Sunday, 1 September 2013

Mixed fortunes for Sykes in Ulster Challenge rally

Stourbridge rally driver Richard Sykes had mixed fortunes on last weekend’s double-header BRC Challenge event in Ulster with a podium finish on the first event was followed by a dramatic rally-ending accident on the second.
Sykes and co-driver Simon Taylor went into the weekend looking for two victories to boost their hopes of retaining their BRC Challenge championship crown. A cautious start was made on the opening day, the first stage was very wet and Sykes dropped a few seconds to the leading crew in his Bathams Brewery, G I Sykes Ltd, Silverstone Tyres and Boroughbridge Marina-supported Citroën C2 R2 Max. A long 14 mile stage was next and Sykes used intermediate tyres as it was still wet but this proved to be a mistake as the tyres went off after the halfway point causing more time to be lost.
“Conditions were very wet on stage one,” said Sykes. “We were slightly cautious as, with it being a double-header, we couldn’t risk an accident on the first event.”
“I thought intermediate tyres would be the right choice for stage two but after 8 miles they turned into blancmange which made driving very interesting. At this point we’d dropped to fourth with the championship leader Russ Thompson ahead of us.”
Sykes pushed hard in the remaining stages and with one stage to go he was 7.5 seconds behind Thompson. It was dry enough for Sykes to use soft slick tyres and a storming run through the last stage saw him take 15 seconds out of Thompson to get into third place at the finish.
The team made a decision to go all out for a win on the second event with the car set up aggressively and fitted with hard slick tyres for opening 14 mile Sloughan Glen stage. Sykes was going well but part way through the stage he approached a right hand bend flat out in 5th gear, he changed to 4th but was still doing 90mph as he took the corner which was too quick. The car slid off and hit a bank, coming to an instant stop.
“We went from 90mph to zero immediately, it was probably the biggest impact we’ve ever had. Simon injured his back so could not get out of the car right away but we eventually got him out and laid him down while we used the Rallitrak safety radio to get help.”
“He was stretchered to hospital with a neck brace and back board. After an x-ray and CT scan he was diagnosed with a compound fracture in his L1 vertebrae. After being kept in overnight he was allowed to travel home the next day.”
“The championship is now probably out of reach but we will soldier on and repair the car in time for the Trackrod Challenge rally at the end of September. The damage to the car isn’t too bad, the bank soaked up a lot of the impact. I will need a stand-in co-driver for the Trackrod though as Simon needs 8 weeks off. We’re still third in the championship so we’ll continue to push for a great result.”