Stourbridge’s Richard Sykes made an excellent start to the defence of his BRC Challenge rally title last weekend when he finished first in class and second overall on the Pirelli Challenge rally.
After a successful test before the rally Sykes and co-driver Simon Taylor were feeling confident as they left the start line in Carlisle in their Bathams Brewery, Boroughbridge Marina, Silverstone Tyres and G I Sykes-supported Citroën C2 R2 Max.
The first of the event’s six stages was Pundershaw. Sykes completed the test in third place overall. A misfire in the second stage, Archy’s Rigg, cost around 15 seconds and dropped Sykes to fourth, a position he maintained after stage three.
“The car felt a little underpowered in stage one,” said Sykes. “We then had a misfire over 6000 revs so I had to short shift which lost us a good chunk of time. The car felt better in stage three but it still wasn’t 100%.”
After the third stage there was a short service halt but the team could not find anything wrong. The crank sensor was changed on the long road section to stage four to no effect and Sykes then discussed the problem with rival driver Luke Pinder before changing the throttle body which put the car back to good health.
Sykes showed exactly what he could do with the car running properly, setting fastest times on the remaining three stages to climb back to second place overall and first in class. His only issue came on the fourth stage when smoke was pouring out of the car.
“In my haste to get the throttle body changed I’d left the engine breather pipe off which splashed oil all over the hot exhaust and caused a lot of smoke. We were lucky there wasn’t a fire. I knew exactly what was wrong, I got the pipe back on and cleaned up the mess. Another driver, Aaron McClure, lent me some oil to make sure we’d get through stages five and six. This, and the earlier help I got from Luke Pinder, shows the awesome camaraderie in the BRC Challenge. Both of them were battling with me at the top of the leaderboard but they still helped me out.”
“I was very pleased to set the fastest times on the last three stages but I wasn’t quickest by much – there was only 0.1 seconds in it over the 9.5 miles of the second Pundershaw run which is pretty amazing given that we’re competing on tough gravel tracks with huge ditches waiting to catch you out, it’s not like going round a circuit!”
“The only stage we were a lot quicker on was the last one. Due to delays behind us the rally leader already knew our time in the final stage so I think he backed off a little to make sure he won.”
“Our aim for the rally was to get a good haul of points for the championship defence and we’ve achieved that. An overall win would’ve been nice but after the problems early on I’m more than happy with second. The championship isn’t won on the first round.”
The BRC Challenge switches to tarmac stages for the next round which is the Jim Clark Challenge rally at the end of May.
Image courtesy raceandrally.co.uk