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Pirelli Rally 2008
RALLY NEWS No.1 - Carlisle/Airfield/Friday 18.00 hours - Tuesday @ 17:02:58
RALLY NEWS NO.1 Carlisle/Airfield/Friday 18.00 hours

Variety, almost bewilderingly so, plus loads of quality in the shape of some of the best drivers in Europe, mark this Pirelli International Rally, opening round of the Tesco 99 Octane British Rally Championship. Variety in the way that in the main International Rally there are not only a trio of Scandinavian drivers challenging some of Britain’s best, but also that there are ‘mini-series’ within the main rally. The Citroen C2R2 Cup and the Suzuki Swift Sport Cup. In addition to the International there is a National Rally, also encompassing the Fiesta series, plus the well supported Pirelli Historic Rally. So basically there will be cars of all shapes and sizes whizzing through the Kielder forests at all times over the next 24 hours!

British Rally Champion Guy Wilks in his Mitsubishi Lancer heads the main field away at 7.15 this evening, with the Historic Rally running in front, starting at 5.45. For Wilks the rally is an opportunity to open his score in the Championship, but he knows it won’t be easy. Not only does he face a high class field, but he realises full well that if he pushes just a mite too hard the Kielder forest could bite back, trapping his new ADR built Lancer in one of those deep ditches. Behind Guy is former British Champion Mark Higgins. He drives one of the new breed of rally cars, an MG Super 2000 Sport – four wheel drive, naturally aspirated engine, a brave attempt to produce an ‘affordable’ rally car. Mark has had one outing in the new car, he loved driving it, He admits that it is short on torque compared to the top GpN cars, thought it handled brilliantly, but will struggle a little on certain types of road.

Finnish driver Juho Hanninen is at 3 in his Lancer, the 23 year old stunningly quick on the stages, but keeping it all together for him through Kielder may prove a challenge. David Higgins at 5 is a former British GpN Champion, has tasted great success in China recently, and is also now running his own team. He should be in the midst of the fray at the front. David and his team-mate Huw Evans will drive the new model Impreza N14, which may or may not pose an unfamiliarity`quandary in the servicing department, but the cars are unquestionably quick. Swedish driver Patrik Flodin is at 5, also in an Impreza, and he has proved on the WRC arena that he has lots of pace. Could be very special here if it all ‘clicks’.

Then its Phillip Morrow at 6, the 24 year old Ulsterman on the crest of a wave at the moment, making his debut here in the ‘works’ Mitsubishi Lancer, his reward for winning the Evo Challenge. Phillip, fastest oil delivery man around his home town of Lisburn, is like a dog with two tails at this opportunity. What he doesn’t want to do though, is park his new Lancer in the Kielder trees. That wouldn’t be good!

Looking on down the top ten and beyond, it just sparkles with interesting drivers. Young Stuart Jones for example at 7 could really spring a surprise in his MG. Eyvind Brynildsen at 8 in his Lancer has loads of World Championship experience and speed. Robert Swann at 9 is sticking with his Impreza N12 until delivery of his new Subaru next month, and was close to the front several times last season. He certainly can’t be discounted here. Darren Gass rounds off the top ten. For Darren, who doesn’t live that far away from Phillip Morrow, this rally is also the start of a dream ticket, as he also drives a ‘works’ Lancer, thanks to him winning the Pirelli Star award. Darren may have little experience of GpN competitive driving, but he’s a very brave and capable young man, so we could just see some fireworks.

The above is just a summary of the top end of the Pirelli International field. There are plenty more really good ‘home’ drivers, plus some from abroad. Not least of those is French star Simon Jean-Joseph, debuting the new Citroen C2R2 Max. It will be interesting to see just how his pace compares to the C2R2 Cup contenders, including Marty McCormick and the other four contenders. The new car though has a lot more power, and Simon is a world class professional driver. There are three really quick Swedish drivers, Andreas Sjolander, Victor Henriksson and Joakim Nyman, all in Fiestas, all battling for R2 Class honours with the C2R2’s and the Suzukis. An interesting late addition is Barry Clark, running at 24, also in a Fiesta.

Happily there are no real changes to the International entry list, all the major teams as listed in the programme, starting on schedule.
More news later: BRIAN & LIZ PATTERSON www.rallynews.net

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