October 21st 2006

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Motorsport News of 25th October 2006

Boy wonder is top dog

Mikkelsen maintains his stunning form for another high-profile win on the Bulldog.

By - Jo Holland

Bulldog Rally

It was celebrations all round for the top three finishers on the Bulldog Rally last weekend.

While Norwegian boy wonder Andreas Mikkelsen won the event, runner up Steve Perez took top National Gravel Rally Championship points, and third- place finisher Craig Middleton won the championship A few drivers joked they were starting to dread Mlkkelsens name on an entry list these days, because of his recent winning streak.

So to keep his reputation safe. Mikkelsen took the lead on stage one and held it until the end of the event. He set fastest stage time on five of the six stages. The closest anyone got to him was on stage one when Middleton was just 3.3 seconds slower Mikkelsen was nursing flu and said he was finding it hard to keep his concentration during the longer stages “As I feel ill I won't be taking any risks." he said. “I just want to get in the mileage. “ After winning by 53 seconds he compared the slippy stages to his time downhill skiing. “We had a good run and I look forward to reading the names on the trophy I have won. People keep telling me Henri Toivonen and Pentti Airlkkala are on there. It's an honour to join them."

When you're used to pushing hard It s difficult to stop doing it That was the problem Middleton had. He continued his first stage pursuit of fastest times on stages two and three, where he was second behind Mikkelsen each time -but he had to think of the bigger picture and slow down for the sake of the championship To win the title. Middleton had to finish eighth or higher His rival for the title. 1998 champion Roger Duckworth, had to win the event But things didn't go to plan for Duckworth from the start, so Middleton needed to remember winning the event wasn't the aim especially with Mikkelsen not registered for the championship He conceded he had not enjoyed the day saying he had put himself under pressure. “On the first few stages I cracked on and thought "this is okay" - then I realised I had to drop the pace and think of the bigger picture and get to the end." he said “From stage two onwards I was quite nervous but hope it didn't show"

Middleton's title win comes 17 years after his father Graham was the ANCRO champion. Duckworth's day had been filled with problems but no matter what rallying throws at him he always smiles, says “that's rallying" and looks forward to his next event Last weekend was nothing different. Before the event, he said he suspected that Middleton would not perform badly enough to finish lower than eighth unless he had problems, but he could not have foreseen his own difficulties.

His gearbox stopped working halfway through stage one. He thought he had managed to fix it. but it would not go into active mode, losing him time “My gearbox problems went on all day" he said, doing well to finish fourth overall. “On top of that we knocked a brake pipe off so we ran with three brakes for the last few stages It made it a bit more leary to drive, like an older car so it was good fun at the same time. A good man won the title and I'm happy for Craig".

Perez put in some storming times on the event He was third fastest on the first three stages, fastest on stages four and five, and fastest by 7.1s on the final stage. His last stage rush helped him leapfrog Middleton to go second on the event Perez had M Sport coordinator Peter Martin codriving for him last weekend The last time they paired up was on the Historic part of Trackrod Rally Yorkshire when they retired on stage one this more than made up it. Perez was ANCRO champion in 2004. but did not win an event outright that year. This time he took top championship points.

In first service. Perez was surprised how well his tyres were wearing and joked, “maybe I'm not driving quickly enough. “ even though he was third overall. He enjoyed a good battle with Middleton. who he really pushed on the final stage after losing time on stage five.

Martin said “We had a clear run except for one moment when a right seven jumped out at us on stage five. It gave the spcccies a bit of a shock - and the driver." Perhaps the funniest thing heard in service was from Jon Ingram, who has declared the Bulldog Rally his nemesis.

“It's a disaster." he said. “I always do badly here. On stage one the car steamed up and. on stage two. I lost my brakes. Some of the times with no brakes were good fun. but I've been unlucky".

He started out seventh, but worked his way up to fifth despite being plagued with brake woe all day And I'm sure he will return to the event again one day Sixth and seventh were surprise entries to the event More often spotted on the British Rally Championship. 2002 Bulldog Rally winner Julian Reynolds competed on the event to test for Wales Rally GB like many other drivers. With Shelley Rogerson co-driving for him, he was sixth.

And MSA Rally Elite driver Philip Morrow was on the event, but not in a car. BRC driver Morrow was in service helping out Stephen Whitford and Simon Morrow to seventh. Morrow's mentor. Whitford. had hired a car to contest the event with Morrow's brother and former codriver The last time Whitford competed was on the Northern Ireland Championship in 2002 “The idea came up in the pub one night and seemed like a good idea at the time." he laughed.


Howells reveals secret

Clubmans; Rally

David Howells said the secret to his winning the Bulldog Clubman's Rally was easy last weekend.

Howells and his co-driver Andy Morgan had done the event as a one-off to evaluate the championship as an option for 2007. “I went where the co-driver told me to go quickly;" he laughed. “We didn't expect to win the event at all. this Is a real bonus." Howells set three fastest stage times on the four-stage event.

Last year's winner. Jimmy Christie, said he had come back to win for a second year but hadn't been able to. “The car’s been perfect." he said. “But it struggles a bit when it's slippy. That’s been our real downfall today."

Owain Beman finished third on the event but won the Welsh Clubman's Championship as a result of his podium place. “It’s been five months since our last rally." said Be man. “And it’s our first time out in this car. It feels slow, it shows you how important having time in the car on a regular basis is."

As the Fiesta SportingTrophy regulars competed on the Clubman's event, the new SportingTrophy champion Chris Moore came home to take enough points to win the Clubman's championship and with it, free entry to every event next year.

Title goes to the wire

The grand finale of the Fiesta SportingTrophy UK was played out in dramatic style on the Bulldog Clubmans Rally last weekend.

The championship was between Chris Moore and George Thomas. To win the title, Moore had to finish first or second with Thomas behind him. He finished second by 0.8 seconds after he passed Thomas crashed out in the middle of the final stage.

Moore started the event trying to go uphill with his handbrake on. "The split pin fell out of the handbrake." he explained. “We went up a hill and I thought it was a bit sluggish, then realised the handbrake was stuck on. We lost time with that for sure."

At service, Thomas said he felt the car was bogging down a bit in the muddy conditions and said he would go for it, joking to his codriver he should fasten his seatbelt. He was leading the championship with one stage to go, but crashed out on the final stage (see rally news).

A devastated Thomas said. “It was a silly mistake when we went off and we would have won the rally otherwise. I'm gutted.” Ironically, the corner which claimed Thomas was one where Moore’s co-driver Richard Edwards had gone off a few years earlier so they had marked it well on their notes.

When Moore saw Thomas, he still had to finish second to win and it was Kevin Davies who pushed them hard The event win went to Simon Hughes, taking his second Fiesta victory of the year.


In Brief

The inaugural Bulldog Mini Rally was won by 205 Challenge legend Pat Flynn with his daughter Ella Flynn on the notes. Former BTRDA driver Owen Cule finished second In his Citroen AX Sport After two stages, including the longest Dyfnant stage, father- and-son team Jamie and Peter Davidson finished third in their Peugeot 205.

After finishing second in their left- hand-dnve Citroen on the short forest event last Saturday. Cule and hts co-driver Emily Good hand were go mg on to contest the asphalt Adrian Barker Rally in a right-hand drive car the following day (for more on the Mini Rally, see Rally News.)

Class H2 winner Andrew Haddon had just finished building the Porsche RS he used on the Bulldog Rally last weekend. His next three events will be the Premiere, the Roger Albert Clark and the Killarney Historic He had been looking forward to a good battle with Gavin Cox, who was out In the Vodka Kick Lancia Stratos, but he retired on the first stage.

Leading retirements on the Bulldog included Damian Cole/Craig Drew, whose engine blew on stage four. Bob Ceern/Alistair Douglas, who suffered engine failure after stage two and Alistair Tough/Alistair Mackey who crashed out on stage four.

When Steve Perez and Peter Martin brought their car Into service after stage two, they had a pair of ladies' underwear hanging off the back. From now on the two men will be known as the Tom Jones of motorsport - women throwing underwear at them on the stages, what next?

But it was Richard Gower who claimed to have seen the underwear firsL Lying eighth after the two pre-service stages he joked that finding the underwear had put him off. He also claimed his co-driver A led Davies had lost weight, which was putting the car off balance.

Conrad Rautenbach/David Senior were in the B13 dass last weekend In their Subaru Impreza because they were running a bigger restricter on the car while they tested

for Wales Rally GB in December.

Andy Burton had been as high as fifth on the Bulldog Rally but after driving for eight miles on a flat tyre on stage two. he fell out of the top ten. He got back up to sixth before he reitired after stage five.

While Steve Petch finished 22nd overall on his first outing in a Group N car In 12 years, his son Stephen retired on the first stage when a diff collapsed.

Shaun Cronin and Roger Allan, of the Dorset Police Rally Team, were driving their first wet rally last weekend. It was their ninth rally and they said they had a "fabulous spin" on the second stage They finished 30th overall.

Rodney Bennett and Henry Richardson were debuting their new Fiat Stilo on the Bulldog Rally last weekend. They had only had the car for a week and it still had Italian flags on the windows. "Its only done Italian Tarmac events before, so it's probably gone a bit knobbly underneath after the gravel," laughed Bennett They finished 33rd and won class A7. "Don't ask how many people were in our class." said Bennett on the finish ramp. He was the only A7 driver competing on the event.