Wilkes wait is over
Date published : 31 Mar 2010 - 15:35:19
Julian Wilkes and his co-driver Will Rutherford took the first round of the BRC Challenge with a commanding drive in their Vauxhall Nova VXR 190 on the Welsh stages of the Bulldog Challenge Rally this weekend.
The victory puts a stop to the bad luck that has followed this crew on gravel rallies over the last few years, This is our first finish on gravel for ages, we always seem to have problems but the car has been fantastic today.
Though the rally pace setters had dominated early on, they were pushed to the limit by Callum Black and Paul Wakely in their MG ZR, taking three fastest stage times during the afternoon.
Callum had tracking problems with the MG as he arrived at the first service interval with his focus upon catching the Clio of Simon Moore, but with him running different tyres for the first time he showed great pace late on, but just could not reel in Wilkes.
The podium was completed by Fiesta ST paring of Jonathan Cunningham and Richard Millener, who had spoken to their boss Malcolm Wilson before the event for inspiration.
The M-Sport duo said at the beginning of the rally about their preparation for the event, It’s been a bit rushed; it’s only the second time out in a Fiesta, so we spoke to our boss and he told us to go quickly.
Another commendable result came from Chris Peart in his now rather aging Vauxhall Astra, co-driven by Jamie Forrest. When asked at the start about his chances he replied, "I’ll let you know tonight, we have done nothing this year, no changes to the car at all. I did the Bulldog in a 1400cc Proton a few years back and retired early".
One special mention must go to Osian Pryce in another of the Fiesta STs. The youngster only passed his driving test a couple of weeks ago, and only got his competition licence through a couple of days before the event. Clearly this is a driver to watch this year after his eighth place finish.
Fifth place finisher Simon Moore in his Clio started the day with some trepidation,It’s the second time out this year, with a new car and a new co-driver in Emma Morrison. We did a shakedown on the Border Counties rally and won the class" he said. But he couldn’t repeat that here as he struggled to keep pace with fellow class competitor Cunningham.
I need to be more committed on SS5 he added during the service halt, his commitment nearly paid off too. He finished the Big Ray stage just a second off Cunningham and two seconds quicker than fellow class competitor Peart.
One driver that didn’t have lady luck on his side was Russ Thompson who retired on the penultimate SS7 at Pantperthog. He had put respectable times in all day and was lying in 4th place during the morning runs.
After the service interval Russ stated, "I can hear a rattle underneath the car, I’m not happy, too cautious and backing off now far too much."
Another man-on-a-mission was Saleh Hijazi, who was competing in the UK for first time in 15 years, It’s going well, but it is a steep learning curve, but it’s about keeping it on the road. The likeable driver with his navigator "Aggie" said at the finish,We enjoyed it a lot, we set out to do what was required.
With being the only RC2 class competitor Brett Griffin took the class honours after an eventful rally,We ended up in a ditch on the last stage but we suffered no damage.
The first event of the championship has been a great success with only three cars not making the finish. But as we move on to the Pirelli International in April, it is clear by this form that Julian Wilkes is the man to beat.