Fredrik Ahlin and Morten Erik Abrahamsen took an impressive victory for CA1 Sport at the latest round of the MSA British Rally Championship at Pirelli Carlisle Rally.
Ahlin took his Ford Fiesta R5 to the top of the results to become the first Swedish drive to win a round of the British championship since 1995, he also became the third different winner from the opening three rounds of the 2016 series. Ahlin’s victory saw him pass previous championship leader Elfyn Evans and go clear by 5 points after the Swede played his ‘Joker’, meaning that he scored double points for this round.
Matthew Wilson returned to the BRC for the first time since 2005 and took a solid second place finish while previous championship leader Evans claimed third place after a tough opening day which saw him fall down the leader board with a puncture. The Welshman never gave up after the incident and fought his way back up the order to make a complete podium of three Ford Fiesta R5’s, although all three were using different tyres – Pirelli, Michelin and DMACK.
The Mayor of Carlisle Steve Layden got the event under way at the Pirelli factory on Saturday afternoon and it wouldn’t be too long before there was some controversy with the top drivers putting in impressive times on stages one and four, unfortunately a little too impressive as the passed through the stages below the mandatory ‘bogie time’. The result would mean that Evans, Ahlin, David Bogie and Wilson would see their official time recorded as the same.
On the second stage Evans finished the first half of the day on good form, leading the way ahead of the chasing pack of Ahlin, Bogie and Wilson. Joining the four drivers was Tom Cave who rounded out the top 5 with just 23.4 seconds seperating the quintuple.
The afternoon saw a number of punctures throughout the Roughside stage, Evans was the biggest name to suffer but despite the problems, clawed his way back to fifth place by the end of the day. Ahlin finished the Saturday on top of the timesheets, 7.3 seconds ahead of CA1 Sport team-mate Bogie.
While the opening day was basked in sunshine, day two saw heavy rain showers, bringing big challenges for the competitors. Ahlin took this in his stride and took a confident victory.
“I am very happy with the win and it is very important for the championship as we now take the lead.” said Ahlin. “I was completely committed this weekend on the stages and it was amazing to drive them. I had to change my approach a little bit once Elfyn [Evans] had the puncture, as he was the main rival this weekend.
“Once we had that lead we just had to maintain it and not take any risks or pick up a puncture ourselves. We are not just looking at one rally at a time as we are thinking about the championship, and this win is very important for the future. The fight is on, let’s see what we can do on the Scottish.”
Team-mate Bogie looked set for a podium finish until he ended up in a ditch, letting local driver Wilson through in to second place, 18-months on from his last competitive rally at Wales Rally GB.
“It was great to be back in the championship and the rally was fantastic as I really enjoyed it from start to finish.” said Wilson. “The stages were so quick and it was hard to get back into the swing of things. Having been away from rallying and, with a short event, there was no time to mess around, so I had to get into a rhythm as soon as possible.”
While this outting was a one off for Wilson, he added that he could be back for more soon, “I knew if it went well it was going to give me the bug again, so we hope to be out again soon. Second isn’t too shabby at all.”
Following his puncture on Saturday, Elfyn Evans started the second day in a determined mood, with Bogie out, that moved the Welshman up in to fourth place; Next in his sights were fellow countryman Tom Cave who couldn’t deal with the pace of Evans and had to settle for fourth place.
“It’s not been a good weekend as the puncture ruined any chance of the win but second was on the cards if the event had been longer.” said Evans. “The bogey times really effected the weekend not allowing us to claw back the time but Fredrik drove brilliantly and deserves the win. It was a tough challenge this weekend and we look forward to a proper good fight on the Scottish Rally.”
Rounding out the top five was Marty McCormack, who after a troubled start took his Skoda Fabia S2000 to his first BRC points finish.
In the DMACK Junior British Rally Championship it was a battle between three drivers, Sindre Furuseth in his Renault Twingo R2, Junior BRC Championship leader Robert Duggan in a Vauxhall ADAM R2 and Gus Greensmith in his Ford Fiesta R2T.
Furuseth headed the way to start with but suffered a puncture, dropping him out of podium contention to a final fifth-place finish. With the Norwegian driver out of the way it was Duggan who lept in to the lead of the rally to take back-to-back victories after winning on the Circuit of Ireland rally.
“We delighted to have won the Pirelli Rally and it is nice to have won on gravel as well as Tarmac.” said Duggan. “We were trying to keep our noses clean all weekend and not make any stupid mistakes which was hard on this tough event. Now with two wins we are thinking about the championship but we will take each round as it comes and hope to get another podium on the Scottish Rally.”
Greensmith headed in to the rally looking to add to his opening round victory but following a puncture and not having full confidence in his pace notes saw him end the rally in second place, albeit with double points after playing his ‘Joker’. Greensmith’s second place would be enough for him to saty in contention for the lead of the championship despite Duggan leading the way, Greensmith is only one point adrift.
“Although we are on the podium, it was one of worst events of the year to date.” said a relieved Greensmith. “My notes were inconsistent and I struggled to get into a good rhythm whilst I was driving. We can take positives from this rally as we got some good points for the championship and we set some fastest stage times.”
Greensmith started the year using the BRC as a warm up to his DMACK Ford Fiesta Trophy season, which kicks off in Portugal this month, but he admits that as the championship is so close he can’t leave it like that. “The Pirelli was meant to be my last BRC round but I think I am capable of more and I can’t leave the series like this, so I am going to come back and do the Nicky Grist Stages and go for the win.”
Adam Bustard took another third place finish as he kept safe throughout the rally, “I am very happy to now have two podiums in two events and I think this one means more as I had to really fight for it as Meirion [Evans] and I had a really good battle. We had a consistent event with no major dramas and we loved the stages and I want to do more. We are not going to get ahead of ourselves as we take one event at a time. The most important thing is to keep it clean and consistent when we head to the Scottish.” said Bustard.
Meirion Evans took the SORT Oil Spirit of the Rally award as he finally managed to finish his first BRC event after a challening opening to his season.
MSA British Rally Championship Round 3 – Pirelli Carlisle Rally
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MSA British Rally Championship for Drivers points (after 3 of 7 rounds)
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* Drivers have played their double points ‘Joker’
MSA DMACK Junior BRC Championship for Drivers points (after 3 of 7 rounds)
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