Mun­nings aim­ing for Cir­cuit of Ire­land

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - Ian Mills

Catie Mun­nings is hop­ing to make her Euro­pean Rally Cham­pi­onship de­but on the Cir­cuit Ire­land next month, with a full sea­son in the off­ing for the 18-year-old.

Catie – daugh­ter of com­peti­tor Chris who used to run the Lon­don Rally School at Brands Hatch– will drive a Sain­te­loc-pre­pared Peu­geot 208 R2.

“We’ve put to­gether what is go­ing to be a two-year pro­gramme, this year and next year, with a whole pro­ject,” said Mun­nings. “I don’t have much ex­pe­ri­ence so I’m go­ing to be get­ting train­ing as we go. I’ll be do­ing ral­lies be­fore the cham­pi­onship rounds to prac­tice on each sur­face.”

Mun­nings tested at Morzine in France last year with Charles Martin, a 208 Cup win­ner, along with for­mer Peu­geot 208 driver Chris In­gram.

The Cir­cuit of Ire­land is likely to be Mun­nings’ first time com­pet­ing in the R2 af­ter cam­paign­ing a 106 in club events in the United King­dom to ob­tain her Euro­pean li­cence.

“I wasn’t go­ing to Latvia [the first ERC round which was post­poned] any­way as I wouldn’t have had my in­ter­na­tional li­cence in time,” added Mun­nings, who is study­ing for her A-lev­els. “It’s go­ing to be cool and pretty full-on man­ag­ing this along with my ex­ams.”

I’ve spent the best part of five months writ­ing about the Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship on a weekly ba­sis, and still my en­thu­si­asm for the sea­son’s restart in Mid Wales knows no bounds. The fun­da­men­tal fac­tor in the cham­pi­onship’s buzz since its re­turn for me is the ral­lies, and what an opener we have in store with the Mid Wales.

There aren’t many coun­tries that can of­fer World Cham­pi­onship qual­ity stages on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. We’ve got a cham­pi­onship full of world-level tests for teams and driv­ers, it’s some­thing that has de­fined the se­ries in the past and should do again in the fu­ture. Af­ter all, there’s a rea­son why so many for­eign driv­ers came over to prove them­selves in Bri­tish forests, and there are plenty of driv­ers from abroad on the se­ries’ re­turn, too.

One thing we cer­tainly have to watch out for is the end of the Hafren-sweet Lamb test that opens the rally. It’s just un­der 16 miles in the dark, and this could be where the rally is won and lost.

A lot of the driv­ers are in­ex­pe­ri­enced in their cars, hav­ing bought them for this cham­pi­onship, and to throw your­self into a tricky test like Hafren to open your ac­count is daunting to say the least.

I was up at Race Retro last week­end and – de­spite the of­fer­ing of cur­rent works Opel driver Chris In­gram driv­ing an ex-rus­sell Brookes Manta 400, plus David Llewellin driv­ing an ex-ken­neth Eriks­son Subaru Im­preza – ev­ery­where I went the con­ver­sa­tion was the BRC. And who would make it to the end of the first stage.

Even Sweet Lamb can prove tricky, just ask Jari-matti Lat­vala. He was off right at the start of the stage – al­beit a slightly dif­fer­ent test to those the driv­ers will be run­ning in the BRC. Al­though there are stages con­sid­ered ‘safe’, if they can catch Lat­vala out in the light, they can cer­tainly catch a few boys out in the BRC in the dark.

One el­e­ment of news also caus­ing a buzz is the seed­ing, more specif­i­cally, the start­ing po­si­tion of the Ju­niors. Talk on Satur­day cen­tred around who should be the first ju­nior. In re­al­ity it’s Mat­tias Adiels­son in the Vaux­hall Adam R2, with Sindre Fu­ruseth in a Re­nault Twingo se­cond. We all know that the Twingo is prob­a­bly a bit out of its depth here, so can Sindre over­come the car’s de­fi­cien­cies and tri­umph? If he can, then he’ll cer­tainly be ris­ing to some­where in the top five of my ‘young driv­ers head­ing for great things’ list.

My bet is still on Meirion Evans for the Mid Wales Ju­nior tri­umph. The lo­cal lad has driven just about any spec­i­fi­ca­tion of rally car at the ripe old age of 20, and his per­for­mances on gravel and as­phalt have im­pressed mas­sively over the last six months. Plus the Ford Fi­esta R2T is the most proven pack­age on gravel, with ques­tion marks over the Adam and Twingo. So, Meirion for the win there. It may be a bold choice, but I think my money will be safe come Sun­day.

ROAD RALLY ROUND-UP

For­mer Peu­geot 205 Chal­lenge cham­pion Paul Tod, along with nav­i­ga­tor David ‘Garth’ Pow­ell, took a dom­i­nant win on Bath MC’S Fes­ti­val Rally.

In its fifth year un­der Dave Whit­tock’s con­trol, the rally at­tracted crews from all over the coun­try to make up an ex­cel­lent 66-car starters list. They faced a daunting route that in­cluded a num­ber of forestry roads.

The win­ners – in a Subaru Im­preza – were never headed, al­though their lowly seed­ing meant that they suf­fered sig­nif­i­cant baulk­ing. The win was Pow­ell’s first in nine years.

Nic Mor­ris/martin Phasey, who went well on this event last year, kept the lead­ers within sight through­out the night and were never far be­hind. They were 25 sec­onds down at the end.

Third place fell to Dei Jones/iwan Jones, who had to con­tend with an event-long mis­fire.

Top seeds John Davies/ Max Free­man had a trou­bled night. They lost all their lights on the first test. They had re­cov­ered to fourth when their Vaux­hall Astra’s clutch failed.

Or­gan­iser: When:

Where: Cham­pi­onships:

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