Thursday 29 March 2012

Bulldog Rally Round Up

Bulldog Rally points haul for Cotton..

Matt Cotton at the finish of the Bulldog Rally
British Rally Championship contender Matt Cotton finished on the podium once again last weekend when he contested the second round of the world renowned series, The Bulldog International Rally of North Wales. Cotton piloted his AVS Motorsport run Ford Fiesta ST to a worthy 18th overall and 2nd in class, ensuring he remains in the championship title hunt for the remaining rounds of the season.

International competitors from all corners of the globe assembled in the market town of Welshpool in Powys to tackle 90 competitive stage miles in the classic Welsh forests of Dyfi and Gartheiniog. With 15 of those miles to be contested in the dark on Friday night, the event was already shaping up to be a classic battle for all the British Rally Championship crews.

With co-driver Glyn Thomas alongside, the South West pairing were looking forward to the challenge ahead which included night stages for the first time this year. But a bitter blow was dealt just a few hours before the event was due to start when the organisers of the rally had to cancel the 2 stages on Friday which were due to run in the dark. This meant that the 10 stages planned for Saturday would become more critical for the team as they would need to attack from the very first stage.

After the ceremonial start in Welshpool town centre, the first loop of stages took crews into the fast and undulating Dyfi Forest complex where Matt would need to remain focused on the task in hand if he was to return to the first service of the day in the lead of his class. Matt said “I had a very scrappy first stage and we lost a lot of time with a few overshoots. It was hard adjusting to the different surface of the Welsh forests compared to Rallye Sunseeker as we haven’t got the budget to carry out testing between events, but hopefully we can learn quickly as its loosing us time on the faster sections”.

After a brief service halt, the crews returned to complete a second run of the morning’s stages which would prove critical for the Cornishman. As the stages were repeated, Matt started to build his confidence on the slippery gravel and set some encouraging stage times. He said “Every mile I drive in the car I feel more confident and comfortable with how it performs. We should be able to claw back the seconds we lost this morning when we tackle the afternoon stages for the first time”.

However with the event running behind schedule due to a number of incidents, the organisers were forced to cancel the last 3 stages meaning the results were declared final after the second service of the day and the crews were re-routed to the ceremonial finish in Welshpool.
Can't see the wood for the... Cotton??
I’m pleased that we have shown good pace today but we know what areas we need to improve on the remaining rounds. It was a shame we had 5 cancelled stages as we were building confidence with every stage. We need to look forwards to the Pirelli Rally where we can really push for that illustrious win” said Glyn at the finish.

Matt lies in 14th place in the British Rally Championship, 2nd in class 8 and 4th in the Fiesta Sport Trophy. The next round of the series The Pirelli International Rally based in Carlisle, takes place on 27th/28th April. Keep up to date with Matt’s progress both on and off the stages by visiting, following us on Twitter, or finding us on Facebook.


Tom Cave Celebrates Multiple Wins in Wales

Tom Cave's borrowed Citroen (Read on)
 After brief testing just days before Round Two of the MSA British Rally Championship, young rally driver, Tom Cave celebrated his first win in the Citroen DS3 R3 rally car. Building on his past success, Tom, partnered with Craig Parry, took the win at his 'home' event, the Bulldog Rally in Wales, finishing three seconds ahead of Keith Cronin/Marshall Clarke. Tom also won the Pirelli 'Star driver' award. 

As the first outing for Tom in the DS3 R3, he hopes to build on this success as the BRC progresses as well as continuing to impress in the newly created Citroen Racing Trophy.
Who wanted a shower?

The new Citroen DS3 R3 offered a multitude of challenges. The main one came with testing, as the car wasn't ready in time to offer a significant testing period. Converted to gravel spec by DMS, Tom had only a few days to get a feel for the  Citroen before driving in a competitive environment. However, he was satisfied that the set-up he developed would perform brilliantly come the event.

The morning of the Bulldog rally went well, though Tom admits the first stage was a little slower than his usual pace as he was getting used to the car. Such worries were soon in the past though, as Tom pushed harder in stages two and three. A tyre change between those timed tests was a wise tactical move, leaving Tom with fresh tyres for the longer, more aggressive third stage.

Commenting, Tom said: "We knew that stage three was going to be really hard on the tyres. Not only because of the gravel, but also because it was really warm. That's strange for Wales in March! With new tyres on the front we could push harder with a 10-15 second gain a real possibility. We carried the two tyres we'd used in stages one and two as spares though, just in case something did happen."

Tom went back to service after stage three with a five second lead, though the decision was made not change the setup of the car in any way. After the performance in the first three stages, Tom was confident he could push even harder through the next three without taking any unnecessary risks.

What would turn out to be the final three stages of the day saw similar tactics from Tom, with a slightly more aggressive push on stages 4 and 5 along with a considerable increase in pace on stage 6. Much like the morning's stages, tyres were used sparingly leaving plenty of life in them for the longer, more important stage six. Tom explains:

"We only carried one spare for stage six because the front tyres still had loads of life left in them. Again, like the morning's stages, we just wanted to push hard on the longer stage and create the biggest time difference we could. We did have one moment on a long right-hander. It tightened towards the end and there was the danger of colliding with some logs. Luckily the car powered out of the trouble and we were able to carry on. Lucky really, as some other drivers were having much bigger moments."

The last few miles of stage six offered even more challenges, thanks in no small part to the heat and gravely conditions pushing the tyres to their extremes. Even so, Tom easily held onto the lead. More stages were due to take place, but due to safety concerns surrounding lighting issues, the Bulldog Rally came to a close after stage six, securing Tom and Craig's first win the brand new Citroen DS3 R3, along with their first MSA British Rally Championship victory.

Tom's next event will be the Pirelli International leg of the BRC, centred around 100 miles of Welsh and Cumbrian forests during the 27th and 28th of April. Another two-day event, it promises even more challenges, though Tom is confident that with the AutoMeca Racing prepared Citroen DS3 R3 beneath him, he can achieve another podium finish. 

Sykes storms into championship lead after Bulldog rally success

Richard Sykes in action on the Bulldog Rally
Stourbridge’s Richard Sykes took his first rally win in three years on the Bulldog Challenge event last weekend, a performance which put him in the lead of the BRC Challenge rally championship.
The Welshpool-based event, which was round two of the championship, started with the Big Ray stage. Keen to get a good haul of points Sykes and co-driver Simon Taylor were immediately on the pace, setting third fastest time in their Bathams Brewery, G I Sykes Ltd, Boroughbridge Marina and Silverstone Tyres-supported Citroën C2 R2 Max.

Sykes maintained his position after the second stage in Dyfi forest before powering into the lead with a stunning time in stage three, Gartheiniog.

"We made a decent start to the event although we had small problems in both of the opening two stages," said Sykes. "We got held up in the dust of the car in front on stage one which cost us around 10 seconds and then we beached the car on a corner in stage two. Fortunately some spectators got us going again so we didn’t lose too much time."

"It was brilliant to be leading after the third stage, we didn’t know how we were getting on till we got back to service so it was pleasing to see we were fastest."

The rally headed north for a pair of stages near Bala, Llangywer and Penllyn, with Sykes 30 seconds ahead of his nearest rival. Despite his lead Sykes continued to push hard, setting the fastest time on both stages to extend his lead by a further nine seconds.
Celebrating the win and the lead of the BRC Challenge

There was no let up in the final Dyfnant stage either, Sykes taking his fourth consecutive stage win to complete a dominant performance.

"Even though we had a relatively comfortable lead I wanted to keep going as quick as I could on the final three stages and I was aiming to set as many fastest times as possible. I was delighted to be quickest on them all!"

"It was my fourth time contesting the Bulldog, the previous three occasions resulted in the car breaking so it is great both to finally finish the event and to win it."

"The event was very tough, some of my main championship rivals didn’t make it to the finish so we didn’t get to have a battle with them although I think we had the pace to still do the job. For once we have had a great start to the season while other crews are having problems and we will continue working as hard as we can to try and take the championship win."

Sykes now leads the BRC Challenge championship on 56 points ahead of James Watts on 46. The next championship round will take place in April with the Carlisle-based Pirelli Challenge rally.



Nick Allen and Tony Bull toast their success on the Bulldog Rally
 Californian Nick Allen and British co-driver Andy Bull won the inaugural event in the 2012 Twingo Renaultsport R2 Trophy UK this weekend, Scots pairing Garry Pearson and Craig Wallace taking the R1 Trophy honours on their second event in this series.

The event, Bulldog International Rally of North Wales was the second round of the MSA British Rally Championship, this year an all two wheel drive affair which has attracted drivers from around the world.

Having only contested a small number of events in his home country, Allen has been putting in the stage mileage since moving to the UK to fulfil his BRC ambition. He cites himself as a long-time follower of rallying in the UK, so this was a real dream come true for the ever-smiling American. However as with all rallies, it is not always the fastest on a given stage that wins.

It was actually Formula 1000 graduate Chris Ingram who set the early pace in his freshly upgraded Twingo R2 Evolution, although his path to the start of the rally was not an easy one.

Allen and Bull in action on the Bulldog
Having opted for the 190 horsepower upgrade, courier delays meant that the car was literally completed hours before the start on Saturday, the youngster benefitting from the cancellation of Friday’s two tests. He and co-driver Joe Cruttenden attended the 6pm ceremonial start on foot, leaving the team to bolt on a new engine computer and attend a late safety check arranged by the organisers.

But with the bit between his teeth, he set about the stages, climbing to an impressive 14th place by the eventual penultimate stage. Sadly the fuel filler had not been attached after refuelling and given the low level remaining in the tank, he took the sensible option to limp through to service, handing the lead to the American.

It was at this point that Allan and Bull proved the immense camaraderie in rallying. With Ingram’s car now out of fuel and potentially out of the rally, Allen stopped to see if he could help. This he duly did by pushing the youngster’s Twingo with his own, eventually changing to a tow rope when their engine temperature soared through lack of air-flow.

Pearson and Wallace in their R1 version of the Twingo
Meanwhile Garry Pearson and Craig Wallace were on their way to another maximum points haul in the Twingo Renaultsport R1 Trophy UK, Class 10 and Junior categories in the MSA British Rally Championship.

Their rally went according to plan, the sole Scottish crew on the event even finding themselves too quick on a couple of stages. Having made excellent time, they caught the dust of the car ahead, eventually managing to pass it, but losing time in the process.

Like Ingram, they also had a problem in the penultimate stage, clipping a log pile and bending the rear axle. But a degree of skill and commitment got them through the next stage relieved that it could then be repaired at service.

However on the road section back to the Dolgellau service area, a car from one of the preceding events had caught fire, the fire brigade and police closing the road. The subsequent delay forced the cancellation of the final three stages leaving just the ceremonial finish back in Welshpool.

Undeterred, the crews arrived at the finish, Pearson and Allen spraying champagne while Ingram rued a missing fuel filler cap, nevertheless picking up valuable points in the R2 Trophy.
Garry Pearson and Craig Wallace
Importantly, as the end of season Twingo Renaultsport R1 Trophy prize drive depends on Junior victory, Pearson leads the MSA British Junior Rally Championship too, beating Fiesta rival Steve Røkland in their first real encounter.

The next event in the BRC calendar, counting towards both Twingo Trophies, is the Pirelli International Rally which is based in Carlisle and uses the infamous Kielder Forest complex. The rally starts on Friday 27th April with stages continuing into Saturday 28th.

For more information on the Twingo Renaultsport R1 & R2 Trophy UK visit



Citroen Drivers lock out the podium at the Bulldog rally. 
Round two of the MSA British Rally Championship, the Bulldog Rally, marked the best ever result for Citroën in British rallying history. Young Welsh ace Tom Cave took a splendid overall victory in his DS3 R3, and the 1600 turbo charged rockets filled the following three places. All eight of Citroën DS3’s that started the event finished in the top twelve places! Citroën UK now lead the Manufacturers series after two rounds.

Rallying is a dramatic sport, and the dramas were even happening before the start in Welshpool, particularly for young Welsh man Tom Cave! The Davies Motorsport team had worked hard to finish his new DS3, and Tom was testing the Tuesday before the start when a freak mechanical failure in the steering caused the car to plunge off the road in 5th gear! “We landed on a jump, something broke and we plunged 50 yards through a bog, and landed on our side in 5 foot of water, before the car turned onto it wheels. It was a real mess with water everywhere, and I didn’t even know if we could be starting the rally at all.” With just 25 miles of testing before-hand, they had nevertheless arrived at a new set up. Frantic phone calls were made to hire a replacement DS3 and the French Auto Meca, run by Citroën rally legend Philippe Bugalski came up trumps. “We phoned them on Tuesday night and they had a car here for Friday morning, and Andy and the Davies team did a great job helping to run us on the event, and applying our test settings to the car.” It would prove to be a dream run for Tom and also very good for 2009 and 2010 British Rally Champion, Keith Cronin. After a deal to drive a Honda fell through the DGM Sport team’s second DS3 was readied at the eleventh hour for Keith to take the start. Leader for much of round one, Jarkko Nikara had a rebuilt engine in his DS3, and both Jonny Greer and James Grint were making their DS3 debuts.

Tom Cave in his borrowed DS3 somewhere in the Welsh forests
With the cancellation of the two Friday night stages, stage three - Big Ray 1 was the first and it was Nikara fastest from his round one rival Mark Donnelly in his Clio. But Donnelly’s challenge ended against a tree just after the finish line of stage 2, and it was set to be a DS3 battle. Keith Cronin was an impressive third, despite his very limited mileage in the car, but it was Tom Cave who set the pace, fastest on the next test to leap into the lead. With a further fastest time on the famous Garheiniog stage he had a three second lead over Jarkko Nikara. “Our first stage wasn’t great. I still had Tuesday’s incident in the back of my mind,” commented Tom. “On stage two however it seemed to click again, and we got into a good rhythm. At least we got a setting on our brief test, and without that we wouldn’t have been on the pace, but the car felt very good, especially on the fast stuff where it was very stable. The harder we went the more planted it seemed to be, and with so much torque it drives almost like a four wheel drive out of the corners.” There was even more to come from Tom as on the Dyfi Main test he took ten seconds off his nearest rival, who at this stage was Keith Cronin. Keith had his own dramas, stopping to assist Alastair Fisher on stage 5, after the Fiesta caught fire. The resultant nominal stage time he felt cost him a little, but he was to charge in the late afternoon stages, closing the gap to just 3 seconds at the finish, but just unable to catch the flying Cave. However he was lucky to finish at all, arriving late after a fuel pump related failure on the final road section.

Indeed the event wasn’t the smoothest with frequent delays starting the stages, and the last loop being cancelled due to a fire on a road section, meaning a total of just 56 competitive miles. It was maybe just as well for Jarkko Nikara, who limped home in third after breaking a drive-shaft on the final stage. In fourth place was 19 year old Osian Pryce in his Davies Motorsport DS3, a result that leaves him in a fantastic joint second place in the British Rally Championship. However the Welsh youngster feels he’s more improvements to make. “We still have some work to do, as we have to make up about a second a mile in some places on the leaders. I think I started too cautiously and was braking too early on the opening stages, having to go on the throttle again before some corners. I was happier with the handling of the car, with the improvements that we made, and had no problems all day. Certainly it’s good for the championship, but for the next couple of events we need to aim and see if we can climb onto the podium.”

The first non Citroën was Elfyn Evans who had a great drive in his R2 class Fiesta, with Jonny Greer making his DS3 debut claiming sixth. Jonny was getting used to front wheel drive again, and a new co-driver in Damien Connolly, and aside from a spin and a dash-board read out issue had a trouble free day. Desi Henry in eighth wasn’t quite so lucky with a costly puncture on stage 5, and the Co.Antrim driver who claimed second place on round one couldn’t get into the groove during the day. Eleventh place was an impressive finish for James Grint, on his first event in a DS3, and with his relative lack of rally experience. Just 13 seconds behind him was welcome French visitor Vincent Dubert.

The day however very much belonged to Tom Cave and co-driver Craig Parry, scooping €6000 of Citroën Racing Trophy UK prize money for their first overall finish. “It’s a dream result, and I’ve been waiting on a result like this for a while. Everything seemed to click, and the car ran perfectly. It was a tough fought event. We knew Keith would get quicker in the afternoon, but we had enough to hold on. It’s probably my best ever result, particularly after the steering failure on Tuesday. It’s brilliant!” Keith Cronin’s second place awards him €3500 whilst Jarkko Nikara claims €1500 for third.

With Citroën UK moving into the lead in the manufacturer’s table and the DS3 R3 proving its speed, reliability and durability it’s a fantastic performance for the Citroën brand in this extreme competition. The next round of the MSA British Rally Championship is the Pirelli International Rally on the 27th and 28th April.

Results Bulldog Rally 2012- Round Two MSA British Rally Championship

1 Tom Cave/ Craig Parry Citroën DS3 56 min 39s
2 Keith Cronin/Marshall Clarke Citroën DS3 +3s
3 Jarkko Nikara/ Petri Nikara
Citroën DS3 +14.7s
4 Osian Pryce/ Iestyn Williams
Citroën DS3 +49.4s
6 Jonny Greer/ Damien Connolly Citroën DS3 +1m17.9s
8 Desi Henry/ Niall Burns
Citroën DS3 +2m04.5s
11 James Grint/ Craig Drew Citroën DS3 +2m39.3s
12 Vincent Dubert/Stephane Rey
Citroën DS3 +2m52.6s

Manufacturer Standings after Round Two

1 Citroën UK 71points
2 Renault UK 61points
3 Ford Motor Co 60points

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