Stourbridge rally driver Richard Sykes was well on the pace on the recent Jim Clark International Rally until engine problems ultimately forced him out of the event.
The rally, round three of the Citröen Racing Trophy, took place on closed public roads in Berwickshire and the mix of fast flowing roads and tight and tricky lanes provided a stern challenge for all the competitors.
The event got underway on Friday evening with a short spectator-packed stage around the streets of Duns. Sykes and co-driver Simon Taylor made a good start in their Dulux Trade Paints, G I Sykes and Boroughbridge Marina backed Citröen C2 R2 Max, setting third quickest time in the Trophy.
The long 15 miles of the Abbey stage followed, a notoriously difficult stage which has seen many a crew crash out. Sykes blitzed the opposition setting the fastest time of the Citröen crews. Another quick time on the following Polwarth stage saw Sykes complete the opening loop of stages in first place in the Citröen Racing Trophy.
"I was extremely happy to be leading the Citröens, it was my first time driving the C2 on tarmac," said Sykes.
"All our rivals have competed on asphalt before so, although I’d pushed as hard as I could from the start, I was quite surprised to be at the head of the field."
A repeat loop of the opening three stages followed. Sykes maintained his lead on the second run through Duns but a large time loss on Abbey dropped him to third.
"We were over a minute slower on the second run through Abbey which was disappointing. The stage was run in darkness and I could not see well enough to push as hard as I did on the first run. The spotlights were a little too high and I was also getting dazzled by the gear shiftlight on the dashboard. I had to short shift to avoid the lights which meant we weren’t going as fast as we could."
"We cured the shiftlight problem by taping over it at the end of the stage but the damage had been done and the lost time meant we were only fourth fastest Citröen in the stage."
Day one ended with a second run through Polwarth and Sykes maintained his third place going in to the overnight halt.
The second day kicked off with the 11 miles of the Wedderburn stage. Determined to try and make time up on his rivals Sykes charged through the stage but an off after a series of crests saw more time lost.
"We were flying down a straight over a series of crests and troughs, the car was flat in fifth gear doing around 115mph. There was a corner at the end of the straight and as we braked the wheels locked up on some shiny tarmac and we ended up in a field. We lost around 15 seconds getting back on the road."
Despite the off Sykes was still in third in the Citröen Racing Trophy going into stage 8, Edrom, but it was here that his rally came to an unfortunate end.
"Part way through the stage the engine felt as though it was running on two or three cylinders and it was well down on power. We limped to the end of the stage and managed to get back to service although the engine was overheating. The service guys changed everything they could but it was in vain. We subsequently found that the head gasket had gone."
"It’s gutting to retire again but it’s brilliant that we showed we had the pace to beat our rivals early on. We just need a good troublefree event now and I’m confident we could get a top result."
Sykes will next be in action on round 4 of the Citröen Racing Trophy, the Rally Isle of Man, which takes place on July 9/10. This event uses the notoriously treacherous closed public roads of the island with crews usually having to battle very changeable weather conditions too.
Please visit www.gisykes.co.uk for all the latest news and pictures.
Image courtesy Jakob Ebrey Photography