Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Cookson and Wilkinson get top ten finish on Rallye Sunseeker

Saltash driver Alan Cookson and London co-driver Julian Wilkinson got off to the best possible start to the season as they finished in the top 10 on this weekend’s Rallye Sunseeker (27 – 28 February).

The crew came home 10th overall and second in class four in their Robert Wiseman Dairies, Kick Energy, GillettsSpar.com, Riverside Property Services, SPAR and Olverelectrical.com supported Subaru Impreza World Rally Car (WRC) on the Bournemouth-based gravel event.

It was the opening round of the 2009 Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship for Cookson and Wilkinson and they clinched an all-important 16 points as they claimed a result on the rally for the first time on their third attempt.

They consistently posted times inside the top 13 throughout the event and enjoyed a close battle with the Mitsubishi WRC Evo of Charlie Payne and Craig Thorley for position.

There were concerns on the first loop of stages on Saturday morning when the car was pulling from left to right and the pair thought it was a serious suspension problem. It turned out to be a tyre issue when the team realised the car had been fitted with a wrong sized tyre. They also had an engine that seemed to be down on power in the morning, but the fitting of some different plugs at service by the TEG Sport Team cured the problem.

The rest of the event ran relatively trouble-free. They picked up a puncture just before the start of stage 11 but after noticing it, promptly changed the tyre so it caused them no woe.

They set a fine pace on the final stage as they were seventh quickest on the Hoare Banks 2 test, their fastest time of the event.

“I’m delighted. It’s third time lucky and to get in the top ten I’m absolutely over the moon,” Cookson said.

“It was lucky that I noticed that puncture before the 10 mile 11th test or it could have been a lot different, but this result is a great start to our season and one that is not bad for a 12-year-old car.

“The car felt great all afternoon and we set some competitive times against what was a very strong field, but most of all it’s good to finally put the misfortune of the past behind us. After not finishing the last two years, you would have thought we had won the rally when we crossed the finish line on stage 13 it meant that much to both Julian and I to finally finish our local event.

“I have a few SPAR stores in the Bournemouth and Dorset area and it was good to see some of the staff out supporting us and to give them a good result was the icing on the cake.”

Cookson and Wilkinson will next be in action on the Border Counties Rally based in Jedburgh in just under three weeks time where they hope to capitalise on their best start to a season in three years.

By Amanda Cornforth
Image courtesy Simon Clarkr