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Fiesta SportingTrophy UK, round 4/8 - Huge lift for Hughes at the Jim Clark Rally

09.07.2006: Fiesta SportingTrophy UK, round 4/8 - Huge lift for Hughes at the Jim Clark Rally

Jim Clark Fiesta Rally Saturday July 8th

Simon Hughes took an impressive victory in the fourth round of the VK Vodka Kick backed Fiesta SportingTrophy UK series on the Jim Clark Rally, scoring valuable points for his championship campaign for the first time since the opening round and moving him into third in the standings behind Kevin Davies and new championship leader, George Thomas.

After a heavy downpour in the week previous, a dry and breezy Kelso played host to 26 genuinely matched competitors for the latest round of the Fiesta SportingTrophy UK. With some clean and dry roads in front of them, a relaxed and confident group were well equipped for another closely fought round in these compact and exciting Fiestas. Fully prepared and ready for action, the scene was set for a great competition, where the tarmac of the Jim Clark venue would demonstrate quick rallying and high level of commitment.

The first disappointment of the day came when Championship challenger Dan Taylor, who was positioned fifth overall going into this event on five points, crashed out. Around a quarter of a mile from the end of Buxley 1, this genuine hope for the rally felt the car kick up on a dip, throwing them off the road and into a spin through approximately forty yards of fencing on the way into a field.

When George Thomas was setting the fastest time of the stage, Chris Moore of Innovation Motorsport got off to the worst possible start when he hit a hidden rock in Buxley 1 resulting in a popped driveshaft and ultimately a retirement in the second stage. Chris was not the only competitor to do this as both Jonathan Greer and Fraser Jones hit the same rock but with less consequence. Fraser had a puncture losing around 10 secs, but Jonathan ended with driveshaft problems turning into gearbox problems, resulting in a lowly finish.

Thomas, set the fastest time by 5.9 secs on the first stage, a massive difference compared to the scant margins of seconds between the remaining top ten. Simon Hughes put his tarmac experience to good use, and took fastest on the next two stages to start reeling him in, though George maintained the lead overall into first service. By stage 3, Murphy clocked on the exact same time as Thomas on 9.11.1 which yet again illustrates how closely matched both cars and competitors are in this admired one make championship, but the storming Hughes on 9.06.0 had enough in hand to knock Murphy off the second place spot into 3rd.

Now safely in the Charterhall service area the teams were able to ponder their first 25 miles driving before making those all important adjustments for their second run through Buxley. Things changed immediately though when an accident in the National Rally saw the stage cancelled due to a blockage and 9 tough miles shaved off the mileage counter.

Championship leader and MSA British Rally Academy student Kevin Davies was in Whiteadder for the second time when his balljoint was damaged which was enough to put the brakes on his strong bid for the VK Vodka Kick backed FST UK series, for the time being anyway.

A second time around Whiteadder seemed to present few fresh problems but indeed we were to lose two further competitors during the second run through Blackadder. Sitting on five championship points to date was Alex Evans. Evans, like his joint fifth placed colleague Dan Taylor, ended his bid here at The Jim Clark Rally with a damaged driveshaft. Also retiring in Blackadder 2 was Willie Mavitty whose engine blew up after he over revved it on a jump.

Despite having been warned about some oil on the stage by spectators, Richard Archer managed to find it and spun off in Whiteadder 2 as a result. This saw him drop from 14th to 17th in the standings after losing 10 to 12 seconds through this frustrating error.

Shaping up well after six competitive stages was Gordon Coleman. Fifth place was a fantastic position for the young Irishman at this stage of the race considering the fact that he had in fact been slowing down in reaction to road traffic signs! With very little in it throughout the field the competitive spirit of the FST UK could not be faulted. Newcomer to the championship Jonnie Wigmore continued to turn up the heat on Simon Hughes, setting times in the top fifth to move into fourth overall. Murphy held third from Thomas, while Hughes’ charge had netted him the top spot by the second service back at Charterhall Airfield.

The last group of four stages saw intense action from all the crews but none more so than this losing group. Murphy lost an important 16 seconds by overshooting a corner in Fogo 1 and so close was the competition that this dropped him from third to fifth. This opened the door for Wigmore to nudge his way into second place, after Thomas had his own junction overshoot too. The dominant Simon Hughes was showing no sign of giving up his lead. He had clinched his top podium spot with six stage wins from the ten on offer, Jonnie Wigmore held on to second place after a sterling drive. But a titanic battle between Thomas and Murphy with only 1.7 seconds between on the start line of the last stage eventually resulted in Murphy taking the final podium, pipping Thomas out by a mere 0.7 seconds.

As a result of Kevin Davies retirement in Buxley 2, Thomas now finds himself in first place for the overall championship after gaining the points for 4th place. The win for Hughes sees him climb to third place in the table and realising some of that undoubted potential which had yet to materialise in some much needed championship points.

A well earned point is awarded to Alastair Fisher of County Tyrone via an impressive drive which led to a pleasing eighth place. A fortnights time sees the championship return to gravel for the Swansea Bay stages on the 22nd of July where it will be all to play for with three rounds to go.

Driver quotes from the Top Six in order:

#207 Simon Hughes "We had a great run out today. Finally we’re beginning to display some of that potential that people have been talking about. Potential is great but you can only live off that for so long. I was cautious over my bridge in Blackadder and Claire kept her head down as we passed her neighbours in stage Whiteadder! ".

#218 Jonnie Wigmore "We were too cautious on the first which cost us in the end. We feel happy with the car and we’re getting more used to it as we go on. We got the tyre choice right". "We bled the brakes at service and then we lost them near the end of the last stage, quite scary at 100mph!"

#204 Owen Murphy "We have been going well all day, as we really need to get good points on this event. So we were pleased to be lying third going into the last loop before I went off into a field on SS14 and lost 15-20 seconds dropping us to fifth. On the last two stages we had a real charge and just took third by 0.7 seconds. Great fun."

#202 George Thomas "This rally, and the championship for that matter is too close! It was difficult keeping up with Simon today and we had a couple of moments which didn’t help our cause. Overall we’re happy and we’ll have a think before we tackle the next round ".

#213 Gordon Coleman "I have a new co-driver for this event in the shape of Damien and we need to get a finish after three non results. After the drop link broke on the early stage we just settled for getting the car home and getting the points for 5th. Glad to get a finish and roll on the next event."

#210 Tom Walster "We really enjoyed the early stages, although the spectators were waving us to slow down by Dan Taylor’s accident even though he was well off the road at that point. At the ford we discovered that we are not watertight when the window is left open!"

Overall Positions from the Jim Clark Fiesta Rally:

1. Simon Hughes 1:03:48.8
2. Jonnie Wigmore 1:04:12.3
3. Owen Murphy 1:04:22.2
4. George Thomas 1:04:22.9
5. Gordon Coleman 1:04:30.2
6. Tom Walster 1:04:46.0
7.`Colin Greer 1:04:50.7
8. Alastair Fisher 1:05:24.2
9. Fraser Jones 1:05:35.2
10. Mike Faulkner 1:05:51.0

Championship positions

1. George Thomas 23
2. Kevin Davies 20
3. Simon Hughes 18
4. Owen Murphy 16
5. Chris Moore 15
6. Alex Evans 9
=. Dan Taylor 9
7. Jonnie Wigmore 8
=. Colin Greer 8
=. Tom Walster 8
9. Jonathan Greer 5
10. George Coleman 4

- Stella Boyles -

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09.07.2006 / MaP

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