Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy took a well deserved win on the final NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge event of the year, after another close fought battle on the gravel roads of Yorkshire. The Renault Clio duo has had an up and down season but finished it on top.
The Rally started in the darkness enshrined Dalby forest in what would prove to be a challenging opener to any event. The fast long gravel straights and tight corners need near perfect concentration from both driver and navigator in order to post a quick time.
2012 Champions, Sykes and Taylor however found a small lack of concentration cost them dearly as they dropped to the bottom of the field and twelve minutes adrift of the leaders.
Of those leaders it was Scotsmen Gareth White and Mike Dickson in a Citroën C2R2 Max that held the overnight lead from Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy in their Renault Clio and Tony Simpson and Robin Hernaman in the Fiesta ST.
But it was Thompson who was first out the blocks on Saturday morning, setting a blistering time on the six mile Gale Rigg stage. The Lancashire youngster had been up all night practising his technique on his computer by playing Colin McRae Rally into the wee hours, and it was paying off.
Thompson, under threat from White, Simpson and Watts, held his nerve to pick up his first victory of the season and take the class honours too:
“I’m really pleased we didn’t back off on that last stage, it was a bad start to the year but this is a good way to finish it off.” Smiled an exhausted Thompson. His victory also secures him second overall in the 2012 NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge, congratulations to him, Andy and the team.
Second place on the podium went to White and Dickson who have battled back from a big accident on the Jim Clark to quickly restore their confidence and pace. The duo fought fiercely throughout the day to try to wrestle the lead back, but graciously conceded to the blisteringly fast Thompson. Taking maximum class points in RC5 certainly helped ease the pain of being eased out of a maiden series win.
Simpson and Hernaman managed to secure third by the finish to take their extremely well deserved place on the podium too. It was Simpson’s best result of the year and secured his place as the number one driver in the Fiesta SportChallenge for 2012. After setting his objectives early in the year, the Liverpool based driver certainly has earned his moment spraying champagne on the Scarborough seafront.
“I’m more than happy.” said a delighted Simpson, “Robin is very experienced on the notes in the dark and that’s where we made up most of the time in this rally. Fair play to Russ though, he was different class today.” He concluded, exuding the class and camaraderie that the BRC’s support series has become known for.
Non registered competitors finished fourth just in front of another pair having a great finish to their year’s campaign in the form of Adam Taylor and Loic Ditchburn. The engineering students have had to find their feet quickly in the sport, but have found the welcoming nature of the Challenge a great place to learn. Having overcome fire, a big ‘off’ and now narrowly missing out on a podium, the newcomers can now class themselves veterans.
“The last stage was awesome, really enjoyed it and the more we enjoy it the quicker we seem to go.” explained a smiling Taylor.
Steven Smith and Daniel Johnstone finished sixth in a Peugeot 206 RC after a tough night and day’s rallying. After suffering a fuel problem on FRiday night and then the car misfiring, it was a good effort in itself to get to the finish.
Seventh place on the final round was picked up by James Watts and Emma Morrison, after a cracking start to the event a mistake on the final stage sent the VW Polo careering down the leaderboard. It was such a shame for the ever so likable young farmer to see his hard work all year fall a little short at the final hurdle.
Constantly punching well above the little 1400cc limit, Watts has led the standing for most of the season. And, having already taken the class honours in RC2, was looking to secure a top three finish in the overall. If there was a prize for spirit of the NGK Challenge, it would certainly go to the VW driver for an unbelievably brave effort; he also has the honour of being the only competitor to have finished all the rounds of the championship.
Eighth and final place went to, Sykes and Taylor, who were never in contention following their crash on Saturday night. But the Citroën C2 pairing can console themselves with being crowned the latest champions of the NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge. An accolade very well deserved.
A final mention must go to Richard Archer and John Connor who suffered more engine trouble in their ex-works Opel Corsa, retiring in service after the car dropped onto three cylinders. If it wasn’t for bad luck this year then the pair would have had none at all.
The season’s final engagement is the awards night where class and overall champions will share the stage with the British Rally Championship on Saturday 17th November at Manchseter’s Hallmark Hotel.
Trackrod Challenge Rally results: HERE
NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge points tables: HERE
For more information on the NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge visit www.rallybrcchallenge.co.uk
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