RICHARD Sykes won a tense battle in the British Rally Championship (BRC) Challenge category of the Jim Clark rally last weekend.
The Stourbridge driver endured a difficult run up to the rally after his Citroën C2 R200 was involved in a crash on its way back from testing ahead of the contest.
Following a rolling road test last Wednesday, team member Simon Hawthorne was driving the car back to base when it collided with another vehicle. The collision smashed up the front and side of the car.
“It was not the start to the rally preparations that we wanted” said Sykes. “Fortunately Simon wasn’t badly injured but the car was a mess. We ordered some parts to be delivered on Thursday and Simon and Martyn Billings started work on the repairs at 6am. They worked through until 2am Friday and then drove five hours to the rally at Kelso so I could test the car on the shakedown stage.”
With the shakedown stage successfully completed, Sykes could finally concentrate on the event itself.
The BRC Challenge rally started on Friday night with a stage around Duns town centre. Sykes was quickly into his stride, setting the fastest time by nearly three seconds from Ross Hunter. The fastest times continued on stages two and three which allowed Sykes to take a nine second overnight lead.
The warm weather which greeted the crews on Saturday morning caused problems for Sykes. The pre-event accident destroyed the radiator and it was not possible to get a competition-spec replacement so a standard part had to be used. This wasn’t an issue on the cool Friday night stages but the car started overheating on Saturday. The team had to remove the grill and lift the bonnet up slightly to try and get extra air to the engine and the car was run with the heater on full blast which made the interior very uncomfortable for Sykes and co-driver Emma Morrison.
Despite the overheating, Sykes was able to maintain his lead up until stage 14 when Hunter overhauled him. Sykes was not going to give up though and he charged through the 11 miles of stage 16 over 13 seconds quicker than Hunter to lead by two seconds.
There should have been a further two stages but sadly an accident caused the event to be stopped. Three spectators died and many others were injured after a rally car left the course.
“I was not going to settle for second though, after all the work the team put in getting the car to the event I wanted to give them a win and, having finished second three times, I wanted a win for myself too," added Sykes.