ALL LOOKING GOOD FOR AHLEN
The first day of the Pirelli International Rally saw changing fortunes as the hazards of the dreaded “Killer” Kielder Forest proved a stern challenge for both car and driver but as the cars headed back to Carlisle for the overnight halt it was Last year’s winner, Norwegian star Fredrik Ahlen who led the pack, 21 seconds ahead of Welshman Osian Pryce, with Irish driver Keith Cronin third and Scot, Gary Pearson fourth there was a truly international flavour to the leaderboard.
The forest tracks in the Kielder complex were dry and dusty and many drivers commented on the loose surface, “Like driving on ball bearings” was on oft heard comment. The initial lead was seized by Tom cave, giving the new Hyundaii20R5 a promising debut and after 2 stages he led Ahlin, albeit by just 7 seconds with Price, Martin McCormack, who caught Bogie on the opening stage and Cronin on the following one, and Desi Henry all close behind. Cronin got off to a torrid start with a spin on the opening stage and power steering problems on the following one, he was back in 10th place at the service halt. David Bogie also had a poor start, a lack of brakes not instilling any great confidence, Rhys Yates was another driver complaining of brake problems while Eyvind Brynildsen had a brake pipe snap a mile into the opening stage ruining his chances almost from the start, he also suffered transmission problems on the 2nd stage. Further down the field, James Slaughter put his Fiesta off the road and incurred a maximum penalty and David White’s similar car was sidelined with a driveshaft problem.
Amongst the Junior BRC runners, Cameron Davies led initially from Merion Evans and Calum Devine while behind them Oscar Solberg lost time when he spun on the Black Fell stage and Marty Gallagher dropped back, yet another driver suffering with a car having brake problems.
After a re-group in Bellingham, the rally headed for the long, and very fast, Clintburn stage where the leaderboard changed dramatically as suspension problems put an end to Caves promising run. Desi Henry then found one of Kielder’s infamous ditches, ending his day somewhat prematurely. Meanwhile, Keith Cronin was starting to get the measure of both his car and the fast forest tracks, he was quickest through Clintburn and another quick time over Clover Hill, the day’s final stage, saw him move up to 3rd place, handily placed for a strong challenge tomorrow. Ahlin ended the day with a 20 second lead from Osian Pryce while consistently quick times saw Gary Pearson move up to 4thahead of Martin McCormack.
There was a shuffling of the leaderboard amongst the Juniors with Cameron Davies crashing out on Clintburn handing the category lead to Callum Devine from Merion Evans and William Creighton but a mere 4 seconds covers the leading trio, Solberg meanwhile dropped back when he lost over a minute on the days final Clover Hill stage.
The Pirelli International Rally resumes tomorrow with a further 4 stages in the Kielder Forest complex before the ceremonial finish in Brampton town centre where the main street has been closed especially for the occasion.