The opening round of the 2012 MSA British Rally Championship, Rallye Sunseeker International, took place last weekend and some of the stars of the championship have spoken about the event went for them:
Osian Pryce/Iestyn Williams – Citroen DS3 R3 – Fourth
Welsh teenager Osian Pryce enjoyed a hugely successful start to his 2012 campaign with a hard-fought fourth place on the Sunseeker. On his debut in his new Citroen DS3 R3T, Pryce, who celebrated his 19th birthday on the eve of the rally, scored nine top five fastest stage times on his way to fourth, a result that could have been a podium had he not selflessly stopped to assist fellow competitor Callum Black after his car had burst into flames after rolling. Pryce's result saw him win the Richard Burns Trophy as the highest placed British Junior Driver on the event, for which he got a cheque for £1,000 and an invite to this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed Rally Stages.
Pryce said: “This event is very fast, the stages are quite short and punchy so you can't afford to drop any time as you don't have enough distance to make it. It's all about carrying speed through the corners and we managed to do that, but I guess we just dropped off the pace a little in the afternoon.”
Jussi Kumpumaki – Jani Salo – Ford Fiesta R2- Sixth
Nikko Nieminen – Pasi Haataja – Ford Fiesta R2 – DNF
BRC newcomers Ford Junior Team Finland had a mixed bag of results on Rallye Sunseeker. Team leader Jussi Kumpumaki enjoyed a successful event, leading the R2 class early on before eventually coming second in class and sixth overall, finishing up as the only non-British driver in the top ten. Team-mate Niko Nieminen meanwhile was enjoying a strong run on his first ever BRC event, lying thirteenth overall heading into the penultimate stage, however a driveshaft failure meant he wasn't able to reach the finish.
22 year old Kumpumaki said: “It was an excellent start for the series and the speed was at a good level. However preparing for the rally was not easy because of the problems with the gearbox, although I was still leading the class after the third special stage.
“The special stages at the beginning had more nice character and were more drivable than the rest of the rally, which merely consisted of T-junctions. It was not until the last stretches of these stages that I succeeded after calming down my driving.”
19 year old Nieminen added: “A top ten result was not so far away, but this time our rally ended two stages too early. Stages here were different to what I am used to; tight junctions and between them very fast sections. Also the gravel was quite soft if you compare it to Finnish roads.”
Matt Cotton/Glyn Thomas – Ford Fiesta ST – Twelfth
Cornishman Matt Cotton enjoyed a successful return to the British Rally Championship on the season opening Rallye Sunseeker. On his first international rally for four years, Cotton coped well with the tough Dorset stages, which claimed half of the BRC entrants through the day, to take twelfth overall and second in class in his AVS Motorsport-prepared Ford Fiesta ST.
Cotton said: “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. 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.
“The Fiesta is a great car and I still have a lot to learn about how it performs. 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”.
Co-driver Glyn Thomas added: “It's a great start to the season and this result it better than we could of hoped for. 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.”
Alastair Fisher/Daniel Barritt – Ford Fiesta R2 – DNF
Alastair Fisher began his preparations for his upcoming FIA WRC Academy season with a return to the BRC on Rallye Sunseeker. The Northern Irishman was running in seventh overall after the first six stages, when his Ford Fiesta R2 started developing a gearbox problem. It finally ended his rally two stages from the end when his car became stuck in second gear.
23 year old Fishers said: “I’m feeling a bit disappointed because it’s not been the best day. We had gearbox problems and really struggled with second gear. With only a 15-minute service there wasn't much that our team could do in terms of getting the car fixed to allow us to push for a strong result. So we used the remaining stages as a practice until we had to stop for good when the car got stuck in second gear on stage 10 and there was no point trying to continue.”