we had the expert help of TI Motorsport of Henley. The only mechanical incident for us was when the car hit a rock on a road section and the automatic fire extinguisher was set off, drenching the crew in foam.
The event took place over three days and covered over 700 miles. Since Linda could only join the crew in Corsica on Monday the entire event was reconnoitered in just two days. Even spending 11 solid hours a day in the car the crew only had one pass at many of the stages to create the pace notes that would determine the speed and line they would take in the rally itself. Consequently caution had to be used over days one and two of the rally as the smallest of errors could end in disaster.
From the start though we were intent on driving what we could as well as we could. From the very first stage of day one we were committed - though not as committed as Freddy Loix who put his brand new works car car off on the first corner. On stage 1 we caught and past Paul Ristori running a minute ahead of us. We suffered a half spin on gravel that had been thrown onto the track shortly afterwards and whilst we turned around Paul came past us. We still had the pace though and crossed the finish line along side him. By stage three we were up into third place, a position we would hold until the end of the event.
Day two was wet, and this compensated for the lack of time we had had on reconnaissance. Both Nick and Florian Schmidt showed the local crews how to drive on mud and leaves and took time out of them accordingly. Two stages were cancelled, the 2nd stage of the day due to excessive numbers of spectators, and the fourth due to McCrae's crash. As stage four was converted to a transport section we were able to carry some refreshments in for the crew working on extracting his car from the ravine it had fallen into.
Day three stages were a repeat of day one's, and we were able to strike immediately. Knowing that our pace notes were correct we took a full thirty seconds out of the fastest driver in the first stage, and whilst attacking as best we could in the second the interaction between driver and co-driver faltered a little during it. It was on the road section following this stage that the extinguisher went off.
We still had the mileage left to attack for second place and this was our intent until the next stage - day three, stage three was cancelled. This would have probably been one of our strongest stages. Without it we had to take almost a minute out of the car in front in three stages rather than four. We took 12.2 seconds on the next stage, just 0.3 seconds off the stage fastest time. In service we were able to get weather reports from the Subaru's exciting the final stages and were warned of a downpour that had covered 10km of the final stage. We elected to stay on slick tyres, and for the last time left Dave and Nigel to go out to stage.
Whilst we pushed throughout it was clear that we would have to take an unacceptable risk through treacherous conditions to try to take second. With over three minutes between us and the car behind we opted to drive for the finish.
The Tour de Corse has been an incredible experience, and the best way to end the season. The cost for us has been less than taking part in a UK international rally.