Pirelli Produces Scorching Pace on Stages
The pace was certainly fast and furious, producing high speed drama and an ever changing leaderboard as the opening day of the Pirelli Carlisle Rally saw the competitors in the MSA British Rally Championship turn the giant Kielder Forest complex into a thrilling all action arena, the high tech, futuristic cars setting a phenomenal pace.
There were signs of things to come when the opening stage saw four drivers, Elfyn Evans, Fredrik Ahlin, Matt Wilson ( Ford Fiestas ) and David Bogie ( Skoda ) all get under the bogey time on the smooth gravel tracks. Evans grabbed the lead on the second stage but there was very little in it, only 19 seconds covering the leading five drivers. One driver not amongst the front runners was Eaun Thorburn ( Peugeot 208 ) when power steering problems lost him a whole chunk of time. The second stage brought more problems for the front runners, Marty McCormack ( Fiesta ) slid off the road but recovered with little time loss, Neil Simpson ( Skoda ) had a puncture and drove out of the stage rather gingerly, punctures also plagued Rhys Yates ( Ford Fiesta ) and Gee Atherton. Niall Henry ( Mitsubishi ) after a puncture on the opening stage, suffered a broken brake line on the next one.
Really impressing with his pace was Matt Wilson ( Ford Fiesta ) after an 18 month break from driving he was immediately on the pace and proving he had lost none of his ability. He was one of the drivers to beat the opening stage bogey and 4th quickest on the next one.
After a quick service halt the drivers headed back into the forest for another brace of stages, Ahlin immediately grabbed the lead, albeit a mere second ahead of Bogie while Evans dropped time with, inevitably, a puncture and Desi Henry ( Skoda Fabia ) lost about a minute when he left the road. Henry bounced back, quite literally and beat bogey on the days final stage, as did Ahlin, Bogie, Wilson and Tom Cave ( Ford Fiesta ) demonstrating just how quick the new generation of cars contesting the British Championship really are. So, as the cars headed back to Carlisle for the overnight halt, and no doubt some refurbishment, it was Ahlin who topped the table on only his second British gravel event, he leads Bogie by just 7 seconds with the same distance behind in third place, indeed a less than a minute covers the leading five drivers so it is all to play for tomorrow when the crews return to Kielder Forest for another three stages.
Current championship leader Robert Duggan is again at the head of the British Junior Championship runners, a clear margin ahead of Gus Greensmith and Meirion Evans, Matt Edwards is out on his own in the BRC2 category, as is Gee Atherton in BRC4.
The Pirelli Carlisle Rally has an early, 8:00am, start tomorrow and the finish, complete with the prizegiving and traditional champagne spraying, takes place at the Borderway Auction Mart where the leaders are expected around noon.