Wednesday 29 February 2012

Rallye Sunseeker Round Up

Cotton on to it” at British Rally Championship opener...

Matt Cotton makes a Splash on Rallye Sunseeker

British Rally Championship contender Matt Cotton took the silverware back to Cornwall last weekend, when he contested the season opener, Rallye Sunseeker. Cotton from Cornwall and co-driver Glyn Thomas from Somerset, finished a creditable 12th overall and 2nd in class against a strong international field which assembled in Bournemouth to compete over 65 hard fought stage miles. The championship is one of the most highly regarded in the world and due to the new 2 wheel drive only format, has attracted entries from esteemed manufacturers such as Ford, Renault and Citroen.

Driving a Ford Fiesta ST in the AVS Motorsport team and returning to international competition for the first time in 4 years, the South West pairing had a tall order ahead of them when the event started with an autograph session in Poole Harbour on Friday night. The pair had only ever competed together once before and Matt had the added challenge of driving a left hand drive rally car for the first time. But the apprehension before the event was soon to disappear as they started the first special stage in the New Forest.

The first loop of stages took crews to the sandy forests of Wareham where they set some competitive stages times despite a few moments on the first stage; “I really needed to settle into a good rhythm in the first few stages to build my confidence to be able to go on the attack in the afternoon” said Matt. “But we had a big scare on the very first stage when we hit a large section of standing water at high speed which forced us into the greenery at about 70mph”.

Remaining focused through the rest of the day would become key to a good result and as the day progressed, so did their pace; “The Fiesta is a great car and I still have a lot to learn about how it performs” said Matt at the last service of the day. “I’m really pleased we are getting quicker as every stage passes and we have managed to set several fastest stage times today. It’s encouraging that we can come back to the championship after a long break, and still be on the pace of the more experienced drivers”.
Matt Cotton at the wheel of his Fiesta.

As dusk fell on Bournemouth pier the remaining competitors and cars gathered to large crowds along the seafront, to spray champagne at the ceremonial finish celebrations. As a testament to the tough conditions on the stages only half of the original entries managed to make it through the day. But the team drove over the finish ramp to celebrate a fantastic result for their first rally of 2012. “It’s a great start to the season and this result it better than we could of hoped for” said Glyn at the finish. “We had a lot to overcome today and our pace improved every stage we did. We are really looking forward to the next round of the championship in March where we can really start to push”.

Matt lies in 12th place in the British Rally Championship, 2nd in class 8 and 7th in the Fiesta Sport Trophy. Matt also helped AVS Motorsport to 3rd place in the team’s championship standings. 

Solid points haul for Tom Cave on BRC opener

Tom Cave picks up an unwanted accessory on his way to 7th place

Welsh rally driver Tom Cave left Bournemouth with a solid points haul to begin his 2012 British Rally Championship season this weekend. The youngster, second on last year's event and partnered by Craig Parry, completed the 12-stage Rallye Sunseeker in 7th place overall after a gritty performance in a rented car.

It was a tricky day for Tom; while the weather was sunny and bright, he was driving the rented Ford Fiesta R2 for the first time, having completed just 20Km at the wheel at the event shakedown prior to the ceremonial start in Poole on Friday evening.

As tradition dictates, the start ceremony was incredibly well attended by fans and set the scene for another thrilling first round, with the BRC this year adopting 2WD cars only.

Tom and Craig began the day conservatively, keenly aware that they needed a solid points finish to begin their season. As they tackled the first loop of stages, their pace gradually improved and included a fourth-fastest stage time, arriving at the first of the event's three services in 10th place overall.

Several changes to the Fiesta's settings helped the car's performance but an overshoot on the next loop dropped the crew to 11th overall by the mid-point of the event.

By Tom's admission, the Fiesta performed better on the faster sections of the event than the slower and tighter ones and by the final loop of three stages, he and Craig were in a position to exploit mistakes made by other drivers. By the time the crews reached the finish ramp in Bournemouth, they had climbed to 7th place overall and third Fiesta.

Commenting, Tom said; "I'm pretty happy with the result - we got a decent points haul for the first round and that's what we were looking for. We decided to drive our own rally and see where we were on pace and towards the end, found ourselves in a bit of a scrap with Matthew Cathcart, which was good fun.
"I think we adapted to the Fiesta reasonable well. It's a good, solid car but it doesn't seem to have the legs that the R3 cars do, such as the Citroen DS3, as we'll be using for the rest of this season. It was pretty good on the faster, more open stages but of course, struggled a lot compared to the 4WD cars I'm used to in the slower corners. It's been a while since I've driven 2WD!
"We made some changes to the car's set-up early on but I think that this didn't really help us and the overshoot cost us some time, which on this rally, is very difficult to make back up again. But we managed to get up to 7th and some decent points for that, so overall, I'm fairly happy."

There's little chance for rest for Tom though, as next weekend (2-4 March) he will be tackling the second round of the BTRDA series in his Subaru Impreza, one of the cars he used to clinch the 2011 Production Cup title. However, for this year, the car has been converted to closer to B13 specification, allowing Tom to challenge for the outright Gold Star title, rather than the Production Cup.

He, Craig and the Davies MotorSport Services team will travel north to Cumbria for the Malcolm Wilson stages rally on Saturday 3 March, before returning to Wales as soon as that event finishes, ready to compete on the Mid Wales Stages on Sunday 4 March. Tom and Craig won the Mid Wales Stages outright in 2011 and will be keen to defend that win next weekend.

He then plans to debut the Citroen DS3 R3T he has secured for the BRC at the second round, the Bulldog Rally in Welshpool at the end of March. 


Success for Sykes on Sunseeker season-opener

Richard Sykes on his way to 2nd in the Rallye Sunseeker Challenge
Stourbridge rally driver Richard Sykes made a brilliant start to his 2012 rally season when he took second place overall in the Rallye Sunseeker Challenge event, the opening round of the BRC Challenge championship.

Driving his Bathams Brewery, G I Sykes Ltd, Boroughbridge Marina and Silverstone Tyres-backed Citroën C2 R2 Max Sykes and co-driver Simon Taylor were immediately on the pace with second quickest time on the opening Gore Heath test.

Their pace continued through the days ten stages, consistently setting top three times before finishing the event with a stunning fastest time in the final Uddens stage.

"I had a really good weekend, the car never missed a beat, it was the best it’s ever been," said Sykes. "All the hard work that we’ve done making the car fast and reliable seems to be paying off."

"I knew that competition would be tough at the top of the leaderboard so I was flat out right from the start. I’m delighted that we set top three times pretty much all of the event and it was fantastic to end the event with a fastest time, that really sets us up for the next round."

"I drove my heart out and didn’t back off all day so I’m pleased to have got a good result to get our season off to a cracking start."

"It was a brilliant event, the organisers put on a great show with the ceremonial start in Poole town centre, it was good to see so many people down there to watch the cars."

Sykes will next be in action on round two of the BRC Challenge which will take place at the Bulldog Challenge rally in mid-Wales on March 24th.



Garry Pearson and Craig Wallace took a well earned finish on the opening round of the Twingo Renaultsport R1 Trophy, Rallye Sunseeker International this weekend.

The young Scot had a challenging first event in the brand new car, deciding from the outset not to try and stay with the expected pace of double British Rally Champion Keith Cronin, who was driving an identical specification car.

Their steep learning curve on this, Garry’s first MSA British Rally Championship event, was further complicated by a car that had been finished just a day before the rally shakedown on Thursday. But the loose surface revealed a rock, which added a bent steering arm to his learning experience. After a great job by his team, ably assisted by Monster Sport Europe, the Twingo Trophy parts and technical partners, he went out again and made the finish ramp in Bournemouth to take the champagne and maximum points in the Twingo Renaultsport R1 Trophy UK.

Their prize of a £750 parts voucher is added to a maximum haul of MSA British Junior Rally Championship points towards their hope to take the Rallye du Var prize drive at the end of the year.

Although not scoring Twingo Trophy points, Cronin and Seb Marshall were indeed the pace-setters in their R1 Mantis-liveried car, even topping newcomers Chris Ingram/Joe Cruttenden and Nick Allen/Andy Bull in their R2 machines on the first loop of three stages.
Sadly Cronin and Marshall’s puncture and subsequent driveshaft failure sidelined the Irishman on stage ten of twelve, but their performance had put the pocket rocket midfield throughout the day, leading the class and proving that at just 133 horsepower, the entry-level Twingo can be a force to be reckoned with.

Despite the Twingo R2 Trophy kicking off on the Bulldog Rally North Wales in March, Ingram and Allen had opted to contest Rallye Sunseeker, adding some spice to the Renault contingent on the event.

It was 2011 Junior 1000 Rally Champion Ingram who was fastest Twingo on stage four, but the Cheshire lad had some bad luck on the very next test, becoming one of several crews throughout the field to retire with transmission problems on the slippery surface. It was therefore the furthest travelled driver who was top R2 Twingo at the Bournemouth finish, Californian Nick Allen ably guided to an excellent twelfth place overall by Birmingham’s Andy Bull. He and R1 Trophy winner Pearson were delighted at the finish; both commenting on how well the Dorset and Hampshire based event was run.
Also pleased with the event and taking part as part of the official event team were Justin Dale and Andrew Bargery. They ran Renault Sport Technologies brand new Twingo R2 Evolution as a course opening car, ensuring that the stages were correctly set up, marshalled and that spectators were aware of the impending international rally.

The world public debut of the Twingo R2 Evolution was a great success, the car running faultlessly. Despite not appearing on the results of the event, three times event winning co-driver Bargery was able to feed back some competitive unofficial times to the French team for technical data.

The next round of the MSA British Rally Championship, Bulldog International Rally North Wales, will host both the Twingo Renaultsport R1 and R2 Trophies. Coverage of the series from Rallye Sunseeker will be part of the Sky Sports British Rallyzone programme, broadcast during the week preceding the classic March 23/24th Welsh rally.


The Bournemouth based Rallye Sunseeker, round one of the MSA British Rally Championship presented the first chance for the Citroën runners to demonstrate their DS3 R3’s, and challenge for overall championship honours. They didn’t disappoint! Desi Henry and Niall Burns brought their DS3 home in second overall after a late charge and Oisan Pryce with co-driver Iestyn Williams claimed a fine fourth place. After this first round, Citroën UK are second in the Manufacturer’s Championship, just one point adrift of Renault. It could have been even better for Citroen as fast Finn Jarkko Nikara struck trouble on the penultimate stage.

Jarkko led the field into the twelve Saturday stages comprising 65 stage miles, and it was clear from the outset that the new two wheel drive focused BRC series was going to be a close fought one. Despite sampling the car for the first time on the pre-event shakedown, Nikara was second fastest on stage one, but took the lead on stage 2, with a time over four seconds faster than his nearest rival. “The car felt quite a good car from the outset” commented Jarkko. “I was enjoying the car to drive, despite the lack of time in it. At every service I made small changes to the suspension to improve the car, and it was coming good.” Fastest on stage 3 and 4 by just fractions of a second, Jarkko held a narrow 3.5 second lead after this test. The pursuer was Mark Donnelly in his Renault Clio. The former Citroën C2 Max driver put in two fastest times to take the lead after stage 6, as the battle continued. Just fractions of a second separated the drivers over the next two stages, with Jarkko snatching a valuable two seconds on stage 9. Amazingly this left the two front runners tied on time, with just three stages left to run. The new two wheel drive BRC certainly is encouraging close racing! On stage 10, Jarkko took 1.2 seconds off the charging Donnelly but a race to the finish was to be denied as Jarkko’s car ground to a halt on the very next stage. “I’m not sure what happened yet, but the car started to lose power. There was a small fire and the engine cut out. I’m very disappointed, as we were battling with Mark for the win, and of course our chances were very good. Hopefully we can sort everything before the next one and get some more testing with the car also.”

The youngest of the Citroën runners, Osian Pryce from Wales, celebrated his 19th birthday on the eve of the rally, and he had much to celebrate at the end of the event with a fourth place finish. “At the start of the rally we said we would be happy to finish in the same position as our seeding which was number 10. It’s our first rally in an R3 car, and we weren’t driving at 100%, aiming for a finish, so we were surprised to be third fastest on the two opening stages” commented Osian. Indeed Osian held third place until stage 5, dropping just one place to fourth on stage 7. “I was really pleased with the DS3 in general, but we have some work to do to improve the suspension to my liking. On stage 8 we came across Callum Black’s big accident and stopped at it. Thankfully they were ok, but we received a nominal stage time for the test which cost us a bit.” Nevertheless Osian and co-driver Iestyn Williams clawed their way back to a fine fourth at the finish. “We are delighted, and next week we have entered the Mid Wales stages, where I hope to further improve the suspension to my liking. We are really looking forward to the next round, the Bulldog Rally.”

2011 Citroën Racing Trophy UK winner Desi Henry from Northern Ireland started off steadily in his DS3 R3, but the Co. Antrim driver got to like his Citroën more and more as the event progressed and a fabulous late charge brought him right up to claim a magnificent second place. “We hadn’t a lot of miles in the new car before the event, and the first loop wasn’t brilliant. I missed a couple of gears and made a couple of silly mistakes. On the second loop I had an overshoot which put us back a bit, but the overall times between 2nd to 8th places were still quite tight. We made some changes including raising the car to help deal with the soft surface, and adjusted the dampers, and decided to have a go on the final two loops.” Desi and co-driver Niall Burns were back in 8th pace at the half way point, but by stage 8 they were up to 6th and stage 9 up to 5th, with two third fastest times behind the battling leaders. But there was more to come with a second fastest time on the penultimate test and a fastest overall time on the final stage, Desi snatched second place by just 0.2 of a second from Elfyn Evans in his Ford Fiesta. “I’m over the moon with the result. It’s very good for the championship race and we certainly didn’t expect to come out with this result.”

It all helps put Citroën UK into second place in the Manufacturer’s table with the next round of the MSA British Rally Championship, the Bulldog Rally on the 23rd and 24th March.

Results Rallye Sunseeker 2012- Round One MSA British Rally Championship

PositionDriver / Co-DriverCarTime
1stMark Donnelly/ Dai RobertsRenault Clio1hr 7 min 06 s
2ndDesi Henry/ Niall Burns Citroën DS3+1min49.5
3rdElfyn Evans/ Andrew Edwards Ford Fiesta+1min49.7
4thOsian Pryce/ Iestyn WilliamsCitroën DS3+2min22.4
5thPeter Taylor/ Andrew RougheadRenault Clio+2min23.1

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